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Seahawks vet regression on defense calls preseason into question

Los Angeles Rams v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

Is it scheme, or talent?

The Seattle Seahawks seem to do very little the way they want right now. Things have gone terribly on defense all season, and offensively for one half per game all season.

Players have blamed coaches, coaches have blamed players. It’s getting weird.

While the secondary, and anything approaching pass defense in general, has been the abysmal forefront of the conversation, there’s more to dissect.

Specifically, why some of this team’s best players have taken a noticeable step in the wrong direction.

If we were to compile a list of players who are underperforming this season compared to last year, an interesting trend pops out and it begs a question about preseason.

Because right now, I’d put the five most disappointing veterans on this roster through five games as Jamal Adams, Duane Brown, Jordyn Brooks, Bobby Wagner, and Carlos Dunlap.

My question is simply, whether preseason matters a little more than we were led to believe.

The big news of the summer centered around Adams and Brown performing their “hold-ins.” No preseason work for Brown; extremely little for Adams. Not a single snap in a preseason game for them, plus the others listed above, with exception for Brooks.

Fast forward a quarter season, and I have some questions about the process.

Adams was absolutely atrocious in coverage on Thursday night, a bewildering experience because he played far better the week before. Duane Brown gave up two sacks in Week 4, and though he was a little sharper against the Los Angeles Rams, he got busted for a hold that nullified a touchdown.

Bobby Wagner has had his usual 1.2 million tackles, but there are still so many problems in the middle of the field.

I’m not saying it’s those particular players’ fault as in, because they missed preseason they aren’t as good anymore. However, I am saying that this team needed time, communication, and growth together that they simply didn’t get. Now we can see plainly, it has affected them across the board.

Half of the defense has gone from this:

to this...

The plan didn’t work.

What we have is a complete meltdown across the board this year, including multiple positions of significant regression. I’m not convinced this is because a half-dozen professional athletes suddenly got worse at football. I’m also not convinced it’s because they needed a few weeks of practice.

But this scheme certainly needed it.

Every team has a critical mass number; it’s the point at which a player can make a mistake, be a rookie, or play like Jared Goff, and the team can still win - because the necessary number of other players have done their job well.

The Seattle Seahawks have two to four players on defense consistently doing their job.

For whatever reason, the Kenneth Norton Jr defensive scheme is so maddeningly, uselessly complicated that unless every player could essentially coach it, the result is Grand Canyon-sized holes.

Not having Adams at all in the summer, as the most unique fit in the defense, hurt them. Not figuring out a cornerback at any point during the preseason, hurt them. Not having Wagner and Brooks on the field at any point against a preseason opponent? This takes us firmly into the realm where we can’t prove anything, but I remain convinced that just like it took until Week 11 of the 2020 season, this defense does not work until the critical mass of elite understanding is essentially all 11 guys - and they got nowhere close to that before 2021 kicked off.