News & Notes: Secondary Concerns

CB Marcus Trufant (Getty)

After finishing dead last in the league last season, the Seattle Seahawks pass defense has nowhere to go but up. New secondary coach Tim Lewis was brought in to help the team improve on last year's dismal performance.

Lewis believes the talent is there in the secondary for the Seahawks to return to the level they achieved in 2007, when Seattle led the league in fewest touchdowns given up through the air, allowing only nine.

The Seahawks will employ more of a Cover/Tampa-Two defensive scheme brought over when new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley arrived from Tampa. However, Lewis said the secondary has enough talent and versatility to run several different defensive cover schemes, including a mixture of zone, man and pressure defenses.

"The players have all bought into the system so far," Lewis said. "They are practicing hard. They are doing everything we are asking them to do. The combination of their effort and the scheme, hopefully that will lead to more wins and a better ranking from a defensive, pass-catching standpoint."

Free safety Brian Russell said Bradley's defense calls for players to be more precise in their roles on the field. "There's a lot more exactness to this year's defense," Russell said. "We really have defined roles, and we're really detail oriented. So we're trying to dive into the schemes and what we have to do as individual players, and then be the best we can be in executing those schemes."

Several factors contributed to Seattle's defensive breakdown in 2008. The team's best pass rusher, Patrick Kerney, only played in seven games last season and finished the season on the injured reserve, needing season-ending shoulder surgery. Without Kerney, the Seahawks young defensive ends Darryl Tapp and Lawrence Jackson struggled to maintain a consistent pass rush.

Unable to generate pressure with its front four, Seattle was forced to blitz more, leaving small corners Kelly Jennings and Josh Wilson and Russell vulnerable to the deep ball. The Seahawks gave up a league-worst 59 plays of 20 yards or more through the air. However, Russell believes his team can change its fortunes in 2009 by being more fundamentally sound, with every player sticking to doing his job.

"We got away from what we did well, which is attack, don't give up big plays and go after the ball," Russell said. "And this scheme seems to allow us to do that. So hopefully, I show up and help us a lot in terms of production.

"I think Deon (Grant) would say the same thing. And as a secondary, we were real disappointed in last year. Aside from Ken Lucas we have the same bunch, and we want to get back to the way we performed in '07, when we felt like we were a special group. We really felt like we underperformed last year, and there's only one way to fix that, and that's to go out and perform on the field."

NOTES, QUOTES

--New defensive line/assistant head coach Dan Quinn has been charged with improving a weak pass rush that struggled to get consistent pressure on the quarterback last season. Seattle finished with 35 sacks last season -- not bad on the surface. However, 13 of those came in two games against San Francisco, which gave up a league-worst 55 sacks last season.

The Seahawks made two key additions to the defensive line in run stuffer Colin Cole from Green Bay and the versatile Cory Redding from the Detroit Lions. Cole understands the key to his team's success will be getting more from the defensive front in 2009.

"I'm looking forward to working with the guys here and being able to have this whole team affect the QB -- by the way we rush, by the way we disguise," Quinn said.

--While Seattle has made several, key additions to the defense through the draft and free agency to improve the team's overall performance on that side of the ball, one constant has remained the same, middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu. Tatupu is the first player in team history to top the Seahawks in tackles in his first four seasons with the franchise. A second-round draft choice in 2005, Tatupu made the Pro Bowl his first three seasons before experiencing a drop off in his play last year.

Tatupu is looking to prove that last year was just a hiccup in the team's effort to continue its solid play defensively. "We haven't been too bad in the past, with the exception of last year," Tatupu said. "But there's always room to improve. With everything they've put together, it's going to be exciting to see what kinds of things we can do out there."

--The Seahawks have another set of OTA workouts scheduled for next week. After that, the team has a mandatory minicamp from June 10-12 to close out offseason workouts. Training camp is tentatively scheduled to open July 31.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "The fact of the matter is it's all tied together, the pass coverage and the rush. The better coverage you have, the more opportunity the rushers have to pressure, and vice versa. We are doing things right now to try to devise ways to get the people that can rush into the rush. And we're doing everything we can to take advantage of the abilities that our cover people have." -- Seattle secondary coach Tim Lewis commenting on improving the team's pass defense.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

FRANCHISE PLAYER: LB Leroy Hill: Tendered at 8.304M (tender withdrawn April 25; re-signed April 30).

TRANSITION PLAYER: None.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
--QB Charlie Frye.
--LB Wesley Mallard.
--C Steve McKinney.
--LS Jeff Robinson.
--WR Koren Robinson.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.

EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.

PLAYERS RE-SIGNED
--LB Leroy Hill: UFA; $38M/6 yrs, $15.5M guaranteed.
--CB Kevin Hobbs: Potential ERFA; $460,000/ 1 yr).
--WR Jordan Kent: Potential ERFA; $460,000/ 1 yr).
--LB Lance Laury: Not tendered as RFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--LB D.D. Lewis: UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--WR Ben Obomanu: ERFA; tendered at $460,000; terms unknown.
--WR Courtney Taylor: ERFA; tendered at $460,000; terms unknown.
--S C.J. Wallace: Potential ERFA; $460,000/ 1 yr).
--OT Ray Willis: UFA; 2 yrs, terms unknown.

PLAYERS ACQUIRED
--DT Colin Cole: UFA Packers; $21.4M/5 yrs, $6M guaranteed.
--FB Justin Griffith: FA Raiders; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh: UFA Bengals; $40M/5 yrs, $15M guaranteed.
--FB David Kirtman: FA; terms unknown.
--CB Ken Lucas; FA Panthers; $2.3M/1 yr.
--TE John Owens: UFA Lions; terms unknown.
--LS Bryan Pittman: UFA Texans; terms unknown.
--DT Cory Redding (trade Lions).

PLAYERS LOST
--DT Rocky Bernard: UFA Giants; $16M/4 yrs, guarantee unknown.
--WR Bobby Engram: UFA Chiefs; terms unknown.
--OG Chris Gray: UFA; retired.
--DT Howard Green: UFA Jets; $625,000/1 yr, guarantees unknown.
--TE Will Heller: UFA Lions; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--RB Maurice Morris: UFA Lions; $7M/3 yrs, SB unknown.
--LB Julian Peterson (traded Lions).
--FB Leonard Weaver: UFA Eagles; $1.75M/1 yr.
--OT Floyd Womack: UFA Browns; terms unknown.

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