Notes on the Seahawks' first defensive series

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODA

To start out - I watched the Seahawks preseason matchup with the Chargers several times over the weekend and am still trying to get a grasp on what Pete Carroll and Dan Quinn really want to do/plan to do on the defensive line. There were some patterns, but mostly there was a lot of personnel variation and placement variation along the front four/five/six. In general, it appeared that Seattle wanted Red Bryant, Brandon Mebane, and Jesse Williams to occupy the guards and center, allowing the rush end LEO/SAMs to move one-on-one against the tackles and tight ends or drop into the flats in basic coverage. The techniques and alignments changed throughout.

It looked like on a lot of the Seahawks' base plays, the three down linemen would squeeze the pocket into almost a wall in the middle, which plugs the A-gaps while still somewhat controlling or at least monitoring the B-gaps, which allows Seattle's linebackers and athletic defensive ends to flow to the football. It's still unclear to me who is two-gapping/one-gapping and without the use of All-22 and some more tape to break down, determining gap responsibilities may have to wait.

For now, I just thought I'd open up the forum for discussion, using Seattle's first drive as an example. Thoughts, observations welcome.

1-10-SD 15(14:56 1st Q) R.Mathews up the middle to SD 19 for 4 yards (M.Smith, R.Bryant).

First play from scrimmage. Out of the huddle, Brandon Mebane lined up at the nose in a shade alignment, with Jesse Williams at the 3-technique and Red Bryant at 5-technique. San Diego motioned their tight end #83 to the right side of the field and Bane, Williams, and Red all shuffled down the line. Mebane ended up either heads-up at 2-technique with the strong-side guard or just slightly off-set at the 3-technique spot, Jesse ended up shaded on the center to the weakside, and Red crashed down with Williams at the snap.

Both Malcolm Smith and Mike Morgan (let's just go ahead and call them 'rush ends') both came forward at the snap but Smith was more cognizant of a run; Morgan attacked the tight end at the LOS and pushed him back to take away any cut back lane. K.J. Wright did the same.

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Jesse gets doubled in his first NFL preseason snap and gets pushed off his spot a couple of yards. As the center seals him away from the strong-side A-gap, Ryan Mathews runs it up in there. It's a pickup of about 4 yards. As you can see, the margin for error is slight - the gap between Mebane and Williams here is pretty small, but Mathews' built up momentum carries him forward a couple yards.

2-6-SD 19 (14:21) (Shotgun) P.Rivers pass short right to E.Royal to SD 25 for 6 yards (E.Thomas).

Second play. Same sort of strategy here - Mebane and Williams are flipped though, putting Bane in the middle of Big Red and Big Jesse. Again, they squeeze the pocket to form a sort of wall in front of Rivers, sending both Malcolm Smith and Mike Morgan off the edge.

Keep in mind that during the season it's likely to be a combination of Cliff Avril, who has elite 'get off' from the left side of the line, Bruce Irvin (also very good speed/get off), Chris Clemons (you know Chris), and possibly O'Brien Schofield in the place of Malcolm Smith and Mike Morgan, so we're not necessarily seeing this scheme at peak performance. Still, on this first drive, things didn't necessarily go smoothly.

In this case, San Diego literally goes right for the first-down marker, and gets it. I'd say that Earl Thomas and K.J. Wright might have missed on their drops by a yard or so - giving up too much cushion to Eddie Royal - and Earl briefly missteps toward Mathews as he's releasing on a route into the flats. This allows Royal to make the catch and get the first down.

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1-10-SD 25(13:41) R.Brown up the middle to SD 28 for 3 yards (J.Hill).

Seattle's first nickel look. Out go Red, Bane, and Williams, and in come rookie Jordan Hill and Michael Bennett. The biggest difference in Seattle's nickel package this year is that commonly (or maybe every time, I'm not sure), Seattle goes with two down linemen and two 'rush ends'.  In this case, Mike Morgan and O'Brien Schofield.

The Chargers run on first down against the nickel look. I wouldn't say this is a bad job by the defensive line in only giving up three yards. Hill stands up his blocker, keeps him off his frame, sees the running back in the backfield, and hits him. Again, Mathews forward momentum carries him forward a yard or two, but I liked that Hill kept his eyes in the backfield and that LB Allen Bradford easily shed the block of the pulling center to help Hill clean up.

It was interesting to see Winfield playing up on the LOS in coverage.

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The drive ends after Seattle stalls San Diego on a third down scramble by Phillip Rivers. In all, it goes 13 plays for 74 yards and takes up 7:29 of the play-clock. Not the most impressive start, to be honest, but preseason blah blah injuries blah.

More thoughts on the game to come, but here's a start.

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