There were days when the Seattle Seahawks were known for their incredible defense, the so-called “Legion of Boom” that in 2013 became the first defense to lead the league in points allowed, yards allowed, and takeaways since the 1985 Chicago Bears. In the early 2010s, they allowed the fewest points to opponents for four consecutive years (2012-2015), an accomplishment not seen since the storied Cleveland Browns teams of the early 1950s.
This is not that same Seattle defense.
In sharp contrast, the 2020 Seahawks were on pace to shatter the single-season yards allowed record—7,042 yards by the Saints in 2012—through five games, before seemingly improving enough in the back half of the season to finish 22nd in the league in yards allowed. Yet here we are, five games into the 2021 season, and Seattle is yet again on a record-setting pace. Not only because it’s a 17-game season, either. They’re giving up an average of 450.8 yards per game, which would still break the record by almost 200 yards in 16 games.
This week’s Thursday Night Football matchup with the Rams aside, it’s not like they’ve been facing the NFL’s most formidable offenses this season. They gave up just under 350 total yards to the 1-3 Colts, 532 to the 2-2 Titans (who lost to the Jets), 453 to the 1-3 Vikings, then 457 (in a win!) to the 49ers before letting the Rams put up 476 yards on Thursday night. Besides the Colts, every Seattle opponent has had their highest total yardage of the season against the Seahawks. There are obviously some potential confounding factors here, but if we take out each team’s yardage in their matchup with Seattle, every team but the Rams would be in the bottom half of total yards per game.
It’s not like they’re only struggling against just one dimension of opposing offenses either. They’re giving up the fourth-most passing yards per game and the third-most rush yards per game. As DVOA goes, their rush DVOA is just around middle-of-the-pack, but against the pass they’re sixth-to-last. Who’s to blame for these defensive woes? Unfortunately for Seahawks general manager John Schneider, a lot of it falls on the man he’s paid enough to be the highest-paid safety in league history.
Jamal Adams is off to a rough start so far this year. Before Seattle’s game in San Francisco, he was allowing a completion rate of 87.5%, and including that game, that rating is still at 60%, with 10.6 yards allowed per target and 17.7 yards per completion. Through five games, he has no interceptions—his career total is still only two—with no forced fumbles, one pass defended, two tackles for a loss, and zero QB pressures on 13 blitzes, earning him a ranking of 62nd out of 78 safeties on Pro Football Focus.
The Seahawks knew what they were getting as far as pass defending—or the lack thereof, as we saw on this play and this one on Thursday night—when they sent the Jets two first-round picks and a third-rounder for Adams, plus an extra $70 million contract extension just before the season began. But the bottom line is this: Adams needs to be making the pass-rushing impact he has in the past and improve his ability to pass defend and create turnovers for his contract to be close to worth what he was paid. If he doesn’t, Seattle will continue to struggle while his big contract eats away at their cap space, hurting their ability to improve their defense.
That’s a problem because the Seahawks’ defense clearly needs help. Along with the stats I listed above, they’re also giving up the ninth-most rushing yards per attempt (4.5), seventh-most pass yards per attempt (7.9), and they’re in the bottom third of opponent average team passer rating (103.6) and sack percentage (4.90%). They’re not stopping anyone, they’re not pressuring the quarterback, and they can’t get off the field—they’re also 32nd in opponent average time of possession (excluding overtime) at almost 35 minutes per game.
Seattle’s defense is not good, and their biggest defensive playmaker hasn’t been making plays. The Seahawks just have to hope Adams, along with the rest of their defensive unit, turn it around midseason if they want any chance at the playoffs, especially as a team in one of the NFL’s best divisions—especially with Russell Wilson expected to miss significant time.