It has become obvious over the last month: The Seahawks simply do not have the horses up front to make the playoffs. If they get in, it will be because Washington or New York stumbled worse in the final month.
The Seahawks’ defensive front seven continues to be a major problem. Their big men are not good enough to beat five-on-three blocking in the running game, and their linebackers are not savvy enough to position themselves properly or big enough to shed blocks against the run.
Carolina ran for 223 yards, and Seattle now has given up 209.5 rushing yards per game over the past four – losing three of them and falling back out of the playoff race with this loss.
Quandre Diggs and Ryan Neal apparently think the Hawks have the talent to make the playoffs, but nothing the defense has done over the last month validates that thought.
The Seahawks simply do not have the talent to run a 3-4 defense. And they got rid of all of their 4-3 ends, so they don’t have the players to switch back right now either. They are in a bad spot – and it won’t be fixed until the offseason.
The players themselves validate this thinking, without saying it that way.
Bruce Irvin: “It’s just man on man. You have to beat your man, get off the block and make the tackle. That’s what it comes down to. It’s a mentality. I don’t care about play calls or anything. At the end of the day, it’s man on man. You have to whoop your man in front of you and make the tackle. That’s what it comes down to.”
Jordyn Brooks: “We brought this on ourselves, where every team is going to think that they can run the ball 40 times. For 40 plays we need to play hard. Once we get tired, we give in.”
Diggs: “They ran the same play over and over and over. At some point you have to take a stand and know that ‘I’m going to take my shot here.’ That’s what it has to be. … We just have to do it consistently.”
It’s more than mentality. It’s talent. It’s proper players for the scheme. The Hawks have neither.
Clint Hurtt switched to a 3-4 to help Seattle play better against the pass, but it has led to huge holes in the running game.
Other than one four-game stretch, they have been run over in most of their other games this season. They have given up at least 150 yards in seven games, losing six. They just do not have the talent to plug running lanes in this 3-4.
“It just tells me that from week to week, we’re not fixing the problem on our end,” Brooks said. “We have to play as a team. Unfortunately, we just haven’t done that enough consistently this year. So, that’s why you’re seeing 200-whatever yards.”
They haven’t played as a team enough because they are running the wrong scheme for their personnel.
Pete Carroll basically confirmed that to Seattle Sports Radio in the aftermath of the Carolina debacle.
“Well, we have to fit the personnel to the scheme,” he said. “We have to fit our guys into what we’re doing. We’re trying to maximize.”
He referenced the change they made early in the season to allow their linemen to be more aggressive. The effectiveness of that move has long since worn off. He said they moved Al Woods to 5-tech Sunday (before he left with an injury) – another sign they do not have the right people for this 3-4.
“We always need to have guys that could make the plays for you,” Carroll said. “It’s a lot easier when the guy rips into the backfield and makes the tackle. There’s a lot of defenses that work when the guy is a big-time playmaker and all that. We have to find our ways to best situate our guys so they can make the things happen that they’re capable of doing.”
That’s Carroll’s call for a “big-time playmaker” up front, so expect Seattle to look strongly there at the top of the draft.
In the offseason, Carroll and Hurtt will need to decide whether to stay with the 3-4 as their base or switch back to a 4-3. Here is what they need to do in either case:
Stay with 3-4
If they want to continue the 3-4, they will need a couple of real thumper linebackers inside. They should trade the undersized Brooks, who will have value for some 4-3 defense.
They will need better outside linebackers, too. Darrell Taylor is a terrible liability against the run, and Uchenna Nwosu and Boye Mafe are both inconsistent. Taylor should be traded to a 4-3 team in this scenario.
They also will need an impact 3-4 end – a la Pittsburgh’s Cam Heyward – and a good, young nose tackle.
In other words, they need at least four new players to upgrade for this scheme.
The top draft options for them seemingly would be Alabama edge rusher Will Anderson Jr. (if he can play outside linebacker) or Georgia’s Jalen Carter (that impact 3-4 end). Oregon linebacker Noah Sewell or Clemson end Bryan Bresee might be options with Seattle’s second first-round pick.
Back to 4-3
They probably are closer to filling a 4-3 than they are to a 3-4.
They would need at least one end, another tackle (or Poona Ford coming back) and another linebacker. Brooks and Cody Barton (also a free agent) are better suited to a 4-3, where they have more protection against blocks in the running game.
At the top of the draft, they could look at Anderson (LEO pass rusher), Carter (a possible 3-tech in a 4-3) or Myles Murphy (a 4-3 end). Texas Tech end Tyree Wilson would fit a 4-3 as well and could be an option later in the first round.