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The agony and the agony of Quinton Dunbar

Seattle Seahawks v Buffalo Bills Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images

One thing I do not want to do here is rag mercilessly on Quinton Dunbar. I’ve worked hurt. Surviving the shift is enough to feel heroic. Dunbar playing as much as he did was an organizational failure.

The Seattle Seahawks needed to add a corner in the offseason and realistically maybe two or more. They added Dunbar. Once in five seasons in the league was Dunbar able to play in more than 50% of his team’s defensive snaps. He played in 54% of snaps last year. Starting corners typically play in more than 90% of their team’s defensive snaps. In no other season has Dunbar surpassed 40%.

Until this season, that is. Dunbar has played in 64% of possible snaps adding 54 painful and humiliating snaps against Buffalo. By the Bills’ second series, it was already obvious he did not feel capable of playing. Like I said, I’m not going to rag on him. I am not going to criticize his coverage or effort. But I will highlight just how obvious his struggles were and how they hurt Seattle’s chances of winning, because while Dunbar may have been an organizational soldier. Playing Dunbar made Seattle look like a failed organization.

I won’t cover every play of this drive. Instead I will spotlight plays and moments within plays which describe the Seahawks second drive on defense and how and why it failed.

Out of the fire came a teacup of ashes

Gabriel Davis runs an out and up into the flat and up the right sideline. The point is to the find the soft spot between what looks like four deep zones and three shallow zones. D.J. Reed makes this easy. He seems to be reading Josh Allen’s eyes. Jamal Adams, who crashes from the deep middle on the offensive right, seems similarly fooled. Allen is looking at Cole Beasley. That does not mean Allen will throw to Beasley. He looks right sees Davis wide open and fires. Reed needs to be much wider to his left, obviously. He’s fooled and badly.

Dunbar, defending the rightmost deep quarter, reacts reasonably quickly to the pass. But instead of flying to the ball, he closes a few steps, ignores that the receiver hasn’t been touched, and hovers as Reed makes the tackle.

Zone defense depends on prompt, sound tackling which limits yards after catch. Dunbar seemed very shy about making contact. It doesn’t really cost him here, but later in the drive we got this:

And this:

What was subtle in the first two plays becomes manifest by the third. Dunbar is the deepest defensive back on the right. Despite John Brown being 20 yards from Allen, Dunbar has given him 10 yards of cushion. Seeing Devin Singletary breaking loose, Dunbar slowly runs himself toward Brown. Before the two meet, he stops and allows Brown to begin blocking him. Dunbar doesn’t want to anchor, and in a flash, Brown pushes him back an additional three yards. Dunbar does not so much tackle Singletary as lose a collision.

You’ll notice who’s chasing Singletary. We’ll discuss that in a second.

Dunbar was in no shape to play. That should have been evident in the first quarter. No scheme could have protected him.

If I am interpreting the injury report correctly, he will be playing again against the Rams. Like many fans I laugh off Carroll’s unrealistically optimistic opinions about his players’ health and unrealistic projections on when they will play again. Nothing about watching Dunbar hobble around for 54 snaps was the least bit funny.

The Bills added 17.05 expected points on offense against Seattle. In Dunbar’s snaps, the Bills added 21.59 expected points on plays marked as occurring on the right side of the field. 83% of those plays were successful. That’s a damn shame.

A staggeringly bad blitz call on third and 2

D.J. Reed, nominally in coverage of Beasley, is going to blitz. He makes his intentions plain. At the snap, Reed must run three yards to get to the line of scrimmage. Allen is in shotgun and will drop about another yard or so before he passes. Reed must travel nine to ten yards to be on the same plane as Allen. If he were unblocked, he would probably need to travel something like 15 total yards to contact Allen. Beasley, of course needs to travel three and not even three yards to convert the first. Wagner cannot hope to be close to him. Some run after the catch is certain.

This is a gimme. Seattle seemed absolutely certain that Allen could not perform rudimentary skills of quarterbacking. He hits his hot read for nine yards and the first. Betting against Allen cost Seattle 1.3 EPA and 3.1 WPA.

A slow line to futility

Let’s look at Seattle’s fun and innovative personnel combinations on the defensive line. From right to left we get:

Dunlap-Reed-Ford-Collier: 2

Dunlap-Ford-Mone-Collier: 1

Ford-Mone-Collier-Dunlap: 2

Robinson-Green-Mone-Bullard: 1

Robinson-Bullard-Mone-Green: 1

Bullard-Mone-Green-Robinson: 2

Reed-Ford-Collier-Dunlap: 1

Dunlap-Collier-Ford-Reed: 1

Reed-Bullard-Mone-Ford-Collier: 1

If only Buffalo ran!

The best performance by these different groupings was achieved by Bullard-Mone-Green-Robinson. They were out there for back-to-back plays. We got this. Which was nearly a sack.

Rasheem Green looks good rushing from defensive tackle. Robinson gets pushed to the turf but at least he pulls the left tackle wide and deep.

In the next play, Seattle sacks Allen and forces a hold too.

There’s something undeniably heartening about the quickness and explosion shown by Green and Alton Robinson on these plays. We’ve looked at the Singletary reception for 22 in part twice. Now let’s look at what Wagner and Adams contributed.

What the superstars were up to

Here’s the critical moment.

Allen is in Green’s grasp but not down. Singletary is as open as a 24-hour bodega. Why?

The near circle contains Adams. He closes on Allen. That’s a defensible decision. The far circle contains Bobby Wagner. He widens to his right in response to Zack Moss motioning left out of the backfield. But seconds before the throw, Moss is covered and Wagner is idling in no man’s land seemingly watching to see if Green will sack Allen. He’s too far from Singletary and he has no help to his left because Adams is sucked in attempting the sack.

Here I must tell you that Devin Singletary ran a 4.66 at the NFL Combine.

Wagner doesn’t take a bad angle. His five yards of depth allows him to close distance. Once they’re on the same level, Wagner looks little quicker than Singletary. Wagner is a great player, great for what he can do, but he’s 30 and his range has shrunk. He cannot make up for the Seahawks being slow at so many other positions.

In which slowness and gullibility are punished

Why did L.J. Collier horse collar Allen? Because he had too.

We sure wouldn’t like Wilson getting tackled like that. It’s a good rule. It just means slower players are further at a disadvantage.

That li’l junk pump fake by Allen freezes Quandre Diggs and “forces” Tre Flowers into retreating away from the quarterback to find his original assignment, Stefon Diggs. It’s a remarkably effective POS pump fake.

We end with something self evident. Tyler Kroft, a 28-year old blocking tight end who once ran a 4.69 40, is simply too fast for K.J. Wright in man coverage.

It’s true. Wright is fooled by Kroft’s cut. And he’s trailing from that point on. But it’s also true that over a short distance Kroft clearly runs away from K.J.