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Seahawks Replay Booth: Force-players must avoid getting hooked

"The whole scheme of this defense is predicated upon not getting hooked." - Pete Carroll, a long time ago

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

The Broncos ran 26 times for 116 yards against the Seahawks last Thursday night, a somewhat gaudy number for a normally disciplined Seattle run defense.

In my Game Notebook from last week, I wrote:

The Seahawks' second-team run defense got chewed up for a while in the 2nd and 3rd quarters, and while it seemed like eight or nine of those runs were broken off then the subsequently called back due to holding, a few were just good-old-plain gashes for big yards.

I saw a few plays that the strongside force player -- either DeShawn Shead or Jackson Jeffcoat -- appeared to easily get sealed or even run inside down the line of scrimmage, opening up the edge. Denver running backs repeatedly exploited this.

There were several plays (two of which were called back for holding), where Shead appeared to get badly sealed/hooked in run support on the edge while the Broncos ran his direction. It's a concern because Shead is supposed to be a pretty important backup this year, but it's also the type of mental mistake that can likely be coached up. I remember having conversations about Mike Morgan and a similar issue a few years back and his discipline and play recognition has since improved greatly.

I bring it up again because, one, it's important, but two, Pete Carroll pretty much echoed my thoughts when talking with Mitch Levy and Hugh Millen yesterday. Said Pete:

"The second group did not play very well. We really had trouble just playing fundamental scheme. Just playing the reach blocks. Everybody gets reach blocked, but everybody has to get around the reach blocks. The ball just ran right around us. That looked terrible.

"We were really shocked that we looked like that, because we didn't look like that in practice."

I don't know if I know the exact definition of a reach block, but essentially it's when an offensive player must move to reach a defender, then seal them off from the direction the ball carrier is headed.

"The first group was fine, and they were very accountable, but the younger guys did not fit the scheme like they were supposed to, and they ran through us like we were the New York Life commercial, like we were point shaving or something."

Anyone know what he's talking about? Anyway - so what was the issue?

"It was technique. It was technique wise, and we got hooked. When they run around you, then there's a breakdown in the perimeter stuff, and it worked all the way down the line of scrimmage."

The force player in Pete Carroll's system -- i.e., the player that forces the ball carrier back inside to the middle of the field where the highest concentration of teammates are -- is an important one. As Carroll said back at USC, "the whole scheme of this defense is predicated upon not getting hooked." It's about angles and leverage and "run fits" and it's a highly coordinated thing. When the force player gets hooked or reached and lets the offense bounce a run outside, it means everyone is now out of position. We saw this happen several times on Thursday night.

Here below is a nice example of the opposite -- a force player, in this case backup strong safety Jeron Johnson, setting the edge and forcing a run back inside. This was the Seahawks' first defensive play from scrimmage. It's a little tough to see in my stop-motion gif here, but Jeron gets his hat outside the offensive player and has a good angle to make the tackle if the runner goes outside.

Johnson not only takes on the block like a champ, he manages to keep his eyes on the backfield and force the run back inside.

And KJ cleans it up.

This "force" aspect of the defense is part of the reason Kam Chancellor is such a stud at what he does. He exceedingly rarely allows a play to get outside when he's playing on the line up in the box. (Eric Winston can testify):

Carroll continued:

"We've worked really hard this week to really emphasize the in-line work, so guys are playing their scheme. It didn't show up in practice, but in the game it did. Denver did a good job - their backup guys blocked us better than we played. That did not feel right."

To the tape!

1. This play happened in the 2nd quarter and part of it is due to the fact that Jackson Jeffcoat is playing in a new position and still trying to figure out what he's supposed to do.

Jeffcoat gets a great punch on the tight end -- which is nice to see -- and even pushes his blocker back and down the line, but then does not widen enough to set the edge. Behind him, Deshawn Shead does a worse job of getting himself into position.

The running back gets the edge, and picks up a big chunk of yards.

2. On this play, I'm not sure if Shead is supposed to be attacking down the line (?) but I doubt it. At the snap, he moves forward, and gets hooked and carried to the middle of the field. This causes a big log jam and pursuit down the line is affected.

Luckily for Seattle on this one, Horace Miller is held by the tight end hoping to reach him on the second level, and the play comes back. Still think it's a terrible job of setting the edge in run defense.

To the next play...

3. Again, and not to pick on Jeffcoat because I do understand that he's learning a new position, but this is what Carroll is talking about when he says the 2nd group kept getting hooked. You can see the log jam this creates and pursuit by the rest of the defensive players on the line of scrimmage is screwed over.

An unnecessary hold on Jeffcoat gets called though, and the play comes back.

In Friday night's game -- watch for the force player on the line of scrimmage. Sometimes it's the SAM linebacker, sometimes it's a safety. In either case, if they allow themselves to be hooked or reached by a blocker and fail to force the play back inside, Seattle's run defense will leak like a sieve.

Pete Carroll today:

In Preseason Week 1 against the Cowboys, the Chargers rushed 42 times for 152 yards, so you know the Hawks will get tested. The good news is this is a fundamentals thing and a nice teaching opportunity. Obviously, players will have to prove they've learned from their mistakes.