RENTON — The growing optimism about the Seahawks’ defense reached a crescendo Friday with a comment from defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr.
“This is gonna be probably one of the best secondaries we’ve had in a long time,” Norton said.
Norton didn’t say exactly how long, but the implication was clear — since the days of Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor roaming the back end and forming the Legion of Boom.
Norton pointed to the additions of All-Pro safety Jamal Adams and cornerback Quinton Dunbar via trade, a full second season for free safety Quandre Diggs and the emergence of second-year player Marquise Blair as the nickel back as the keys in transforming a secondary that a year ago was part of a defense that allowed the most passing yards in team history (4,223).
Norton said Diggs has “calmed down” the secondary and helped the team’s communication greatly. Blair taking over the nickel spot will allow the Seahawks to play more man coverage, which he said will play to strengths of the defensive backs and aid the entire defense.
“I’m really excited about the development we’ve had so far,” Norton said.
Diggs tapped the brakes a little on all the excitement. Like Norton, he spoke to reporters before Friday’s practice via Zoom.
He said that while the words are nice, he’d rather wait until the team plays a few games.
“The potential is hot,” Diggs said. “But potential can get you beat, also, if we’re not prepared and aren’t ready to go. So like I said, I’m not really bought into the hype, and I don’t think the all the guys in the secondary are bought into the hype. We are all about work, myself included. I don’t want to hear about who’s the best duo, who’s the best secondary. I mean that stuff’s out the window. Everybody right now is the best secondary because we haven’t played anybody.”
As Diggs noted, the first test of the new-look secondary and defense will be a big one — a game at Atlanta against a team that last year threw for 443 net yards against the Seahawks despite going with backup quarterback Matt Schaub instead of injured starter Matt Ryan. That was the third-most net passing yards the Seahawks have ever allowed.
“Until we go out there and we line up and we won against Matt Ryan, (receiver) Julio (Jones), (running back) Todd Gurley and we do what we do — that’s the only way we are going to prove ourselves and prove how good we can be,” he said.
Seahawks ‘really excited’ about Jordyn Brooks
It’s been hard to get a read on the progress of first-round pick Jordyn Brooks, in part because he seems destined to play a backup role this season behind veteran K.J. Wright.
The team could move Wright to strongside linebacker, which would open up the weakside spot for Brooks. But coach Pete Carroll said recently that won’t happen for now, and that caused some to wonder what that meant about Brooks, who is playing only the weakside linebacker spot.
The team doesn’t seem likely to bench Wright and his $5 base million salary.
But Norton, who also doubles as the team’s de facto linebackers coach, said he would “beg to differ” with any thought that Brooks, the 27th overall pick out of Texas Tech, hasn’t turned a few heads so far.
“We’ve been really excited about Jordyn Brooks,” Norton said. “… He looks like a linebacker; he runs like a linebacker. He acts like a guy who’s hungry and wants to play. Very pleased with his development so far. We saw the scrimmage — he really showed. The other day he really showed up well in the scrimmage. He’s really learning how to play football at our level.”
Norton said he’s been most impressed that Brooks — whose speed has been regarded as his primary strength — has been “physical.”
“A lot of times you want to a guy with speed to play fast, and then you want a guy to really be able to show up and think on the run, and he’s really good in mind,” Norton said. “He’s really good in carrying what we teach him in the meeting rooms over to the field, and he’s a gamer.
“A lot of times you see some guys look good in practice in the game show up and they kind of get a little intimidated. Not this kid. (When the) game shows up, lights come on, he turns up and that’s really good to see at this age.”
Norton loving linebacker depth
Norton said the addition of Brooks to the veteran trio of Wright, Bobby Wagner and Bruce Irvin along with second-year players Cody Barton and Ben Burr-Kirven and third-year player Shaquem Griffin has given the team some of the best linebacker depth it’s had in a while.
“If there’s one position on our team that has a lot of depth it’s that linebacker position,” Norton said.
Norton confirmed that for now, Griffin is the backup strongside linebacker behind Irvin, leaving Barton and Burr-Kirven battling for the backup spots in the middle and weakside.
The Seahawks may not be able to have all seven on the 53-player roster, though the Seahawks would almost certainly want to keep anyone it might have to waive on the practice squad — and it might be risky to try to sneak any through waivers.
Still, Norton said there could be some tough decisions for roster spots and playing time saying “all the guys have their work cut out for them.”
Notes: Dunbar has excused absence
- Cornerback Quinton Dunbar was not at practice. The Seahawks said he had an excused absence for personal reasons.
- Diggs also sat out practice, though he was in attendance, but it seems nothing is seriously wrong because he still spoke to media.
- Right tackle Brandon Shell, who turned his ankle Wednesday before the mock game, was back at practice and appeared to be working fully.
- The Seahawks remain low at receiver with Phillip Dorsett (foot), John Ursua (hamstring) and Cody Thompson (unknown) out. Ursua is expected back soon. But with just seven healthy receivers on the roster, the Seahawks made a position change to add another, moving Jayson Stanley from cornerback. Stanley played receiver at Georgia before moving to corner with the Atlanta Falcons as an undrafted free agent a year ago.
- Also out was rookie tight end Stephen Sullivan with an unknown injury, as well as defensive end Benson Mayowa, also for unknown reasons.