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Interception struggles continue for Seahawks secondary

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Remember when the Seattle Seahawks had a ball-hawking secondary?

Perhaps there’s still time for this current crop to become one, but they aren’t remotely close to earning that status.

In Seattle’s 33-27 loss to the New Orleans Saints, the team failed to intercept Teddy Bridgewater, and Donte Moncrief’s brick hands are the only reason they even have one in the first place. Linebacker K.J. Wright nearly had a pick-six on a route he jumped in the 4th quarter, which seems fitting considering that position group has better ball skills than the secondary.

Including the playoff loss to the Dallas Cowboys, the Seahawks secondary has just two interceptions over the last 13 games — safety Bradley McDougald has them both. That means no Seahawks cornerbacks has a pick since Justin Coleman’s goal line snag against the Detroit Lions in Week 8 of last year. Shaquill Griffin’s two interceptions against the Chicago Bears in Week 2 of last year represent the last time the outside corners had a pick.

If you want to address the elephant in the room, the Seahawks have now played 25 full games without Earl Thomas (2016-pres) and have amassed just 7 interceptions (Bradley McDougald 2, Justin Coleman 1, Tedric Thompson 1, Bobby Wagner 1, K.J. Wright 1, Frank Clark 1).

The easy out for the lack of interceptions is “well, the pass rush isn’t as good as it used to be.” You can also add “randomness,” which is valid. I am not sure there is necessarily a direct correlation between a strong pass rush and interceptions. There could perhaps be a greater opportunity for interceptions based on hurried throws, but for instance: the 2018 Pittsburgh Steelers led the NFL in sacks (52) and only had eight interceptions, while the Chicago Bears had only two fewer sacks and yet lead the league with 27 INTs. Chicago’s DVOA without pressure was 3rd, so they were an elite defense without getting to the QB.

Even from a pure anecdotal perspective, I don’t think the Seahawks had a single interception generated last year because of a strong pass rush. You could argue the Cam Newton throw to Bradley McDougald was caused by interior pressure, but I’m not considering that to be a hurried throw (although it was a poor one).

While not exclusively a secondary statistic, Seattle’s passes defensed have gone down almost every year since 2013, and last year was their worst ever season for PDs under Pete Carroll (67). Bobby Wagner led the 2018 team with 11 passes defensed, and this is the only time in the Carroll era that a non-secondary player has topped the passes defensed list, and 11 doesn’t even break the top-30.

Seattle’s interceptions have cratered unsurprisingly since the Super Bowl season. If we could excuse that drop in subsequent years to attacking underneath coverages and not even trying to challenge Richard Sherman in 1-on-1 situations or Earl Thomas in the deep middle, the continued decline post-LOB has to be attributed to “they’re just not a good secondary.” That isn’t to say they can’t become one — Shaquill Griffin has had a very solid start to 2019 — but I suspect they are rarely putting themselves in position to make a play on the ball, and when they do... it looks like this.

Kyler Murray and Jared Goff have already thrown a combined six interceptions to start the season, so if the Seahawks come up empty through that two-game stretch, you have to wonder when the ballhawks will ever come back with this group.