After a truly horrific defeat at the hands of the Green Bay Packers, the Chicago Bears will turn their attention to week two as their offense looks to respond from an abysmal second half performance.
To achieve an acceptable redemption, Chicago will need to study and know their opponent’s defense inside and out. This, of course, means that I have done the same.
So here is everything you need to know about the second phase of the Seattle Seahawks, and given their reputation over the past six years, that turn of phrase could send Bears’ fans into a nervous wreck. But fear not: this is not the same team.
There are six players who typically set themselves on the line of scrimmage in Seattle’s defense, though obviously not all at once. Their starters on the defensive line are Quinton Jefferson, Jarran Reed, Tom Johnson, and Frank Clark, with Barkevious Mingo – a Cleveland Browns draft bust turned mediocre player – manning the Sam position (stand-up linebacker lining up on the outside shoulder of the offensive tackle or tight end).
Dion Jordan, another rehabilitated draft bust, rotates in on passing downs and will go from a three-point stance opposite Clark.
Jefferson, Reed, and Johnson will start in a three, one, and three-technique but Jefferson is capable of playing a five tech as well. They’re all primarily run defenders and aren’t great at it. They’re vulnerable to the occasional double team and can sometimes get pushed back but against single blockers, they’ll generally hold their ground. No true wrecking balls like the Bears had to deal with in Mike Daniels, though.
Regarding the pass rushing threats, Clark is their best by a significant margin. He picked up their one and only sack by blowing back a guard on a stunt and cutting easily towards the QB. Other than that, the Seahawks really didn’t pressure Broncos signal caller Case Keenum all afternoon. Mingo is rather unspectacular and Jordan is wildly inconsistent – though it should be said that when the latter is feeling it, he is dangerous.
Seattle’s best player not named Russell Wilson is Bobby Wagner, who leads the off-ball linebackers along with one-hand wonder Shaquem Griffin. I’ll get to Wagner in a bit but first, how incredible is it that Griffin is starting in the NFL? He is truly an inspiration to all with disabilities and I would absolutely love for him to succeed.
That being said – he is a weak spot for the time being, and it has nothing to do with his missing hand. While he is among the fastest linebackers in football, Griffin can get caught looking into the backfield when he should be defeating his block and that allows loss of contain.
He was responsible for a touchdown last week for running back Phillip Lindsay because he was supposed to be covering his fellow rookie man to man and seemed to think he was in the zone. KJ Wright, the usual starter, is out with injury for the time being so it’s up to Griffin to improve in the immediate future.
Let’s go back to Wagner, who is one of the top middle linebackers in the league. He is an athletic freak and an insanely skilled tackler, flying from sideline to sideline on a regular basis. If he locks on to his target, you can kiss the play goodbye. However, he does have a weakness. He’s slightly tentative hitting holes in the run game. The Bears should run so much jet/end around motion to keep him honest and limit his explosiveness because that’s the one way to slow him down.
Notice how I neglected to call Wagner the “heart of the defense.” That’s because that honor belongs to free Earl Thomas. In Seattle’s base defensive set, they’ll put the other safety parallel to Griffin and Wagner because they have so much confidence in Thomas’s ability to shut down a deep passing game. He’s not the athlete he used to be but he still has superb instincts and will kill you if you either don’t see him or try to test him deep.
Bradley McDougald is the other starting safety and he can ball-hawk as well but he has an over-aggressiveness that can be exploited. He picked off two passes last week (one was an excellent play and one was an INT that I could have made), but occasionally takes unnecessary risks.
Their cornerbacks – Shaquille Griffin (Shaquem’s brother), Tre Flowers, and the nickel back Justin Coleman – are… meh. They weren’t beaten over the top but they can struggle with quick cuts from quick receivers because they don’t have the hip flexibility to match their opponents’ movements.
Seattle’s defensive coordinator, Ken Norton Jr, goes to three main formations for most of the game: a 5-3-3 (with an in-box safety and a Sam on the LOS), a 4-3-4 (with an in-box nickel back), and 4-2-5 (standard nickel set).
Their defensive line, against a heavy offensive formation, is lined up in a “double eagle” package, in which Jefferson and Johnson line up over or on a shade of the guards. This opens the door for outside runs and tosses to break free as Mingo, Clark (both of them are always looking to rush and rarely bite on play action – draw plays will work too), and Griffin are prone to losing contain.
I did not see very much creativity in their blitz packages. They’ll often show one or both of Griffin and Wagner in the A or B gap and sometimes in a ”sugar” set, which is where the inside backers occupy both A-gaps before the snap. Very rarely do the showing linebackers actually come on a blitz, and it’s almost exclusively Wagner when they do. Stunts are rare but they often work when called. Overall, their pass rush is almost always a basic 4-man attack with little misdirection.
In the secondary, their scheme relies on Thomas completely taking away anything deep and over the middle, with, for the most part, he does. When tested in that area, it usually results in bad things for the offense. Their corners will always shade to the outside give room to the inside, which opens the door for curl routes, hitch routes, and most of all, dig routes.
Digs worked so, so much for Denver and for portions of the game that was their entire route tree. Posts? Not so much. Post routes against the Seahawks play right into their hands because the corner will allow the inside release and give the quarterback the impression that his man is open. If he takes the bait, Thomas is waiting right there, as Keenum found out the hard way last week.
A common theme here is that the Seahawks run their defense like it’s still the most talented in football. They counted on Thomas to take away the deep middle, Chancellor to roam underneath, Sherman to shut down anyone’s number one target, and Avril/Bennett to be consistently successful off the edge. Other than Thomas: gone, gone, gone, and gone. Norton needs to start coaching like he knows this because he hasn’t done it yet.
Matchup the Seahawks can exploit: Earl Thomas (and to a lesser extent Bradley McDougald) vs. Mitch Trubisky
For the Seahawks to have a chance, they have to take advantage of Trubisky’s inexperience and that revolves completely around Earl Thomas. Trubisky has to know where #29 is located at all times because he makes quite a few of his plays because the quarterback is baited into not noticing him. If Keenum was more careful, the Broncos would have blown out Seattle. Trubisky can’t make the same mistake.
Matchups the Bears can exploit: Anything on the outside
The middle of the Seahawks’ defense is manned by Wagner, Thomas, and McDougald, but they are more than vulnerable outside the hash marks. The Bears should run outside zones out of the shotgun with Jordan Howard, tosses to Tarik Cohen, and end-arounds with Taylor Gabriel and Anthony Miller all night and make Mingo, Clark, and Griffin do something about it.
The bottom line is this: the Bears should win this game and they should win it easily. The Seahawks are one of the least talented teams in the NFL and Chicago should take full advantage.
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