The Elephant in the Locker Room: The Middle of the D Could be the Hawks’ Achilles’ Heel
By Greg Wright
I, for one, was greatly relieved to see Bobby Wagner have a great game last week.
For the last five years, it’s been tremendously obvious to most serious fans (and just about every offensive coordinator in the league worth his salt) that the Seahawk defense’s strengths are its secondary and its line play against the run. That leaves, generally speaking, the middle of the field on passing downs as the Hawks’ weakness.
And it’s by design. In Carroll’s scheme, if you push the offense to the middle of the field, that’s where things are going to get the most chaotic; and when there’s chaos and you’re on defense, good things are gonna happen. Just look at the Seahawks’ Super Bowl win (not to mention the rest of that season).
The last two years, though, have looked a lot more like 2012 than 2013. Team after team has had success exploiting the middle of the field with mismatches on tight ends and running backs in particular, and on occasion a sharp slot receiver.
Part of the responsibility for that defensive lapse, of course, falls on the scheme in general; but part also falls on the safeties, and part falls on the middle linebacker: “defensive QB” Bobby Wagner.
A lot has been said in the media about the play (and lack of play) of Chancellor and McCray. So as a case study of what we hope not to see in the regular season, let’s instead take a close look at how Wagner was repeatedly caught out of position in the opening defensive sequences against Kansas City and Minnesota.
So that’s the way Seattle’s first team opened against Kansas City’s first team. Not very auspicious.
The next week against Minnesota was a little better, but only to the degree that the Vikings did not score.
Why am I picking on Wagner?
I’m not. Remember, I started off by saying how pleased I was to see Wagner’s great play against Dallas.
But play stands out when there’s a contrast, and Wagner’s film from the first two weeks illustrates a weakness, and a weakness we can expect to see exploited unless Wagner has a career year. He’s generally right about his calls, about diagnosing the plays, and about who’s going to get the ball. But he needs to play more instinctively and less conservatively, and he needs to make the defensive calls more quickly so he can keep his eyes on the offensive play rather than his own teammates’ backsides.
There’s no doubt that Wagner is Pro-bowl caliber; but our linebacking corps is not the cream of the crop the way that our secondary is, or the way our line is against the run. You’re only as strong as your weakest link, and if I’m an offensive coordinator, I know what Seattle’s weakest link is… and I’m going after it.
And those two series in preseason play show exactly what that can look like.
Now… imagine what it would be like if Wagner gets injured and Brock Coyle is manning the helm.
After four playoff appearances in a row, everyone’s paying attention… yet even with all the scrutiny, it seems that there’s always some key issue that’s getting glossed over. It’s the elephant in the locker room, if you will, and gosh darn if I’ll let that ride. Join us weekly for a little closer look at our NFC West Champions.