Professional football has changed drastically over the decades, from players wearing leather helmets to today’s high tech helmets designed to prevent concussions and which require a safety certification before allowed to be used in games. Along with the changes in the game, the league and rules have changed, with the way the game itself is played slowly changing over time as a result of new rules, offensive and defensive innovations and the changing structure of teams and their rosters.
When rosters were expanded from 46 to 53 in the early 1990s, it led directly to the adoption of sub packages which allowed for greater rotation of defensive linemen, as well as the ability for coaches to have a lot more flexibility in terms of nickel and dime packages as well. To that end, with the Seattle Seahawks linebacker trio of Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright and Mychal Kendricks, it creates somewhat of a conundrum for the Hawks defensive coaching staff.
On one hand, nickel defense with five defensive backs has become the new base to combat the three receiver sets that have become far more common, leading some teams to go extremely light when it comes to their linebacker group. That shows up on gameday, as Kevin Shockey pointed out on Twitter.
Seattle was one of only SIX teams in the NFL to have 3 linebackers take 90% or more of the defensive snaps in week 1. Other 5: Chicago, Denver, Green Bay, Houston, and Tampa Bay.— Kevin Shockey (@KevinShockey) September 11, 2019
Now, what makes what Seattle did even more remarkable is the simple fact that every single one of the other five teams on the list has one thing in common.
Seattle is the only 4-3 team on this list, which means they were in base a TON. Refusing to play nickel in the Year of our Lord 2019 is a choice. https://t.co/9Imfo1hZu1— Peter Bukowski (@Peter_Bukowski) September 11, 2019
Yes, the Seahawks were the only team in the NFL that runs a 4-3 defense that had three linebackers on the field for more than 90% of their defensive.
Now, that’s not to criticize how the Hawks approached the game. With a secondary that is, for the most part, very young and inexperienced, but a group of linebackers all of whom possess Pro Bowl potential, it’s understandable why the defense would stay in base for most of the game. That said, in the next three weeks the Seahawks will face the Pittsburgh Steelers, the New Orleans Saints and the Air Raid Arizona Cardinals, meaning if the Hawks stay in their base defense, the secondary could get carved up even worse than Andy Dalton did for the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 1.
In any case, it’s just one thing to watch for early in the game against Pittsburgh on Sunday. Will Seattle be content to stay in their base defense, or will they use the recently resigned Jamar Taylor extensively against the Steelers. It’s something to keep an eye on.