With just a few days until the Seahawks face division-rival San Francisco 49ers, linebacker Bobby Wagner spent Wednesday's press conference discussing how the Seahawks defense is working to overcome their main roadblock: themselves.
"I spoke to everybody. I feel like we're all on the same page. I think that was the most important thing, communication is definitely the number one thing," Wagner said. "We've just got to get out of our way. These last two games defensively we've been in our own way. Whether it's the penalties or our execution, we need to get out of our own way. We have the talent, we have the players, we have everything we need to be a great defense, we just need to get out of our way."
As a 10-year veteran, Wagner realizes that understanding schemes and playing together as a unit comes with experience of playing the game together and building trust with teammates.
"That just comes from experience. There's a lot of that. You look at guys like Richard Sherman and guys like Kam (Chancellor) and myself and Earl (Thomas) and K.J. (Wright) and Cliff (Avril) and Mike (Bennett), a lot of those plays happen from a crazy amount of film study. Again, understanding when to take risks and when not. There was a specific play when Sherm picked a ball from the opposite hash, but he's in three coverage. He's the third player on the left side, and once his guy goes underneath, he has no responsibility so he can go help out. He climbs, he was very good at that. Every time he did that, he climbs. I knew if I was on Sherm's side and I had an over route, there was a good chance I could leave this route because I knew Sherm was coming. That came from playing with somebody for a long time and trusting that he was going to be there. I think a lot of it is us just getting out there and trusting one another, having a little bit more experiences, and taking those chances knowing that a guy is going to be there for you."
But even if the defense is still a work in progress in terms of building the trust and chemistry it needs to be at its best, Wagner, as the captain of the defense, expect more from himself and his teammates.
"At the end of the day, it starts with the players," he said. "Coaches try to put you in the best position possible, but when you run a play, as a player, you're supposed to execute that play. We have not been perfect on all of our stuff, so I think that's the growing pains of just getting better each week. Good teams get better. It's very early in the season. It's up to us and leadership and myself to make sure we communicate and make sure we play better. We will."
And while this year's defense is still a work in progress when it comes to building that chemistry, Wagner is seeing things he likes from newer teammates like Robert Nkemdiche. Wagner has found newly signed defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche brings passion and aggressiveness, which is an energy that linebackers like Wagner can feed off of.
"A lot of energy, (then) probably more energy," Wagner said when describing Nkemdiche. "If energy is first, then energy is second. Enthusiasm is third. He's a fun guy to play with. He loves this game. You can definitely tell he loves life. He's a ball of energy. He's very strong and very aggressive. He plays on the opposite team's backfield, which we love as a linebacker."
Seattles defense started the season out strong, holding Indianapolis to 16 points and allowing nine-first half points against the Titans, but has struggled to get stops since those first six quarters, giving up 24 points in the second half and overtime of that Week 2 loss to Tennessee, and 30 points in last week's loss to the Vikings. The Seahawks are also allowing a league-worst 440.3 yards per game, but are confident they will make the necessary fixes to get the defense back on track.
"They want this to go the way our expectations are designed. That means we have to play better and everybody knows that." coach Pete Carroll said. "I think, coming out of the meetings on Monday, showing the film, showing where the concerns were, the plays we could have made, and the decisions we could have made, everybody is tuned in. We are trying to tune in forever, but I think there is a little bit of a different feel about it. They want to prove it; they want to prove that we are on the right track and that we are going to win a bunch of different games."
With the continued building of trust and determination to turn this season around, the team is looking past its losses and is now ready to set the tone for this weekend.
"The vibe is different because it's been a long time since we've lost two in a row," Wagner said. "Going into two divisional games, a short week after this game, you want to make sure you put your best foot forward. Make sure you do everything possible to make sure you are not the reason or you're not in your way of success, especially from a defensive standpoint. "We'll treat this game like we would normally treat this game, but we need to have more focus than we've had. We need to make sure that we're locked in and make sure we're ready for a battle because this team is coming off a loss as well. You've got two hungry teams that want to win. We're going to their home. I have confidence that we'll come out victorious."
Go behind the scenes with team photographer Rod Mar as he shares moments from the Seattle Seahawks' 30-17 loss to the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium on September 26, 2021. Eye on the Hawks is presented by Western Washington Toyota Dealers.