Aug 17, 2023

Seattle Seahawks 2023 NFL Season Preview: Defense Isn't Quite Ready

Rondé BarberHall of Fame Cornerback

August 15, 2023 4 min read

As teams head to training camp and the NFL season approaches, The 33rd Team asks its experts to preview every team’s outlook for the 2023 season. In this installment, Ronde Barber takes a deep dive into the Seattle Seahawks.

>> READ: Seahawks Fantasy Football Preview

Seahawks offensive coordinator Shane Waldron has good problems. Why is that? His unit improved after drafting Ohio State wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba and UCLA running back Zach Charbonnet in the first and second rounds.

My biggest storyline is the former. Why? Because last year, Smith-Njigba only caught five passes. The year before, he was a dominant player in college football, with 95 receptions for 1,606 yards and nine touchdowns. Word is he’s already shown that smooth route-running ability and ability to stretch the defense.

Of course, this team is not lacking in wideouts. They still have DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. But adding Smith-Njigba’s ability to create splash plays could further elevate this offense that took off last year under QB Geno Smith.

Initially, I would have said the biggest storyline on defense for Seattle was drafting Devon Witherspoon fifth overall. I like him, and he completes a pretty stacked secondary with Tariq Woolen, Quandre Diggs and, hopefully, a healthy Jamal Adams.

But the return of Bobby Wagner tops all their offseason moves. The Seahawks had clear problems stopping the run last season. In Los Angeles, Wagner was one of the best in the NFL at doing that. Did they make a mistake letting him go last year? Absolutely not. But they absolutely made the right decision to bring him back this year. They definitely need a plug in the middle.

Smith signed a three-year, $75 million contract to stay in Seattle. It’s a good story: A 32-year-old veteran quarterback goes out, leads the league in efficiency and breaks a franchise passing mark. He deserved it.

From Seattle’s perspective, this is a really good deal. It’s essentially a one-year, $27 million, “do it again” contract. We’ll see if Smith can prove that he’s answering those people who told him that his career was done.

If I’m Seattle, I want my breakout player of the year to be on defense. Obviously, the Seahawks did well on offense last year, but the defense struggled. I’m going with cornerback Mike Jackson. This guy’s reward for starting all 17 games opposite Woolen is for the team to go out and draft a cornerback with their first pick.

Despite that, it’s said he’s had the best offseason of any Seahawk. We’ll see how that competition brings out the best in this guy who’s been kicked around the league. I can see him playing nickel corner with Witherspoon or going inside. I’d love to see this guy produce.

For all they’ve done in the offseason, they are still thin through the middle. The subtractions on the defensive line outweigh the additions in both quality and depth. Fourth-round pick Cameron Young is really the only option at nose tackle, while Bryan Mone is coming off an ACL tear — so the depth is pretty paltry there.

This defense allowed 152 yards rushing per game, which was the third-worst in 2022. There is a trade to be made here, and I know for a fact general manager John Schneider is out there looking for one.

The additions on defense hopefully bring this team more in line with the star power they have on offense. But, more importantly, can Smith prove last season was more than just a one-year success story?

Even though the Seahawks made the playoffs last season, albeit through some good fortune at the end, unless Smith plays at that Pro Bowl level again, they’re still a playoff longshot.

They still need to figure out how to beat San Francisco, which whooped them three times last year. On paper, they got better on defense by signing DL Dre’Mont Jones, re-acquiring DT Jarran Reed and signing safety Julian Love from the Giants, on top of bringing Wagner back. But the latter is likely not a full-time player anymore; that’s not the role for Wagner.

There are just a lot of questions remaining on this defense, and it mostly has to do with injury. Woolen had offseason knee surgery. Adams probably won’t be ready for camp. Starting middle linebacker Jordyn Brooks is coming off an ACL injury, and Seattle didn’t exercise his fifth-year option.

So there are questions there. I could be wrong. I probably am for doubting Pete Carroll, but this defense doesn’t quite look ready despite all their efforts to improve going into the season.


AFC East: BUF | MIA | NE | NYJ

NFC North: GB | CHI | DET | MIN

AFC North: PIT | CLE | BAL | CIN

AFC West: KC | LAC | LV | DEN

NFC West: SF | LAR | ARI

NFC South: TB | CAR | NO | ATL

AFC South: JAX | TEN | HOU | IND

Ronde Barber is a former NFL cornerback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers whose resume includes a Super Bowl title, three All-Pro teams, five Pro Bowls and a spot on the NFL’s 2000’s All-Decade Team. Follow him on Twitter at @rondebarber.

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