For the third week in a row, the Seahawks are back on prime time tonight for their “Monday Night Football” showdown against the New Orleans Saints at Lumen Field.
The Seahawks defense entered the weekend dead last in the NFL in yards allowed (433.2), but it did show improvement in last week’s overtime loss at Pittsburgh. Seattle’s defense will have another get-right opportunity tonight against a Saints offense that ranks among the least-productive in the NFL (295.2 yards per game, 28th).
Is this defense trending in the right direction? Are there any obvious fixes on defense? And what can we expect to see from star safety Jamal Adams?
To help us break down the Seahawks defense, and to preview the Monday night matchup, here’s a Q&A with ESPN’s Louis Riddick, a former NFL safety and an analyst on the MNF broadcast team:
Question: You’ve obviously been studying this Seahawks team closely leading up to Monday night. What’s your general assessment of this Seattle defense through six games?
Answer: I would start up front. I think they’re still trying to figure out their best combination of four guys that allows them to play the way they want to play, which is fast and furious up front and putting maximum pressure on the passer. Obviously, they want to make sure that they’re still stout against the run, but they really want to affect the passer and third down — and that’s where they still haven’t found their identity yet. In talking to them and watching them, they really hope that Darrell Taylor can be that guy — that one guy the way Chris Clemons used to be for them and the way Cliff Avril was for so many years. All in all, they are still a work in progress, but for me the big question remains: Who are the best four to get after the quarterback? That’s what they need to find out and what they’re trying to find out.
Q: Is there a quick fix for this defense?
A: I think a lot of times it’s just about players finding a good balance between their individual effort and technique, and then how do they work with others? How does it all marry together? I know that you can’t always stunt your way to the quarterback, and at some point you just have to win your one-on-one. You have to win it. And sometimes you even have to win a one-on-two. They need that guy and that group of guys up front to emerge. (Patriots coach) Bill Belichick always says that last year doesn’t mean anything, and he’s right. It’s not a momentum thing. What I’m saying is, look, Carlos Dunlap doesn’t look any different than he did last season. Kerry Hyder doesn’t look any different. Hyder is another guy that they need to figure out — where is he best suited? Is he a defensive end or a 3-technique? Which one is it?
Q: Jamal Adams has been a major talking point around Seattle after getting his record-setting contract. What are you seeing in terms of how he’s being used and how he’s producing on the field?
A: I would get real comfortable with the fact that Jamal is going to be used in a lot of creative ways — a lot. And more of it is going to be making impact plays going forward than it is going backward. People say, ‘Well, then why the hell did they pay him all that money?’ You know what, it is what it is. They want ball disruption, and if he can give them that, then more power to them.
Q: It almost feels like Adams is trying too hard to do too much at times lately. You played safety in the NFL — any advice you would have for him?
A: When it comes to secondary play, and especially when you’re on the back end, it’s just about making sure your alignments are straight. So what’s your landmark horizontally? What’s your depth vertically? What’s leverage do you need to play with? Where do your eyes need to go first? And then as far as technique, make sure you’re staying down with your pads and making sure you’re able to get good breaks on the football with your feet and catching the football when you have easy interceptions, like he had last week, and then dropped. So that alignment-assignment-technique tripod right there is something I would stress with Jamal, because, yeah, there is such a thing as getting outside of yourself and maybe going overboard when you’re trying too much to do too much. But a guy like him, that’s OK. He’s a tone-setter here. He’s an energy guy. He’s a juice guy. And (coach) Pete (Carroll) loves that stuff. And they need him. They absolutely need him. And when you see them play as a defense, his pace and his tempo stand out. Honestly, when he’s not on the field, everybody else looks the same. There’s not that one guy who is playing at a different speed. Jamal is an important, important piece of this defense now, and he’s going to be for a while with that new contract.
Q: Let’s close with this: Is there anything about this Seahawks team, offense or defense, that has been a pleasant surprise as you’ve studied them closely?
A: On defense, D.J. Reed has stood out to me as far as his ability to make plays on the ball downfield. And I don’t think mainstream football fans know who he is. ‘D.J. Reed? Who’s that?’ So I definitely want to make a point during the broadcast to bring some attention to him. I’m hoping he’s able to make some of those eye-catching plays on Monday so we can talk about him. And on offense, I really like the confidence and swagger of a guy like DK Metcalf, especially after getting the chance to talk to him. I mean, obviously, he stands out, right? He’s 6-4 and 230 pounds with no body fat and has blue hair. But he’s even more fun to talk to, because while he’s real respectful and real open and honest about his competitiveness and the things that he needs to continue to work on, you can tell he’s ‘edgy,’ man. And I like ‘edgy’ people like that. Yeah, that’s Captain Obvious, but you like him even more once you get to talk to him, and that’s why I’m pulling for DK. I hope he tears it up Monday night.