RENTON — As the Seahawks have given up an increasing amount of rushing yards the first three weeks of the NFL season, the temptation has been to give a pass to the team’s interior defensive line, a group of veterans who were often cited as a key reason they had one of the best run defenses in the NFL a year ago.
But Wednesday, defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt said no area of the defense is without blame when it comes to a run defense that a year ago allowed just 3.8 yards per carry, second-lowest in the NFL, and this year is allowing 4.9, 22nd, including the group up front.
Asked about the play of the team’s tackles — a group that includes defensive co-captain Al Woods and Poona Ford, whose $10.075 million salary-cap hit this year is the highest on the team — Hurtt said it’s been “inconsistent.”
“There’s been good downs, there’s been bad downs,” he said. “But it’s been inconsistent, which you cannot have, especially with that group. I hold those guys in high regard and there is a lot of trust there. Inconsistent is what I would say.”
Ford is in the last year of a two-year contract signed in 2021 that can pay him $8.3 million this year.
The Seahawks re-signed Woods in the offseason to a two-year deal worth up to $9 million after he had maybe the best year of his career last season at age 34 and re-signed Bryan Mone to an extension through the 2024 season, paying him a total of just over $11 million potentially.
Along with adding Shelby Harris in the Russell Wilson trade and bringing back veteran Quinton Jefferson, the Seahawks felt they would have one of the better interior defensive-line rotations in the NFL, a group they felt could serve as a dependable and trusted anchor for a defense shifting to a 3-4 under first-year coordinator Hurtt. The spending on their interior defensive line of just over $24 million is the seventh-most in the NFL, according to OvertheCap.com.
The Seahawks got just one sack from any of the players listed as ends or tackles (Jefferson against Atlanta). And the Seahawks’ per-game rushing yards allowed of 157 is 30th in the NFL.
After ranking 13th of 108 interior defensive linemen last year by Pro Football Focus, Woods is 70th of 120 so far this year.
That’s the best of any of the interior DLs — Harris, who didn’t play last week and only three plays against the 49ers because of a glute injury — is 81st. Mone 88th, Ford 110th and Jefferson 112th.
Hurtt said he didn’t think the switch to a 3-4 from a 4-3 was a factor — a 3-4 more often calls for a defender to line up directly over an offensive lineman rather than shading to a side.
“It is actually easier because you are in the thicker alignment, like covering more of a player is what I mean by thicker alignment,” Hurtt said. “It’s easier to control blocks and get hands on. What I would say is that it is very tough. Generally, in those situations when you cover up … the guys that play those alignments are large humans because it is a tough deal. It is hard to be able to do. Like I said, there is a technical discipline to it, and you have to be right down, after down, after down. That’s why I said it’s inconsistent.
“There are times when it is going really well, and the guys behind them have to use those correctly because it turns into them fitting off of the guys playing in front of them. Vice versa, the big guy can do it better and the second-level guy is there. It’s the consistency of everybody doing it the correct way.”
The Seahawks will need it to get better quickly with a game Sunday at Detroit, which has the third-best rushing offense in the NFL at 170.3 yards per game, though the Lions may be without leading rusher D’Andre Swift, nursing a shoulder injury.
Metcalf: Okudah getting lots of help
Asked Wednesday about the Lions’ third-year cornerback Jeff Okudah, who has gotten plenty of praise this week after helping the Lions limit Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson to three receptions for 14 yards on six targets, the Seahawks’ DK Metcalf delivered a response likely to get noticed in Detroit.
“He’s got a safety over the top of him, so he’s really not locking people down,” Metcalf said. “But he’s a good corner.”
Asked later what makes Okudah good, Metcalf said simply: “I guess you have to watch film, and that is just my opinion.”
Okudah was injured and didn’t play when the Seahawks beat the Lions 51-29 in Seattle late last season.
Okudah was the third overall pick of the 2020 draft out of Ohio State but played just 10 games his first two seasons because of injury. He is rated 43rd of 103 corners in the NFL this week by Pro Football Focus.
- The Seahawks placed running back Travis Homer on injured reserve Wednesday with a rib injury suffered against Atlanta. Cornerback Xavier Crawford was signed off the practice squad to take his place on the 53-man roster. Coach Pete Carroll hinted the Seahawks will elevate a running back off the practice squad — either Darwin Thompson or newly-signed Godwin Igwebuike — to add depth against the Lions with just three other RBs on the roster (Rashaad Penny, Kenneth Walker II, DeeJay Dallas).
- The Seahawks had just three players sitting out Wednesday — Harris (glute), cornerback Justin Coleman (calf) and guard Gabe Jackson (knee/resting veteran). Harris, who was not with the team last week because of a family issue was back in the building Wednesday, and Carroll said he is optimistic Harris will play against the Lions. Two players were listed as limited — safety Joey Blount (hamstring) and receiver Marquise Goodwin (knee).
- Detroit had 10 players sitting out including Swift and leading receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown (ankle).