Richard Sherman ain’t walking through that door — unless maybe it’s to record an episode of his podcast. Nor is Jamal Adams — unless he’s on crutches when he does so. Ditto any stalwart Seahawks defender-slash-savior from the past you can think of, from Chancellor to Wagner.
Here are two hard and true facts to emerge from the Seahawks’ season to date, which are inextricably linked:
- Fact No. 1: The Seahawks won’t make something of this season unless they make drastic improvement in their ability to stop teams from moving the ball at virtual will. As safety Quandre Diggs said with evident disdain after Sunday’s 27-23 loss to the Atlanta Falcons: “I mean, they did what they wanted to do today. … We stunk it up on defense.”
- Fact No. 2: Nothing magical is going to occur to facilitate No. 1.
To amplify: No star player will return from the injured list. The likelihood of an impact midseason trade, such as the one that brought in Diggs in 2019 and Carlos Dunlap in 2020, is remote. They’ve already fired coaches, including defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. They’ve already changed schemes.
Instead, the answers will have to come from within, a realization that seemed to permeate the Seahawks locker room after a game in which they were gashed for big plays throughout. Atlanta’s Cordarrelle Patterson had 141 rushing yards, including back-to-back gains of 40 and 18 to almost single-handedly stifle whatever momentum Seattle had gained from a go-ahead field goal in the third quarter (a task the Seahawks aided and abetted by stalling at the 7-yard line amid confusion in getting a play called, and eschewing a fourth-and-two to take the sure points). The Falcons scored on five of their first seven possessions and averaged 7.1 yards per offensive play.
It’s a situation reminiscent of two years ago, when for a half-season the Seahawks were on pace to set all kinds of NFL records for defensive futility. Coinciding roughly with the arrival of Dunlap, the Seahawks tightened their defense considerably and finished with a 12-4 record and a division title.
Last year they allowed more yards than any team in Seahawks history, and it’s sobering to think that through three games in 2022 they are allowing more yards per play (6.3) than last year’s 5.4. One saving grace last year for the Seahawks was their ability to keep teams out of the end zone. They ranked 28th in yards allowed but tied for ninth in points allowed per game.
They will have to summon the same sort of in-season turnaround as in 2020, and the same sort of bend-but-don’t-break prowess as in 2021 — which they flashed in the season-opening win over Denver.
Seahawks players stressed repeatedly — and accurately — that three games is far too soon to write off a unit, or a season. Linebacker Jordyn Brooks even said that he was in good spirits after the game because he still sees greatness in this defense.
Yet Diggs invoked perhaps the most damning indictment a defensive player can levy when he said that he doesn’t feel the Seahawks have been physical enough. It was an addendum to last week when Diggs pointed out after a loss to the 49ers that the Seahawks “weren’t good enough.”
“I mean, I know people got mad at me for my comments last week, but if you don’t want to know the truth, don’t ask me questions, you feel me?” Diggs said. “I just tell the truth. My teammates understand that, so they don’t take it the wrong way. We just got to be better.
“What I’m saying is we’re obviously not that good to take days off. Like, real people that know football know exactly what I mean. So if we were the team we were two years ago, we could take days off. We were 12 and 4. … We are not there yet. End of the day, I’m not saying we can’t do that. But we got to work to get to that point.”
Diggs, the Seahawks’ defensive captain, indicated that the past two years provide a template for the road out of their defensive malaise — or at least a source of inspiration.
“You’ve just got to stick with it,” he said. “You can’t give up when things get hard. I mean, it’s perfect. This is what my whole NFL career has been like, where you’re down bad. And you tough it out, you thug it out, and you become one of the best in the game. So let’s go do it. Let’s go do it. We ain’t got no choice.”
No choice, indeed. For the Seahawks it’s going to take a collective elevation of play. Whether that’s attainable is something the Seahawks will have to show, not just talk about, or dream about. Reinforcements are not coming. Any magic will have to be self-generated.