The Elephant in the Locker Room: Pressuring Goff


By Greg Wright

If you’ve been under the impression that the Seahawks’ D is blitzing less frequently this year, you’d be correct.

Under Pete Carroll, Seattle’s defense has consistently ranked toward the bottom of the league in blitzing the opposing QB. This was as true under Kris Richard as it was under Gus Bradley or Dan Quinn. Typically, the Hawks will only bring additional pressure on about 23% of QB dropbacks.

When Kris Richard was let go at the end of last season and Carroll brought back Ken Norton, Jr., Bob Condotta speculated about whether it had to do with Richard taking too many blitz risks in comparison to Bradley. What he found, however, was that Richard’s blitz rate of 22% was actually less than it was under Bradley and Quinn. (During the Super Bowl season, the Hawks blitz rate was just 23.3%.)

During this year’s preseason, it did look like Norton was going to be blitzing more frequently than his predecessor. Once the regular season started, however, Carroll’s more typical risk aversion took over. According to a league-wide analysis this week at ESPN, Seattle’s blitz rate is down to just 18% this season–which represents a huge dropoff from previous years.

Part of this is due to a league-wide shift. Because of new wrinkles added to offensive schemes, like jet sweeps and a trend toward quicker release times, the average blitz rate is down 3.5 points to 24.1%.

That doesn’t entirely account for the dip in Seattle’s stats, however. I suspect that with a lot of green talent in the secondary, and with a rotating cast of also green characters in the linebacking corps, Norton has simply been wanting to focus on defensive fundamentals before getting cute with coverages.

The key issue, however, has always been how effective you are with your blitzes, not how often you bring pressure. And from that standpoint, I’d call Seattle’s blitzes remarkably ineffective this year. Of Seattle’s 21 sacks, only 3 have come from linebackers (1 from Mingo, 2 from Kendricks, who is currently suspended) and zero from DBs.

That’s a trend that needs to change. I’d particularly like to see Justin Coleman involved more in the blitz scheme, as he showed real talent in that regard last season. Wagner usually gets a couple sacks a year, too, which would be nice to see.

Especially this week. Los Angeles passes the ball only marginally less frequently than Seattle (and both are near the bottom of the league in passes attempted), so opportunities for pressure will be few.

The few that we get will need to count.

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. 

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