By the numbers: More interesting Seattle Seahawks 2021 defense trends, rates and stats
The Seahawks have put together a polarizing defense in 2021. Some argued it was unfairly discredited in some areas, while others pounded the table for change. Ultimately, head coach Pete Carroll and the organization sided with the latter group, firing defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. and passing game coordinator Andre Curtis shortly after the season ended. .
By diving deep into the numbers, Norton’s unit trends, weaknesses and strengths become quite clear. Let’s run through five handpicked stats to illustrate and add context to the makeup of Seattle’s defense during the 2021 campaign.
All numbers provided by TruMedia.
High Snap Counts helped set franchise records for Seahawks linebacker duo
Towards the end of the year, linebackers Jordyn Brooks and Bobby Wagner traded franchise records for tackles, with the former coming out on top with a mark of 183. Although that was a remarkable achievement , the duo’s league-leading 353 tackles were unquestionably inflated by playing the most defensive snaps (2,124) of any NFL linebacker tandem. In fact, Brooks and Wagner were statistically the second most effective pair of tackles at their positions; their 0.16 tackles per snap fell behind the 0.19 mark set by Eagles linebackers Alex Singleton and TJ Edwards, who combined for a total of 255 tackles in 1,343 snaps. Ultimately, a high number of snaps and a fifth-highest completion percentage on breakout routes (73.8%) generated a ton of tackle opportunities for Seattle’s core defense.
Pressure drives quarter of Seahawks forced rotations
Seattle’s defense finished 25th in the NFL in turnovers with 18, with 11 interceptions and seven fumble recoveries while out. It’s something Carroll and company desperately need to address over the coming year; and one way to nudge their efforts in the right direction is to generate more pass rush. On 25% of their turnover in 2021, the Seahawks recorded pressure. But 20% came on called blitzes, meaning they were mostly unable to force errors with a traditional four-man run. Five of the NFL’s top 15 defenses by turnovers had comparable pressure rates in such cases while blitzing at a lower percentage.
After aggressive 2020, Seahawks finish in bottom third of NFL in blitz rate
Continuing the blitz rate talk, the Seahawks have often relied on their four-, three-, and even two-run runs in 2021. Just a year after finishing ninth in blitz (33.9%), the aggressiveness of Norton on that front declined in pace by a passive mark of 20.7%, which ranked 25th in the league. As the nature of defense has changed, so has the role of safety Jamal Adams, who was coming off a record 9.5 sack campaign as a defensive back. Adams’ blitz average per game has essentially halved from 8.83 attempts in 2020 to 4.25 in 2021. As a result, the three-time All-Pro selection has laid a chicken egg in the sacks and the team saw a total of 12 sacks. stall from 2020 to 2021.
Opposing quarterbacks got a fast ball against the Seahawks, but it was average in the league
On passing plays taking one to 2.5 seconds to develop, opposing quarterbacks went from 19th in average time to throw (1.97 seconds) against the Seahawks in the first half of the season to tied for fourth ( 1.93 seconds) in the second half. On 192 attempts during that streak, Seattle was tied for 15th in the NFL in completion percentage allowed (70.3%), 13th in passer rating (91.2), 15th in yards per attempt (6 .24) and 16th in expected defensive points added per setback (-0.04). While the unit was far from spectacular in this area, the numbers indicate that it was nothing worse than average.
Opposing offenses played a long game with the Seahawks defense
Although Seattle managed to hold its own against quick aerial attacks, the opposing attacks still managed to win most often in the short passing game. Teams averaged 6.09 air yards per throw in league-low Weeks 10-18, but ranked first in completion percentage (69.6%), 10th in first downs or touchdowns on pass attempts (35.2%), 16th in points per drive (1.94) and first in average time of possession (35:13). The Seahawks went 4-5 on that stretch, more or less dying by a thousand paper cuts.