RENTON — There are two new voices directing the Seahawks’ overhauled defense, and one is considerably louder than the other.
Jordyn Brooks learned that pretty quickly about Clint Hurtt.
“I gotta turn down my mic with him sometimes. He be yelling a lot,” Brooks said with a smile.
Brooks, a budding star at middle linebacker, will for the first time wear the green dot sticker for Seattle’s defense this season, indicating his helmet is fitted with an internal speaker that allows him to hear the play calls from Hurtt, the Seahawks new defensive coordinator.
It’s an on-field job the Seahawks had entrusted to Bobby Wagner for the past decade.
Now it’s Brooks’ responsibility to relay the calls to teammates on the field, a sign of the organization’s growing belief in Brooks as an emerging leader and foundational piece of the team’s future.
“Obviously being with Bobby, (Brooks) been able to kind of let him handle that and then he can just go focus and go play,” Hurtt said recently. “So he’s in the midst of learning a new system and having to communicate the calls with the rest of the defense. But I will say I’m proud of where he’s at. I know this is foreign territory for him, but he wanted to grab and take hold of it, and he’s done it very well.”
As the uncertainty at quarterback dominated much of the story lines in training camp, the Seahawks have carried a quiet confidence about their potential on defense.
It was clear something had to change for a defense that ranked 22nd or worse in yards allowed in each of the past three seasons.
In the most significant defensive change in Pete Carroll’s tenure in Seattle, Hurtt was promoted as a first-time coordinator and Sean Desai and Karl Scott were hired to help implement a hybrid 3-4 defense that they intend to be more aggressive in attacking the quarterback and more consistent in creating turnovers.
Hurtt has put an emphasis on communication and accountability.
“The relationship with the staff when everything got put together last spring and going forward has been about the camaraderie and communication,” said Hurtt, the Seahawks defensive line coach the past five seasons. “If you have something to say, then say it, so that guys don’t feel like they have to mince their words. I’m a direct person, so it has been really, really good and it has flowed together really smoothly.”
The Seahawks are expected to play more often in a two-high safety scheme, leaning on veteran safeties Quandre Diggs and Jamal Adams, both of whom appear back to full strength after major offseason surgeries.
The emergence of veteran Josh Jones as a third safety option means Hurtt can use Adams as a do-it-all defensive back, moving him closer to the line of scrimmage as a hybrid linebacker in nickel and dime packages.
Indeed, all indications are Adams will be featured heavily in the defensive plans this season.
“I’ve been really impressed with his ability to kind of shake back,” Hurtt said. “When you deal with multiple surgeries and battling back from stuff that he has had to deal with over the last couple of years, and then all of a sudden right in the beginning of it, a new start to the year, a new beginning … to shake back from that, rebound, and to see his energy, his passion and him flying around, it’s great for him to be able to battle through.”
Up front, the Seahawks will rely on the experience of Poona Ford, Al Woods and Shelby Harris, among others, to stop the run.
The Seahawks need to improve their pass rush, and they are counting on a breakout season from Darrell Taylor to do so. Free-agent addition Uchenna Nwosu and rookie Boye Mafe will be factors, too.
Brooks, a soft-spoken former first-round pick, anchors the middle of the defense, after finishing second in the NFL with a franchise-record 183 tackles in 17 games last season. Alongside him, Cody Barton will get his first chance at a regular starting role in the base defense. The depth at inside linebacker, however, remains one of the biggest question marks on the roster.
Perhaps the team’s most intriguing position is cornerback, where Sidney Jones, Artie Burns, Michael Jackson and Justin Coleman ought to provide a steady presence while rookies Tariq Woolen and Coby Bryant adjust to the NFL.
Woolen, in particular, has been one of the best revelations of training camp. The 6-foot-4 rookie figures to take over as a starter at some point this season, perhaps as early as Week 1.
“The talent,” Hurtt said, “is undeniable.”