Behind Enemy Lines: Seahawks’ Pete Carroll points to improving on defense
Behind Enemy Lines brings you the key storylines and latest news for the Arizona Cardinals’ opponents each week this season.
Seahawks’ Pete Carroll: Improving on D, facing Murray, Woolen’s emergence
Brandon Gustafson, SeattleSports.com
The Seahawks enter a Week 6 NFC West clash with the Arizona Cardinals at 2-3 and an opportunity to really get into the thick of things in the division.
When it comes to what needs to happen for Seattle to take the next step forward, Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll pointed to his defense.
“The No. 1 thing is we’ve got to slow them down on defense. We’ve got to stop the big plays from happening,” Carroll said Friday morning during The Pete Carroll Preview with Steve Raible on KIRO Newsradio 97.3 FM. “… We have to execute better, but we also have to get rid of these penalties that have been in crucial situations. Those are things we really can really control that I know we can turn that.
“But we’ve got to elevate our play. We’re seeing a ton of running game, and they’re continuing to hammer the ball. We have 47 runs (against us) last week, you know, so we have to take care of the running game and make sure that we get that thing together before we really turn the corner.”
Someone Seattle brought in this week to help the defense turn that corner is veteran linebacker Bruce Irvin, a 2012 first-round pick of the Seahawks who joins the team for the third time. He’s on the practice squad, but Carroll said this week Irvin could play this Sunday against the Cardinals.
“We’ve been in touch with Bruce throughout. He and I are pretty close and we’ve been through a lot together,” Carroll said.
Carroll said Irvin had an “excellent career” with the Seahawks and described him as an “in the fabric” type of person. He also helps fill an area of need that has lacked depth, which is that outside linebacker spot.
“When we looked at our rotations, we lost a little edge in our rotations here with (Darryl) Johnson not being available and we haven’t gotten Alton Robinson back yet. We just needed another guy to contribute to the rotation,” Carroll said.
Irvin had a “fantastic” workout, Carroll said, and his familiarity with the team’s defensive scheme from his time in Chicago last year was also a big plus.
“We get an experienced guy that’s been around, that’s got a real level head about him, he’s been through it all, and he’ll help our young guys,” Carroll said.
If Irvin plays, he’ll be tasked with helping defend Pro Bowl quarterback Kyler Murray, one of the NFL’s top dual-threat passers.
“He really is a unique, one-of-a-kind guy, because he looks so small on the field and he’s so extraordinarily quick and explosive that he just gives us nightmares thinking about the kinds of things that he can do,” Carroll said.
Murray not only can run, but he’s great at extending plays. Carroll said the team’s outside linebackers – which could include Irvin – will be key on Sunday.
“We have to be really good on the edges. Our outside backers are really going to have a big responsibility this game in keeping him from running the football and also playing the perimeter game,” he said. “They throw the ball on the perimeter more than anybody in football. They don’t throw the ball downfield much. They’re a real sideline-to-sideline team and try to spread it out, and he’s really good at it. That’s all part of his college upbringing with his coach.”
Tariq Woolen’s potential
If anyone has stood out for the Seahawks on defense, it’s been fifth-round rookie corner Tariq Woolen, who has started all five games for Seattle and has interceptions in three straight games and also blocked a field goal that led to a touchdown.
Woolen is 6-foot-4 with very long arms and ran a sub-4.3-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine before the Seahawks drafted him in April.
“He’s got all the talent you could ever want … He’s got all of the quickness and the speed (and it’s) explosive speed, almost famous speed right now,” Carroll said. “His receiver background has made him available to make catches. He can catch the football well. He’s learning how to recognize what he’s up against.
“He’s really calming down as he grows in experience in terms of the different style of players that he plays against, where he stays within his technique and he plays the way he wants to play and doesn’t get caught adapting to guys and thinking he needs to do different things.”
Carroll had some more very high praise for Woolen.
“I’ve just never seen a guy like this. There’s nobody we’ve ever had that had more potential to be a great player,” he said. “He’s got a long ways to go, but he’s had three picks and he also had the (blocked) kick, too. So he’s had a lot of impact already in this early season.”
Seahawks looking to keep pace in NFC West
The Associated Press
SEATTLE (AP) — Considering where the rest of the teams stand in the NFC West five games into the season, Seattle coach Pete Carroll sounded almost appreciative that no one has run away with the division.
That seems unlikely to continue. Which adds a little bit more importance to what happens on Sunday when the Seahawks host the Arizona Cardinals, with one team guaranteed to be sitting in the division basement afterward.
“It’s been hard for teams to get up on top of the schedule here. It’s fortunate for us,” Carroll said. “The first quarter of the season is over, that’s hard to imagine. … We are within striking distance of doing something really special, so we are going for it.”
Both the Seahawks and Cardinals are 2-3, one game behind San Francisco and tied with the Los Angeles Rams in the division, and each coming off painful losses last week.
Seattle’s run defense continued to get run over in a 39-32 loss at New Orleans, despite another strong performance by Geno Smith, the league leader in passer rating through five weeks.
Seattle’s beleaguered run defense could benefit from the Cardinals’ injury issues at running back. The Seahawks are worst in the league at stopping the run, giving up an average of 170.2 yards per game, capped by the 235 yards allowed to New Orleans last week. Seattle watched Taysom Hill and Alvin Kamara each run for more than 100 yards, the third time in Seahawks history they’ve allowed two 100-yard rushers in the same game.
Seattle has allowed 851 yards rushing, the most by any team through five games since 2012.
“We just got to do our jobs and whatever our responsibilities are we just got to stay true to them,” Seattle defensive lineman Shelby Harris said. “We got to stop making so many mistakes on our end.”
Seattle rookie running back Kenneth Walker III will be stepping into a more prominent role beginning this week because starter Rashaad Penny is out for the season with a lower leg fracture. Walker had a season-high eight carries for 88 yards including a 69-yard touchdown run last week against New Orleans. His workload is expected to increase significantly as Seattle is thin at the position. Deejay Dallas will be Walker’s primary backup and Seattle signed Tony Jones off waivers from New Orleans.
“I’m excited. I’m always excited to play,” Walker said. “I feel comfortable with it as well, just preparing for the week as we always do.”
The start of Sunday’s game will be delayed if the Seattle Mariners are still playing in the American League Division Series against the Houston Astros on Sunday. If a Game 4 is needed of the baseball series, the Seahawks-Cardinals game will move back by about 90 minutes and kick off at 2:30 p.m. local time (5:30 p.m. Eastern) to try and mitigate traffic and crowd issues with the two adjacent stadiums. If there is no Game 4, kickoff will stay at 1:05 p.m. local time.
“Let’s hope it gets moved back,” Carroll said.
Seahawks’ run defense needing attention
The Associated Press
RENTON, Wash. (AP) — Over the past three games, the Seattle Seahawks have scored 103 points.
And they’ve lost twice.
The reason? A defense that is broken. Incapable of stopping the run. Incapable of stopping big plays. And until that changes, no matter how many points Geno Smith and Seattle’s offense scores it may not be enough.
“I would have thought that would be plenty of points to win all those games,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said Monday.
Carroll was left searching for answers after Sunday’s 39-32 loss to New Orleans where the Seahawks were simply run over. Seattle allowed 235 yards rushing, including 112 yards to Taysom Hill and 103 yards to Alvin Kamara.
It was a sobering defensive effort and the fourth straight week Seattle was unable to slow down the ground game of its opponent.
Not surprisingly, the Seahawks have lost three of those four games.
Carroll said the problems against New Orleans were in part due to Hill and his versatility to throw or run. But that doesn’t explain the problems in the previous weeks and the inability to slow down San Francisco, Atlanta or Detroit.
“I just think we’re going to get better at this as we move forward,” Carroll said.
Seattle had better, otherwise one of the great stories developing early in the season is going to get overshadowed.
Smith might be the front-runner for comeback player of the year a quarter of the way through the season. He played exquisite again against the Saints throwing for 268 yards and three touchdowns, although Seattle continues to have second-half inconsistencies on the offensive side.
But the inadequacy of the defense so far is slowly nudging Smith out of the spotlight he deserves and is making his performance somewhat of a footnote.
Big plays continue to be a key part of Seattle’s offense. The Seahawks had four touchdowns of 35 yards or longer against the Saints and have eight offensive touchdowns of 25 yards or more through five games. Last season, the Seahawks had 14 offensive touchdowns of 25 or more yards in 17 games.
“It’s a really fast progressing group and I’m hoping that we can keep making the plays and making the explosions, set the field position in order and all that kind of stuff,” Carroll said. “It’s a pretty exciting part of our team.”
WHAT NEEDS HELP
How bad is Seattle’s run defense? Look at it in the context of Carroll’s tenure and it begins to stand out. Seattle has allowed four straight opponents to rush for at least 145 yards. There are only two seasons with Carroll in charge where Seattle has had more games where opponents have rushed for more than 145 yards. And in those seasons — 2019 and 2018 — the longest streak of consecutive games was three. Until Seattle figures out a way to stop the run, it won’t have a winning formula.
Rookie RB Kenneth Walker III is about to see if he can handle the featured role in Seattle’s backfield. Walker showed some of the flash that made him a second-round pick by Seattle with his 69-yard touchdown run against the Saints. What hasn’t been proven yet — at least at this level — is whether Walker can handle the load of 15 to 20 carries per game. That’s about to be tested with Rashaad Penny out for the season after suffering a fractured fibula in his lower left leg that will require surgery.
It’d be easy to pick anyone on Seattle’s defense, but DK Metcalf falls into this category even though he had five catches for 88 yards and a 50-yard touchdown. But it was two errors by Metcalf that proved very costly. Metcalf dropped a pinpoint throw from Smith in the back of the end zone in the first half that would have pulled Seattle even at 17-17. The bigger mistake came on the first play of the second half when Metcalf fumbled. New Orleans scored off the turnover and never trailed again.
Penny’s was the most impactful injury and continuing a frustrating long history of injuries for the 2018 first-round pick. Penny rushed for 151 yards a week ago against Detroit and was on his way to a strong day against the Saints when he was tackled from behind and suffered yet another season-ending injury. Seattle claimed RB Tony Jones off waivers from New Orleans to add depth as backup Travis Homer is on injured reserve with a rib injury.
1 — Seattle was 1 of 9 on third downs against the Saints after going 9 of 12 a week earlier against the Lions. The Seahawks began the week as the second-best team in the league on third downs converting 55.3% of their attempts.