SPOKANE, Wash --- The Seahawks are back and the preseason is going again, and they have some questions facing them before the regular season starts.
The core of this defense has led the league in scoring four out of the past five seasons. Earl Thomas is returning from a season-ending injury in 2016, which completely altered the squad's success on that side of the ball. In addition, Richard Sherman will be 100 percent after finishing last year with a knee and elbow injury.
But let’s look at the top three questions facing the defense this year.
Who will take the cornerback spot opposite Richard Sherman?
Who will step up at defensive tackle?
And can we expect them to improve on last year’s dip in performance?
I am not saying the Seahawks defense was bad last year. They were fifth in yards given up, and third in points against. But compared to other years, this was a dip in production.
Here are the concerns. The secondary could have some growing pains as they try and find another cornerback to fill the spot opposite of Sherman. Jeremy Lane and Shaquill Griffin are the favorites for the job while Deshawn Shead recovers from a torn ACL. Lane has more experience and has flashed big play ability, but is slightly inconsistent and has some injury history, as well. A microcosm of Jeremy Lane’s career might be his interception of Tom Brady in the Super Bowl a few years ago.
Jeremy Lane interceptando o Tom Brady no SB XLIX ao vivo na sua TL para dizer que faltam 20 dias par a NFL pic.twitter.com/Yjnnqg05WD— NFL da Zueira (@NFLdaZueira) August 19, 2016
He could be a better fit for the nickel back or slot corner role. Pete Carrol said Lane is “on fire” this offseason
Griffin has all the physical tools to be another Richard Sherman, but because of how the Seahawks use their cornerbacks, it is hard to pick up their footwork as a rookie. Teammates and coaches have been very excited about Griffin's promise and attentiveness to coaching.
Pete Carroll said,” …right now it is all about technique. And he has no problem with it. But he will get a lot better.”
And newly acquired cornerback Tramaine Brock could push for some playing time early on because he is experienced with seven years in the pros. But the last new corner the Seahawks threw into the fire was Cary Williams, and he was a disaster before being cut in his first year with the team. So expectations should be realistic for Brock, he is a good depth player right now who could grow into a reliable starter.
Ever since Brandon Mebane left for San Diego (now Los Angeles), the Seahawks have never filled his role in the middle of their defense. And nobody can do a dance sack like he can.
Ahtyba Rubin has been a good stop gap player who has been above average since the team signed him in 2015, but they need a playmaker to take the spot next to him at least. Last year though Pro Football Focus graded Rubin as the 113th ranked player out of 127 interior defenders. So an upgrade is necessary for the Seahawks.
They found Jarran Reed in the second round of the 2016 draft and he was a great contributor last year. He flashed some pass rush potential even though his strength is with his run defense, meaning Reed and Rubin have similar traits. Hopefully he can improve on the one and a half sacks he had in 2016. They might not be the best complement on the field together, but are still fairly effective in their roles. They did help the team hold opponents to less than 3.5 yards per carry last year and helped the Seahawks have the seventh best rushing defense in the league in 2016. This could be because of the rest of the defense though, as Reed was ranked 91st out of 127 interior defenders by Pro Football Focus.
A wildcard for the defensive line roatation, Nazair Jones has good size and could develop into a solid pro because of his physical skills. The 6’5” 304-pound defensive tackle is a rookie from North Carolina, his problems right now are his on-field awareness and he plays with a high pad level sometimes. But he did snag this nice interception off a tip in the first preseason game.
And coaches are excited about his hustle and toughness.
The outlook is good for the Hawks this year. The defensive core is back and they will probably regress to the mean, which means they will get back to normal. For the Seahawks defense, normal is being the best defense in the league, and I think they will get back to that level. The improvement that could make a huge difference is forcing turnovers. Seattle forced 19 turnovers last year, 23 in 2015, 24 in 2014 and 39 in 2013, hopefully this trend does not continue and they start forcing more turnovers this year.
The competition that Carroll preaches for every year, game, practice and snap needs to come through for this years' team.
SEA!!! pic.twitter.com/2Z5cimiwc0— Seattle Seahawks (@Seahawks) August 13, 2017
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