RENTON – The pass defense for the Seattle Seahawks has not clicked like Jerry Gray had hoped.
Gray, Seattle’s secondary coach, has succeeded wherever he has coached. As secondary coach for the Washington Redskins from 2006 to 2009, they finished in the top half of the league in pass defense three times.
And during his tenure as defensive coordinator for Buffalo from 2001 to 2005, the Bills finished in the top 10 in pass defense in every season but one.
But Gray has not experienced that type of success in Seattle. The Seahawks are ranked third-worst (30th) in passing defense, giving up an average of 266 yards a game. Seattle has allowed 23 passing touchdowns – seventh worst in the league – and a league-leading 53 passing plays of 20-plus yards.
Although rookie safety Earl Thomas is among the league leaders with five interceptions, starting cornerbacks Marcus Trufant and Kelly Jennings have one interception each.
So what’s the issue? Gray said the secondary is still adapting to the physical press coverage on the outside that coach Pete Carroll covets, which does not allow cornerbacks the vision to make more plays on the ball.
“The hardest thing is when you’re playing press man (to man),” Gray said. “You’re not going to get as many (interceptions). Most of the guys that play off, they’ve got vision to break (to the ball) and they will get a lot more interceptions because, again, the rush is going to get there and they’re going to throw the ball faster. But when you’re playing with your back turned, it’s hard to get picks.”
Trufant wasn’t looking for excuses. He said that no matter the defensive style, he and the rest of the secondary have to make plays.
“As a player, you want to be able to mix it up,” he said. “You want to play press; you want to be able to play off. You’ve just got to be able to make plays in all situations. Sometimes, you have to hope for a bad ball or a tipped ball or something like that, and then take advantage of the opportunity.”
Ultimately, Gray expects more from the secondary.
“I think we can play better for the simple reason that my standards are being at the top of the league,” Gray said. “And that’s what I’ve always been able to do. And that’s what I’m trying to get these guys to understand mentally; that you’ve got to go out there and have your gun on the table at all times.
“You can’t relax. It doesn’t matter who you’re playing – a guy who’s supposed to be fifth on the depth chart, or a guy who’s first on the depth chart. You’ve got to go out there and say, ‘He’s not going to catch the football.’ And when you get that attitude, we’re going to be a lot better secondary.”
Seahawks offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates was unwavering when asked about his fourth-down call against San Francisco last week, which led to an incomplete throw by Matt Hasselbeck to Ruvell Martin on fourth-and-3 from the 49ers’ 32-yard line.
Three times this season, the Seahawks have thrown fade passes on fourth down, and none have been completed.
For the season, Seattle is 3-for-13 on fourth down (23 percent), second-worst in the league.
The New York Giants are 2-for-10.
“It’s one-on-one football,” Bates said. “And go’s (deep routes) are one-on-one football. And you either beat the guy in front of you, or we need to find someone that can. And that’s kind of my philosophy.
“We try to find matchups where we can get one-on-one matchups, and you take advantage of that. And we’re going to be aggressive. It’s tough in the NFL to have 15-play drives and nickel-and-dime. There’s so many different defensive fronts and coverages and stuff, if you have the opportunity to take a shot, you take the shot, and the good teams win. We’re still going to be aggressive. We’re going to try and convert on third-and-1, fourth-and-1, third-and-10, but whatever the best matchup is, that’s how we’re going to play it.”
K Olindo Mare (left hamstring), WR Brandon Stokley (hamstring), CB Walter Thurmond (hamstring), and CB Roy Lewis (knee) did not practice for a second consecutive day. WR Mike Williams was limited after fully participating in practice Wednesday. C Chris Spencer (shoulder) also was limited. Hasselbeck, WR Ben Obomanu (hand) and DE Chris Clemons (ankle) fully participated in practice.
Eric D. Williams: 253-597-8437 email@example.com blog.thenewstribune.com/seahawks