On Wednesday, new Clint Hurtt had his first press conference since being promoted to the Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator spot. Hurtt was the favorite to take over for Ken Norton Jr following the latter’s departure from the coaching staff, and sure enough he’s the fifth DC in the Pete Carroll era.
What can we expect from the Hurtt defense? Well based on what he answered, we’ll see more 3-4 fronts akin to Vic Fangio’s scheme, as well as a push for more aggression that includes but isn’t limited to an increase in blitzing.
“The 3-4 system is something that I’ve really embraced, obviously Vic Fangio being a big influence on that,” Hurtt said. “So with that being said, there are going to be some element of that—I would say we’re going to be multiple. One thing that is going to be significantly different this year, we are going to be aggressive. We want that. The aggressiveness is going to have to come from our guys up front getting after the passer, continuing on being strong in the run game like we have been in last few years. That’s the mentality of a defense that we want to have, and our players respond to that mentality. Obviously, that comes down to one, how you coach it, and two, how you call it. So the aggressiveness and attacking offenses, but at the same time challenging the quarterback and making it hard on him not just with a rush but also with coverage. That’s where we’re going to be and that’s what we want to make big improvements.”
“Will we blitz more that we did last year? My answer to that would be yes. Would it be an inordinate amount, something crazy? No, it’s not going to be that,” Hurtt said. “A lot of that is in the mentality in which you play. You don’t want to be soft, you want to be aggressive in how you play coverage. It can be a four-man rush and dropping seven, there’s a mentality that comes along with it and also the types of coverages you’re playing—not being so zone-y, being more aggressive with things, whether it’s in zone or man coverages, things of that nature.”
Pro Football Reference had the Seahawks just 22nd in blitz rate, right behind the Chicago Bears (whose DC in 2021 was newly hired Seahawks associate head coach Sean Desai). Seattle did blitz considerably more and ranked 11th in 2020, and a lot of it was due to heavy use of Jamal Adams in lieu of having a functional traditional pass rush with the front four.
Adams blitzed less this season and didn’t record any sacks after having 9.5 in his first season with the Seahawks. Hurtt is well aware how important it is to get the most out of Jamal’s skill set.
New Seahawks def coor Clint Hurtt says of Jamal Adams: “Jamal is still a difference maker. It’s up to me how I use him.— Gregg Bell (@gbellseattle) February 16, 2022
“Last year we put him in situations he was not accustomed to.”
That mean: deeper, in more coverage.
Take that to mean more Adams blitzing, wild-card use pic.twitter.com/BVeVjzoOTx
Defensive Coordinator Clint Hurtt's full comments on #Seahawks strong safety Jamal Adams (was asked about rushing him) Adams is going to be doing a mix of his past, with Seattle likely running a touch more middle field open than their already high 2021 rate. pic.twitter.com/p3flzfLNP0— Matty F. Brown (@mattyfbrown) February 17, 2022
As mentioned earlier, the Seahawks also hired Sean Desai, who worked with Hurtt in Chicago and thus is part of the Vic Fangio defensive tree, if you will. Hurtt had plenty of praise for Desai.
As first-time coordinator, Clint Hurtt says it was "critical" for Seahawks to land Sean Desai due to his defensive coordinator, passing game background.— Corbin K. Smith (@CorbinSmithNFL) February 16, 2022
He expects to blend some of what he learned under Vic Fangio with Pete Carroll's schematics and Desai will help with that.
New Seahawks DC Clint Hurtt on hiring of Sean Desai: "Getting him here was a home run, so I appreciate Pete and John getting that done."— Adam Jude (@A_Jude) February 16, 2022
Lastly, and I know many of you will be delighted by this statement, Hurtt’s seemingly not too keen on dropping defensive linemen into coverage as often as his predecessor was.
Clint Hurtt says he doesn't intend to have defensive linemen dropping in coverage much.— Curtis Crabtree (@Curtis_Crabtree) February 16, 2022
"I don't want to see big guys walking backwards. ... I'm not going backwards. I want to be going forward."
There’s nothing wrong with dropping linemen into coverage — the CIncinnati Bengals sure used that to great effect in their playoff win over the Kansas City Chiefs — but this obviously was irksome to many fans in 2021. The lack of a consistent pass rush was also a major problem (again), and perhaps fixing the pass rush may lead to changes in the frequency of sending Poona Ford and the fellas out to cover zones.