The Seattle Seahawks, after their 24-20 win over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, find themselves ranked 15th overall in Defensive DVOA, and ninth against the run. Both pretty decent upgrades over the 2022 season, when the Seahawks ranked 22nd in Defensive DVOA, and 24th against the run. Seattle did a lot in the offseason to upgrade their interior defensive line, signing former Denver Broncos star Dre’Mont Jones and journeyman Mario Edwards Jr., and bringing Jarran Reed back after seasons in Kansas City and Green Bay — Reed was Seattle’s second-round pick in 2016.
So, the Seahawks have had multiple guys who can stop things up inside, and can also show out in multiple fronts. That process accelerated seriously on Monday, when general manager John Schneider dropped the hammer on a trade that sends former New York Giants and New York Jets lineman Leonard Williams to the Emerald City for a second-round pick in 2024, and a fifth-round pick in 2025.
For the Giants, the thought process is obvious — they’re sellers at 2-6, and they were going to have trouble re-signing Williams, who’s in the last year of the three-year, $63 million contract extension he signed in 2021. 2024 is a void year in that contract, so the Seahawks rented Williams for the second half of the season and however far they make it through the postseason, and the Giants will eat a lot of the 2023 money.
For the Seahawks, this move gives them four legitimate inside/outside guys who can all disrupt the quarterback and stop the run, which is an obvious boon for defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt just as young edge-rushers Boye Mafe and Darrell Taylor starting to show up hard. Add in a linebacker group led by Bobby Wagner that’s playing lights-out, and a secondary with as much talent as any NFL team could boast, and… well, this might not be a return to the Legion of Boom, but it’s pretty impactful.
What does the tape show for Seattle’s newest defender, who has two sacks, 22 total pressures, 14 tackles, and 13 stops this season? Let’s get to it.
With the Giants, Williams benefited from situations in which opposing offensive lines HAD to double-team world-wrecking defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence, but that doesn’t mark Williams as some ordinary schlub who cleaned up against bums without blocking help. Williams has been double-teamed 91 teams to Lawrence’s 143, and given how much the Giants blitz, that’s going to leave openings for others. Big Blue’s blitz rate of 35.2% this season far exceeds Seattle’s 19.1%, so Williams may see more double teams both because of the nature of his new defense, and because he might be the primary point of focus inside.
Nine of Williams’ total pressures this season have come against double-teams, which is encouraging for his new positions. On this pressure of Jets quarterback Zach Wilson last Sunday, Williams was doubled and shoved out of the way by the Jets’ right guard and right tackle, but he recovered nicely to make life more difficult for Mr. Wilson than he would have liked.
If you’re going to play on the line of a Pete Carroll defense, you’d better be able to win from as many gaps as possible. That’s no problem for the 6-foot-5, 302-pound Williams, who can get it done everywhere from nose tackle (when Dexter Lawrence isn’t scaring the crap out of everyone there) to big EDGE. Against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 3, Williams fought left tackle Trent Williams to a draw, which is about as good as it gets in today’s National Football League. Williams’ ability to be aggressive and clear blockers with his hands was on full display here.
Winning with stunts and games.
We’ve established that the Seahawks don’t blitz a lot, but they do love their line stunts and games — they’ve done that 112 times this season, and Williams will fit in just fine there. On this sack of Sam Howell in Week 7, Williams ran a tackle/tackle stunt with Dexter Lawrence with Lawrence as the penetrator and Williams as the looper, and nobody on Washington’s offensive line was quite sure what to do with THAT.
This is now a formidable front.
If you’re a believer that defensive lines are built from the inside out, you probably love this move, as the Seahawks now have four alpha disruptors between the tackles with the flexibility to unleash hell in obvious and subtle ways. Williams, Jones, Reed, and Edwards each have more than 13 pressures on the season (Edwards 13, Jones 19, and Reed 21), and when you look at how Hurtt deploys them, this could get serous for opposing offensive lines in a big hurry.
Williams will probably face more double teams for reasons we’ve detailed, and he could be put at the nose and nose shade gaps more often, and he’s perfectly capable of winning wherever.
This trade makes two things perfectly clear: The 5-2 Seahawks are in it to win it, and a defense that has been getting feistier every week this season might just bust apart now.