Seahawks’ revamped defense set to face Falcons
It might not be the “Legion of Boom,” but the Seattle Seahawks have retooled their defensive secondary.
Now the question is whether the Seahawks can put pressure on Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan when they open their season on Sunday in Atlanta.
Those chances took a hit over the weekend when three-time Pro Bowl defensive end Jadeveon Clowney signed with the Tennessee Titans as a free agent, ending his one-year stay in Seattle.
“It was a long, long offseason in terms of trying to figure out how that was gonna work out,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said of Clowney’s situation. “And we were involved throughout, but yet we moved on, for the most part, well early in the offseason so that we can do the rest of the team. And fortunately we were able to do that and got some good players.”
The Seahawks signed veterans Bruce Irvin and Benson Mayowa, who each began their careers in Seattle, to beef up the rush end spot. They combined for 15.5 sacks last season with Carolina and Oakland, respectively.
Seattle went 11-5 in the 2019 regular season before losing at Green Bay in the divisional round of the playoffs.
The Seahawks made a big offseason move in a trade for New York Jets safety Jamal Adams. Seattle also acquired cornerback Quinton Dunbar in a deal with the Washington Football Team. With those two added to incumbents Quandre Diggs and Shaquill Griffin, the secondary is back to being a beast.
“I feel like we have everything,” Griffin said. “We literally have everything we could want on the team to be able to get to where we want to be at.”
MVP candidate quarterback Russell Wilson leads the offense, and Chris Carson enters the final year of his rookie contract after rushing for a career-high 1,230 yards last season.
The Seahawks also traveled to Atlanta last season, building a 24-point halftime lead before holding on for a 27-20 victory.
That loss dropped Atlanta to 1-7, but the Falcons closed out the year by winning six of their final eight games, helping coach Dan Quinn retain his job.
“It’s definitely a lot easier than having a whole new coaching staff,” Falcons cornerback Isaiah Oliver said. “Having them back is huge. We all love to play for Coach Quinn and we’re ready to fight for him.”
The Falcons picked up running back Todd Gurley and outside linebacker Dante Fowler, a pair of former Los Angeles Rams, in the offseason.
The biggest boost for Atlanta might be the return of Pro Bowl safety Keanu Neal, who has missed all but four games the past two seasons due to injuries.
“From a physical standpoint, he does not look like a player who had these two significant setbacks,” Quinn said. “I think it speaks to the work that he put in.”
The Falcons will need to focus on keeping Ryan upright after he was sacked a career-high 48 times last season. Gurley will try to boost a rushing attack that ranked 30th in the NFL last year with just 85.1 yards per game.
The Falcons were next to last in the league last season with 28 sacks.
They hope that will change with the addition of Fowler, the third overall pick in the 2015 draft by Jacksonville. He turned his career around in Los Angeles and is coming off an 11 1/2-sack season.
“My first few years in a league, I had some bumps, some growing pains,” Fowler said. “I’m happy it happened to me early. Now, I’m ready to be a pro for the next 10 years.”
Falcons cornerback Jordan Miller is serving a four-game suspension for violating league rules on performance-enhancing drugs. Nickel corner Kendall Sheffield (foot) and defensive end Charles Harris (ankle) have been held out of practice with injuries, while defensive lineman Marlon Davidson (knee) and wide receiver Russell Gage (groin) have been limited.
For the Seahawks, offensive linemen Cedric Ogbuehi (pectoral) and Duane Brown (knee) and wide receiver Phillip Dorsett (foot) were limited practice participants at midweek.
–Field Level Media