Developing Chemistry Crucial for Quandre Diggs, Seahawks' Secondary
RENTON, WA - Though the Seahawks exited their bye week as one of just three remaining undefeated teams thanks in large part to the NFL's most explosive offense, Quandre Diggs knows a rebuilt, star-studded secondary hasn't come close to meeting expectations.
Much to the chagrin of defensive-minded coach and renowned defensive back guru Pete Carroll, Seattle's defense has been scorched by opposing quarterbacks to a tune of 1,852 passing yards, more than any team in the first five games in NFL history. Making matters worse, they've also surrendered a league-worst six pass plays of 40-plus yards, struggling to eliminate explosive plays downfield.
"Definitely frustrating," Diggs said when asked about Seattle's coverage issues on Wednesday. "We all know that. I think everybody's kind of [been] harping on it for the first six weeks of the season and we've heard it from everywhere. As much as you can say don't listen to the outside noise, you hear it."
This wasn't what Carroll and general manager John Schneider had in mind when the Seahawks acquired safety Jamal Adams and cornerback Quinton Dunbar in two offseason trades. Teaming up with Diggs and cornerback Shaquill Griffin, the secondary was supposed to be the best the team has had since the vaunted "Legion of Boom" was disassembled in 2017.
But in the first five games, that hasn't been the case, as none of the stars in the back half of the defense have played as well as anticipated. At the core of the secondary's problems, Seattle's four projected starters have only played one full game together and haven't been on the field at the same time since the first quarter of a Week 2 win against New England.
As Diggs noted, the lack of reps has certainly been a factor in the disappointing start, as the unit hasn't really had a chance to mesh after an abbreviated training camp and no preseason games.
"I think that's important," Diggs commented. "I think just being around each other more, playing live bullets, I definitely think that would help. It'd be good if we could all get back out there together."
Overall, Diggs, Adams, Griffin, and Dunbar have been on the field for just 86 defensive snaps as a group, which has impacted the performance of all four players to varying degrees.
Coming off his first Pro Bowl, Griffin has intercepted two passes and recorded seven passes defensed. But he also has allowed four touchdowns in coverage and quarterbacks have completed 68.9 percent of their passes against him, a 10 percent increase from 2019.
Sidelined for the past two weeks with a groin injury, Adams made his presence felt as a blitzer right away, producing a pair of sacks and five quarterback hits in the first three games. Like Griffin, however, he gave up big chunks of yardage in coverage, yielding 209 receiving yards on just 11 completions for a 19 yard average.
When healthy, Dunbar has flashed for the Seahawks, intercepting Cam Newton in a 35-30 win over the Patriots and producing four passes defensed in three starts. Unfortunately, a knee injury kept him out of two games and Tre Flowers performed poorly in his absence, allowing an 83 percent completion percentage and 123.2 passer rating against him in coverage.
On his own accord, Diggs hasn't been quite the same impactful player he was during the second half of the 2019 season either. Though he recorded an interception at the end of a Week 1 win over the Falcons, he only has two pass deflections and has missed four tackles, including allowing Vikings running back Dalvin Cook to find the end zone two weeks ago.
If there's been a silver lining, Diggs believes the Seahawks will be better off in the long run with reserves such as Flowers and safety Ryan Neal being forced into action and gaining valuable experience early on.
"It's been good to get the other guys out there - it's the game of football, so anything can happen - it's good to have depth back there and other guys you know you can trust. You never know what's going to happen in the game."
As Seattle ramps up preparation for its NFC West opener in Arizona on Sunday, Diggs maintains the utmost confidence the secondary will turn things around. There have been signs of improvements already in recent weeks, particularly when it comes to giving up the deep ball, as the team only gave up four pass plays of 20-plus yards in back-to-back wins over Miami and Minnesota.
Whenever Adams returns to action - as long as everyone else stays healthy - Diggs is optimistic the unit will establish chemistry and cohesiveness that only comes from playing together on game day. Once that happens, the sky should still be the limit for a group loaded with plenty of young talent and motivated to show the first five games have been a fluke.
"When we all get back together, it will be fun. It'll be exciting for us to go out there and put a complete game together."