RENTON, Wash. — When the Seattle Seahawks pulled off a blockbuster trade to acquire Jadeveon Clowney a week before the season opener, it gave their defense a legitimate claim as the most loaded front seven in all of football.
And it left their post-Legion of Boom secondary as the team’s biggest question mark.
That question got bigger after the Seahawks allowed Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton to throw for 418 yards on Sunday — the fourth-highest total yielded in 145 regular-season games under coach Pete Carroll in Seattle. And the Bengals did it without star wide receiver A.J. Green.
“We need to play a little bit better on the back end on a couple explosives and we would’ve had a pretty solid game,” Carroll said of Week 1.
There were reasons for Dalton’s big day. One being the Seahawks stayed in their base defense much of the game in an effort to take away the run and the deep ball, while forcing the Bengals into underneath throws.
That strategy worked well enough to escape with a one-point win, despite a pair of long Dalton touchdown throws to John Ross, one that should have been batted down — if not intercepted — by free safety Tedric Thompson.
“I don’t know what happened,” Thompson said. “I’ve got to catch the ball, though.
“It ain’t like they schemed us or nothing like that. We’re the type of guys, the type of men and defense [that] we see it, something we messed up on, we correct it the next day. So we’ll be all right.”
It wasn’t all bad. Carroll was impressed with cornerback Shaquill Griffin, calling his game one of the best he has had with the team. Carroll chalked up some of the completions that Tre Flowers allowed at the other cornerback spot to the defensive game plan and described his pass interference penalty as a call that could have gone either way.
But Seattle’s secondary might look different against the Steelers. Rookie Ugo Amadi played 21 of 77 defensive snaps at nickelback in Week 1 but “got smacked pretty good” in his shoulder, according to Carroll. The Seahawks on Tuesday re-signed veteran Jamar Taylor, who competed with Amadi for that job in training camp. Akeem King is another option at that spot.
Also, Carroll called the 55-yarder given up by Thompson a “costly play” and perhaps suggested a lineup change when he said during his Monday morning radio show on 710 ESPN Seattle that Lano Hill “deserves a chance to play. He’s a really good ballplayer. We’ll see where he fits into it.”
Hill — drafted in 2017 along with Thompson and Griffin as they started preparing for life after the LOB — made two starts last season while Thompson was hurt.
Carroll and the Seahawks are much higher on Thompson than many observers seem to be, believing he is the same ballhawk who finished in a tie for second nationally in interceptions with seven during his final season at Colorado. But that playmaking hasn’t been as apparent in his 11 NFL starts.
Carroll has a famously low tolerance for defensive backs getting beat over the top. It’s the cardinal sin in his defense. But Carroll was less interested during his Monday afternoon news conference in discussing how seriously the Seahawks might consider a switch at safety.
“I thought he over-tried,” Carroll said of Thompson. “He was trying so hard he was flying around. He overran a few things. He just mistimed his jump on the big play. He’ll play better. It wasn’t because he wasn’t working hard or trying hard or knowing his assignments. He really was going for it, and we kind of have a tendency — we can talk guys into that a little bit. He’ll do better.”