As the Seattle Seahawks search for a new defensive coordinator following the ousting of Ken Norton Jr, one very noticeable issue with the 2021 team that partially explained why they were on the field so much.
In the first 17-game regular season in NFL history, the Seahawks managed just 18 takeaways, which ranked 25th in the NFL and is the new lowest total in franchise history. The previous low-point was the 2016 team, which only managed 19 takeaways and no interceptions after Earl Thomas’ injury. However, the 2016 team also finished tied for 3rd in sacks and points allowed, whereas the 2021 Seahawks... didn’t.
Turnovers tend to be random and vary from year-to-year no matter how bad or good a defense is, so this particular season is not an indictment of Norton when you consider Seattle had 32 takeaways in 2019. But for Carroll, who obsesses over avoiding turnovers and creating takeaways, this had to be irksome.
Not a single Seahawks player forced more than one fumble this season, which indicates that they weren’t even good at creating takeaway opportunities. Three of Seattle’s forced fumbles were on special teams — Nick Bellore, Travis Homer, and DeeJay Dallas are to thank for that — which means the defense only had six forced fumbles. Darius Leonard and Joey Bosa both had more than that by themselves. Alton Robinson’s strip sack of Ryan Tannehill in Week 2 was the Seahawks’ only strip sack fumble recovery of the year — they had just four strip-sacks total.
Of Seattle’s 11 interceptions, eight of them came against three quarterbacks: Matthew Stafford (2), Jimmy Garoppolo (3), and Tim Boyle (3). It took until the 16th game for a Seahawks cornerback to get an interception, and they were all off of Boyle’s arm.
Perhaps the lack of turnovers was also schematic. The Seattle Times’ Adam Jude reported that Pete Carroll wants the Seahawks defense to be more aggressive next season.
The coaching changes do represent for Pete Carroll at least a small pivot in his defensive philosophy, per sources. Carroll preferred Cover 2 this season because his priority was to limit explosive plays (which it did), but he does plan to be more "attack-minded" going forward... https://t.co/UTliQIwQ85— Adam Jude (@A_Jude) January 18, 2022
Increased use of Cover 2 by the Cover 3 guru Carroll clearly worked if they wanted to limit the big gains. The Seahawks had the lowest rate of explosive rushing plays (10+ yards) allowed, and they were also 7th best at preventing explosive pass plays (20+ yards). Ultimately, the lack of a consistent pass rush combined with a willingness to concede less explosive plays likely culminated in the many long 10+ play drives Seattle allowed. Long drives with no threat of a turnover help create the time of possession and snap count differential mess that the Seahawks repeatedly faced, and you can now understand why advanced metrics did not rate Seattle’s defense highly.
Whoever the Seahawks’ next defensive coordinator will surely be re-emphasizing turnovers after what transpired this past season. It is all about the ball, right?