Seahawks Insider

Offseason rewind: More press coverage

Post by Eric Williams on July 14, 2011 at 1:16 pm with 8 Comments »
July 14, 2011 1:16 pm
Seattle Seahawks' Roy Lewis, right, against Arizona Cardinals' Trumaine McBride, left, during an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 14, 2010, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Paul Connors)

To say the Seattle Seahawks struggled in pass coverage last season is an understatement.

The Seahawks gave up 31 touchdowns through the air last season, tied for third-worst in the league.

Opponents averaged 250 yards a contest through the air in 2010, 27th overall in the league. Seattle gave up five performances of 300 yards or more to opposing quarterbacks, including San Diego’s Philip Rivers throwing for 455 yards in a 27-20 loss to Seattle at CenturyLink Field, which included two kickoff returns for touchdowns by Leon Washington to salvage that game for the Seahawks.

Here are a couple things that appeared to be an issue for Seattle. First, the Seahawks failed to get a consistent pass rush while rushing just four people in passing situations. The Seahawks finished with a respectable 37 sacks during the regular season, but 21 of those came when rushing five or more players, which means the Seahawks had to turn up the heat to get pressure.

Second, Seattle never adjusted well to Pete Carroll’s wish to play more press and off-man coverage. That means less emphasis on playing Cover 2 and corners reading the quarterback and seeing what is happening in front of them on the perimeter, and more of an emphasis on cornerbacks reacting to what the receiver is doing on the outside.

The result was less interceptions and pass-break ups in the secondary. Former Seahawks secondary coach Jerry Gray, now the defensive coordinator with the Tennessee Titans, talked about his players making that adjustment in this comment from last season.

“The hardest thing is when you’re playing press man (to man),” Gray said. “You’re not going to get as many (interceptions). Most of the guys that play off, they’ve got vision to break (to the ball) and they … will get a lot more interceptions because, again, the rush is going to get there and they’re going to throw the ball faster. But when you’re playing … with your back turned, it’s hard to get picks.”

Carroll wants to play more press coverage because it takes away the quick, rhythm passing game and forces the offense to make tougher throws down the field and outside the numbers.

It’s one of the reasons Seattle drafted big corners in Stanford’s Richard Sherman and Clemson’s Byron Maxwell, along with bringing in Oregon State product and CFL Star Brandon Browner with a futures contract.

And it’s why the Seahawks chose to trade 5-9 defensive back Josh Wilson and likely will not bring back Kelly Jennings in free agency – Carroll wants bigger, more physical corners on the perimeter that can force opposing quarterbacks to make more precise throws on the perimeter of the defense.

“We like to play the aggressive style of coverage, to get our corners on the wide receivers so that we challenge the quick game and the easy throws that offenses can make, and make them have to push the ball down the field,” Carroll said. “That’s the basic premise of press. If you back off, then you’re allowing teams to throw quicker rhythm stuff, and have an easier time of completing it, and so we take them to a different level.

“When the corners are really good, then it makes it harder on the offense. There is no quarterback that wants to throw at those guys when they’re good and well equipped and well versed. If you’re lousy at playing press, then they throw the ball over your head and it doesn’t do any good. We have to get really good at it and buy into the philosophy and as we grow, we’ll have more opportunity to get players that make it a little easier for them to play that style, and we’ll see how these guys add to it.”

One example where Carroll’s philosophy seemed to work was against St. Louis in the final regular-season game of 2010, a game Seattle needed to get into the playoffs.

In that game the Seahawks played a lot of press coverage against St. Louis rookie quarterback Sam Bradford. Heading into that game, the Rams had relied on a short passing game to take some pressure off of Bradford and help him get rid of the ball quick, but the Seahawks took away Bradford’s security blanket in Danny Amendola by putting Earl Thomas on him most of the game. The result was a lot of throws by Bradford to running backs out of the backfield, and some deep throws that his receivers dropped to try and loosen up the defense.

Leave a comment Comments → 8
  1. freedom_X says:

    The Seattle corners didn’t make many plays on the ball in Mora’s defense either. That makes me think the lack of picks is more about talent and less about scheme.

    Carroll’s philosophy sounds good, but of course it depends on being able to find big, physical corners who cover tightly. Which is kind of like saying I have an offensive philosophy that requires a big, tall QB with a strong, accurate arm with speed and mobility, and can read defenses and throw well from the pocket and on the move.

    In other words, any defense would work really well if you can find that type of player. They aren’t common. So either Carroll has supreme confidence in his personnel department and coaching staff to find and develop these talents, or he’s being rather naive or simplistic (or deceptive) when explaining his coverage philosophy.

  2. Dukeshire says:

    Yes and no. Not every team plays a press scheme, and zone requires different technique. So those teams aren’t as interested in big physical corners but rather awareness and quickness. The danger of playing the way Carroll wants is giving up big chunks of yardage at a clip. It puts a lot of stress on the safety. Playing man press means the corner is playing a trail technique on vertical routes which requires safety help unless the corne is totally on phase. It’s aggressive and attacking, but not without it’s weaknesses. But Carroll has fielded some very successful defenses without star corners but not without stud safeties.

    As for lack of picks under Mora when they played a more traditional cover 2? Yes, talent. Lol

  3. Dukeshire says:

    “corner” totally “in” phase.

  4. HawkfaninMT says:

    It seems to me, and I don’t claim to be an expert, that while picks may be down passes defensed could see an increase with this coverage style. While the trailing DB may not be in a position to make a play on the ball for the pick their position between the WR and QB puts them in a spot to tip, bat, and shield the reciver from the ball. Meaning ball hawking Safeties have more of a chance to get Ints on tipped balls…

    I could be wrong of course

  5. Soggybuc says:

    It is possible that we could see more pass defenses it will be against “slower” receivers.( no one is really “slow” in the NFL) it is more designed to disrupt timing and keep guys from getting a clean break on their initial moves.
    If our boys can play it well it will take away those quick hit passes that are designed for run after the catch and force the offense and QB to wait longer for routes to come open which can only help the pass rush.
    The draw back to it is if good separation past the DB with the QB looking off and misdirecting the safety really big plays can ensue.

    Me? i’m going to like it. I love in your face football. soft zone coverage is for pussies who are to afraid to hit and go mano y mano. back in my playing days I was never afraid to hit a chump. but with my 140# stick figure body it never was very effective.

  6. Soggybuc says:

    Oh forgot to add. one thing you wont see with press is Jennings giving an 8 yard cushion and back peddling at the snap giving up an easy 8- 10 yards on a hitch.

  7. Dukeshire says:

    … in the Red Zone.

  8. Good article, Eric. This wil be a huge part of watching this young defense develop.

    Carroll’s love of agressive press cov by his CBs is great, IMO, but we also saw a lot of cover-2 or cover-3 often last year, and I can’t imagine this year’s DBs are going to be ready to play a ton of press unless Carroll wants to give up on winning. Trufant, Thurmond, and a bunch of rookies won’t be ready to do much to scare Fitzgerald, Breaston, or Crabtree, all of whom can tear up man cov. No way Jennings or Lewis belongs on the team anymore if they are really going to press a lot more, and Sherman and Maxwell will take a couple of years to be ready.

    I’m all for agressive D, though. And we saw it succeed against the Rams and Saints to close out last season. That gave me heart.

    I hope everyone is good and starved for football this year, because this could be a tougher season for the Seahawks than 2010.
    – perhaps as many roster changes and young players as last year.
    – early-season confusion for all the younger players who had no offseason program
    – O linemen are young young, will be learning through the early games, getting stunted on, beat and embarrassed. Not because they won’t be good eventually. But their early games could be real ugly.
    – Young CBs trying to adjust to NFL speed, NFL WR talent, while asked to play press coverage could spell spectacular plays downfield – for the opposing teams. Its a good thing the Cards an Niners don’t have QBs at this point. Those might be four games our young DBs can compete in.

    Carroll has the changes going in the right direction, I think, but it could be a real tough season of growing pains, especially for the DBs, O line, and whomever plays QB. I hope fans can learn to bring a little patience to the game this year.

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