I am sick of the Seattle Seahawks losing to the Cincinnati Bengals, but I am not sick of seeing this defense take the field. The latter half of that sentence is something that only my most-optimistic self would have said over the summer. Yes, the team had a phenomenal 2022 draft, and the selection of Devon Witherspoon this year gave us even more reason for excitement. But following offseason health issues and early injuries, we really have had very little opportunity to see this position group gel the way we had hoped. And then yesterday happened.
Today marks the first time the Seahawks will have their true starting secondary play together:— Brian Nemhauser (@hawkblogger) October 15, 2023
(Plus Julian Love) pic.twitter.com/LD8G5XQJfg
Now, this defense was far from perfect, and for much of the first half it looked like they were getting exposed after a we got our hopes up following a deceptive blowout over the New York Giants. Flash forward to every drive after the second touchdown and Joe Burrow is looking like the Daniel Jones deluxe model. Through a combination of pressure and tighter coverage, the defense came together and put the clamps down on an offense that up until that point seemed to be getting going with their increasingly healthy passer.
The players in the secondary largely performed well individually and as a unit. Pro Football Focus gave their defense a cumulative 74.1 pass coverage grade, which is their second best of the season (next to the Giants game, if that wasn’t already clear). Looking at the players, themselves, the breakdown is largely what you wold expect. You can see in the tweet below the stats for each player who received a target.
#Seahawks Coverage x Bengals (185y, 2TD, 1INT)— Alexandre Castro (@alexcastrofilho) October 16, 2023
Woolen: 6/10, 57y, 1PD, 2TD;
Witherspoon: 3/5, 14y, 2PD;
JAdams: 3/5, 8y, 1PEN;
Wagner: 4/4, 49y;
Brooks: 3/3, 23y;
Tre Brown: 0/2, 1PD, 1INT, 1PEN;
Diggs: 2/2, 4y;
Love: 1/1, 11y;
DTaylor: 1/1, 11y;
Hall: 1/1, 8y;
Tre Brown clearly led the way with his performance, and Devon Witherspoon remains a weighted, lead blanket to anyone or anything that crosses his path. Also, we all knew we were looking forward to the return of Jamal Adams — Coverage Safety. Adams spent most of his time in the box and even took four snaps lined up outside the tackle, according to Pro Football Focus, which is no big surprise, but he also performed very well when asked to cover. Quandre Diggs had great game, as he tallied eight solo tackles and was credited with three stops. Having Jordan Love in the mix opens up a lot of possibilities for this defense as well, as it gives them the flexibility to move Adams and Diggs around, as they did yesterday.
Unfortunately, as you can see above (and as you likely saw during the game), Tariq Woolen got picked on the most, and it was a rough outing for the talented young corner. He is having his ups and downs right now, but a player with his talent is going to continue to put himself in position to make plays; once he gets that first pick, the dominoes will start to fall. In the meantime, he is still around the ball and not afraid to tackle, so he remains a valuable asset to this defense even when he isn’t having his best day.
Yes, it is a bit heartbreaking that this defensive performance was mostly overshadowed by the failure of the offense to punch the dang ball into the endzone. But also, this is a solid platform to build off of — we are starting to see an identity emerging, which is something that this team hasn’t had for years. This defense has a ways to go before they can be even mentioned in the same breath as the Legion of Boom, but they seem to be figuring out the details a lot sooner than they have in recent years. Not only this, but it truly feels like there is a genuine belief that this team has not only the will to succeed, but the personnel to do it too. I have to give the coaching staff credit as well — the defense is developing an identity once again, and their pass rush that is sitting just a hair behind the Buffalo Bills and the Baltimore Ravens in sacks per game, according to ESPN (the Bills/Ravens have each played six games and have 24 sacks to Seattle’s five games and 19 sacks). While sacks rely on having a threatening front seven, it is very much benefited by a secondary that is performing at a high level. The turnovers were slow to come early on, but they have picked up three of their four interceptions over the last two weeks. From the looks of it, we have every reason to expect this trend to continue when they take on the Arizona Cardinals, who have given the ball away five times over their last two games.