The Seattle Seahawks defense has been well-known for a number of things under Pete Carroll and almost all of those things are positive. The biggest weakness of all has famously been their inability to cover tight ends. Last season, the Seahawks allowed 68.1% completions to tight ends, 7.93 Y/A, and eight touchdowns.
In DVOA, Seattle was ranked 26th against tight ends, compared to first against number one receivers, fifth against number twos, and fifth against running backs in the passing game. So far in 2016, it seems like things have changed.
While the Seahawks have not faced any great quarterbacks or tight ends this season, we still should applaud them for not getting burned (often) by bad tight ends either. Facing off against Jordan Cameron, Lance Kendricks, Vance McDonald, and Garrett Celek, sprinkled with a few others, these are the numbers tight ends have had against the Seattle defense this season:
11-of-16, 106 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT, 6.6 Y/A, and a passer rating of 87. Headed into Week 5, the Seahawks were ranked seventh against the TE in DVOA.
Among those players, Kendricks did the best by gaining 61 yards, 44 of which came on that impossible-to-forget play against Earl Thomas and his buddies in Week 2. They also gave up an 18-yard pass to Celek against the 49ers in Week 3 and a 24-yard pass interference penalty against Kam Chancellor, which also came against Kendricks.
Whether it’s personnel changes, the advanced play of K.J. Wright, scheme changes, or other, Seattle has so far seemed to fix their biggest problem on defense a year ago. Next week, they face off against the best passing offense in the NFL — Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons — though the Falcons too don’t have a hugely notable tight end, Jacob Tamme has 158 yards and two touchdowns this season.
The Seahawks clearly have their best tight end ever right now with Jimmy Graham, and perhaps their best tight end depth in franchise history also, (maybe having those guys to practice against doesn’t hurt) but have they cleaned up their ability to stop big men on the other side from hurting them each week? So far the answer is yes, but there’s still 75% of the season to go.