Darrell Taylor has recorded exactly one NFL season. He was born in March 1997, which means he’s been 25 for just over two months. But when he looks around the linebackers’ room, he can’t help but notice one thing: he’s one of the oldies.
“It was funny just to watch,” Taylor said. “Look around me and see all the young people around, given that I was in the same position last year.”
This isn’t about Darrell Taylor — this is about a new Seahawks defense hoping to carve out its own legacy. Bobby Wagner is gone. Not KJ Wright, Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor or any of the legends that made the Seahawks football’s most feared defense.
Many of these current players – perhaps most of them – would not be recognized shopping at their nearest Safeway. Can we expect them to revive the Seahawks’ “D”?
Last season wasn’t the most inspiring for players on this side of the ball. Seattle finished 27th in total defense and 31st in pass defense. Yes, Jordyn Brooks and Wagner ranked second and third respectively in the NFL in tackles, but largely because they couldn’t leave the field.
The consolation was that the Seahawks finished tied for ninth in points allowed — not least because of their red-zone defense and ability to force turnovers. Still, coach Pete Carroll felt he should quit defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. and promote Clint Hurtt as his replacement. And that’s where we are – lots of fresh, but unproven faces.
So should fans be excited?
It may depend on what part of the land they are monitoring. Safeties are where you are going to find the distinctions, but not so much health. Quandre Diggs has made the Pro Bowl in each of the past two years, but suffered a horrific injury in the final quarter of Game 17 last season – a dislocated ankle and a broken fibula. The Seahawks were optimistic enough about his return to form to give him a three-year, $40 million extension, but you never know how he’ll play until he returns to the field.
Jamal Adams made three Pro Bowls but missed the final five games last season with a torn labrum. The shoulder shouldn’t be the 12’s concern, though – it’s that review site Pro Football Focus has rated him as a slightly below average safety over the past two years despite the number of showy sacks in 2020.
Until cornerback? Sidney Jones returns after a useful season in which he started 11 games, but then there is a dip. Tre Brown? Justin Colman? Rookie Coby Bryant? Who will get the initial headbutt remains to be seen, but there are questions.
That said, there might be even more questions about the guys up front, as that’s where most of the turnover is.
“The biggest difference is the front seven, and that’s what excites me the most,” said safety Ryan Neal. “Because we have some hungry young dogs there, and I think what the defense is going to do for them is put them in better positions to play the game they know how to play.”
Neal was basically saying that some players weren’t playing the positions that best matched their skills. And it was clear the Seahawks were struggling to get to the quarterback. They finished 21st in the NFL in sacks per game, which contributed heavily to the passing yards they were giving up.
So, does second-round draft pick Boye Mafe help cement that with his rushing advantage? Will Taylor build on the 6.5 sacks he produced last season? How about Uchenna Nwosu, who had five sacks and two forced fumbles for the Chargers last season in the best year of her career?
Those players will be essential — as will defensive tackle Quinton Jefferson, who joins the Seahawks after two seasons on the road, and linebacker Joel Iyiegbuniwe, who comes to Seattle after four years in Chicago.
But perhaps most important is the new DC.
You never know exactly how much autonomy a defensive coordinator coaching Carroll has. Pete is a defensively focused trainer and is considered by many to be the mastermind behind those historic Legion of Boom days.
But Hurtt has already made an imprint by changing the Seahawks’ base defense from 4-3 to 3-4.
What’s the biggest difference you see with defense now compared to last year? Hurtt was interviewed on Tuesday.
“The biggest thing right now is that there’s a lot of communication,” he said. “Guys being on the same page – communication across all three levels of defense is crucial. Otherwise, bad things can happen, so guys have to talk constantly.
The Seahawks will therefore make sure to talk to each other. Now we wait to see if their defense can give fans something to talk about.