The Seahawks Have A Linebacker Problem

Now, to be fair, the Seahawks probably have more than one problem. They probably have more than one problem on the defensive side of the ball. But, I’m beginning to wonder if their biggest problem isn’t the interior of the defensive line – or even the D-Line as a whole – but the linebacking corps.

You always have to qualify these things nowadays, between interior and outside linebackers. Pass rushers and pass defenders. Sam and Will and Mike. Fuck those guys. Anyway, I’m saying across the board, it’s not looking great.

Starting with the outside, the Seahawks have Uchenna Nwosu and … we’ll see. There’s been a number of years now where we’ve looked to fill this position in the draft, with middling-at-best results. Alton Robinson is a name we’ve become familiar with, since he was taken in the fifth round in 2020. Well, he was cut early on in camp. Darrell Taylor – taken in that same draft, in the second round – figures to be the one playing opposite Nwosu, but he might just be a pass rush specialist, and not necessarily an every-down guy (due to his inability to set an edge and stop the run).

Then, last year, we took Boye Mafe (2nd) and Tyreke Smith (5th) in the hopes of growing into that spot. For good measure, before we signed Nwosu to a big money extension, we drafted Derick Hall in the 2nd round this year. Effectively, we’ve got five guys for two spots, or rather, we’ve got four guys for one spot (since Nwosu figures to have his locked down). Taylor’s only effective in obvious passing situations, Smith spent most of last year injured, Mafe was a so-so presence in limited duty, and Hall is a rookie. Yeesh.

That brings us to the inside linebacker spots. Bobby Wagner came back. Jordyn Brooks is coming off of a massive knee injury and will need some extended time recovering. BBK made a triumphant return to the Seahawks following his own injury, but he’s always been a Special Teamer at best. We took a flyer on Devin Bush, but who knows what he’s got left in the tank; his longterm health is iffy at best, especially considering we’re only on his fifth year and he already needs regular veteran rest days. Nick Bellore is everything you would ever expect of a fullback-turned-linebacker (he’s a Special Teams ace, and nothing more). And that leaves backup Jon Rhattigan, who is this generation’s Isaiah Kacyvenski.

Best case scenario: Bobby Wagner gives you what he gave the Rams last year, and Jordyn Brooks makes a full recovery to play alongside. My expectations are that Brooks never fully recovers, that he eventually gets back on the field, but isn’t nearly the player he was before, and often finds himself with new and old maladies preventing him from really making an impact. In other words, I don’t expect Brooks to be his old self until the 2024 season, if he’s ever his old self again.

As for Bobby, I have no reason to think he won’t be as good as he was last year, but he was also playing behind Aaron Donald for a good chunk of those games; we don’t have that kind of talent here. I think the lack of a superior D-Line, along with a suspect scheme, and a second year defensive coordinator calling plays, might render Wagner’s impact lesser than we want. He could also have lost another step in the last year. The cliff comes for every NFL player, and no one really sees it coming until they’ve already fallen over it. He’s one massive injury away from his career ending. If it happens early enough in the season, that’s going to mean instant death for this defense’s ability to keep us in games.

I’m not going into this year counting on Bush at all. I think whatever positive impact he gives us is gravy, but I also think those moments will be few and far between.

The more we see of Rhattigan, the worse all of our experiences will be in watching this team.

There’s a wildcard in all of this, and his name is Jamal Adams. I know, I know, “but he’s a safety.” The more I hear talk about this team, if and when he returns from injury, he figures to play more of a linebacker role than a deep safety role. We’re not going to count on him in deep pass coverage (where he’s not as effective); instead, we’re going to keep him close to the line of scrimmage, to help with run duties, to rush the passer, and to cover running backs and tight ends off the line. Honestly, I think this is a brilliant move. But, like Bush, I’m not going into this season expecting anything from Adams. If he makes it a full game, he’ll have already outperformed his 2022 season. Nevertheless, limiting his reps and utilizing him where he fits best is the only way to maximize/salvage what we’ve invested in Adams. Having a deep-enough secondary is the only way we can afford to do this. I hope it pays off; the Seahawks could use a win after so many L’s on this guy.

There’s a lot riding on this ragtag group of players. If the first preseason game was any indication of things to come … then we wouldn’t be talking about the preseason, because those games don’t mean shit!

What this team needs – if we want to be just a middle-of-the-road defense – is for one of Mafe, Hall, or Smith to be an effective early-down outside linebacker. Then, we put Taylor out there on passing downs, and we’re set. We need Wagner to be the glue guy to hold things together up front. We need Bush or Adams to make the occasional impact play. But, more than anything, we need guys to be assignment sound and just stop the fucking run! Let’s knock a yard per carry off of last year’s per-rush average! Can we do that one small thing?!

I’m not holding my breath. This defense has been swirling down the toilet bowl for almost a decade now. Why should 2023 be any different?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *