Seahawks Youthful Secondary Growing, Discovering Consistency

Corbin Smith

Though the Seahawks got off to a fast start during the first month of the 2019 season, coach Pete Carroll lamented the fact his defense hadn’t been able to produce many turnovers.

In the first five games, Seattle’s rebuilt, inexperienced secondary yielded just two interceptions and the team had produced five total turnovers, well below the standard that had been set by previous teams.

Those fortunes finally changed in Cleveland last Sunday, as the Seahawks intercepted quarterback Baker Mayfield three times and also recovered a fumble by running back Nick Chubb. The four turnovers, including picks by cornerback Tre Flowers and safety Tedric Thompson, allowed Carroll’s team to erase a 14-point deficit and earn a pivotal road win.

“I think we’re growing. I think we’re finding some consistency.” Carroll said when asked to assess his secondary’s performance. “We’ve given up some yards at times in a couple games. Other games, we’ve played real stingy. We’re doing a nice job of keeping the ball in front of us for the most part.”

It’s easy to forget how young the Seahawks secondary still is. Shaquill Griffin, Flowers, and Thompson have only been in the league for three years or less and all three players have yet to reach their 25 birthday.

Nobody expected this youthful group to reach the same heights as the famous “Legion of Boom.” Growing pains were inevitable and trying too hard to live up to the standard of the stars such as Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman who roamed Seattle’s secondary previously could hinder their development.

Look no further than Griffin, who admitted this offseason that he put too much emphasis on trying to replace Sherman’s production when he supplanted him in the starting lineup. Rather than focus on doing his job, he forced the issue gunning for interceptions and his overall play suffered as a result.

Cutting his weight back down to 194 pounds and spending more time in the film room this spring, Griffin has bounced back in a big way. Leaner and faster, he’s been much more consistent as a tackler than a year ago and already has six passes defensed this season.

Griffin hasn’t made an interception yet, but he might as well be given one after deflecting a pass from Mayfield to receiver Jarvis Landry on Sunday, allowing Thompson to corral the tip for a crucial red zone interception. He didn’t make the second-year leap Seattle expected, but as Carroll noted, he’s made up for it so far in 2019.

“Shaq is playing great. He hasn’t played better than he’s playing now. He’s on it. He’s confident, aggressive, and clear. Really going for it. I think he’s doing a great job.”

After drawing criticism for their performance earlier in the year, Flowers and Thompson have also been playing with increased confidence, as the two players have combined to register 20 tackles and three interceptions over the Seahawks past two games.

Many fans were calling for Thompson to be benched after he mistimed his jump defending a deep ball against Bengals receiver John Ross in the season opener. The third-year safety looked to be in position to make a play, but the pass went over his outstretched fingertips and Ross reeled in the throw for a 55-yard touchdown right before the half.

Since returning from a hamstring injury that cost him two games, however, Thompson has looked reinvigorated in Seattle’s secondary.

He made a spectacular interception late in Seattle’s Week 5 win over the Los Angeles Rams, somehow getting a hand underneath a deflected pass before it hit the turf. And while Griffin deserves credit for the pass deflection on Sunday, Thompson displayed excellent awareness getting his hands on the football and returned the pick 18 yards.

"He's always had it in him." Griffin said of Thompson following the win.

As for Flowers, he also found himself in the right place at the right time against the Browns. Thinking Odell Beckham Jr. would run his route a bit further inside, Mayfield misfired out in front of his receiver and the football fell right into the second-year cornerback’s hands for his first career interception.

Coming up in Week 7, the Seahawks will once again face one of their former stars playing in a different uniform as Thomas returns to CenturyLink Field as a member of the Ravens.

The presence of “ET III” serves as a reminder of the greatness that used to be in Seattle, but Carroll has never been one to live in the past. Though his current secondary may lack the star power of its predecessors, he’s fired up about the unit’s potential and can’t wait to see how they build off of an outstanding showing in Cleveland.

“Last week was a great showing. All the turnovers that we got last week were huge. If we can catch a little more fire there, we can do something with the secondary. I’m excited for them.”