Clint Hurtt was feeling good as he spoke with the media following Day 3 of Seahawks organized team activities for both personal and professional reasons.
For starters, Seattle's defensive coordinator is enjoying the benefits of knee replacement surgery this offseason.
"This is the first time I've been able to go out on the practice field without limping," Hurtt said. "I got my knee replacement surgery done this offseason, so I feel great. So I'm good to go there."
But Hurtt is also feeling good because he likes what he has seen out of his defense so far this offseason, and because he is confident the defense will make significant improvements after a 2022 season marred by inconsistent play and struggles on run defense.
"I'm very confident," Hurtt said. "We're going to be better, we're going to improve."
Hurtt recognizes that talking about improvements in May won't mean much if his defense doesn't back it up in the fall, so he didn't spent much time on specifics on what will change, but he does like the additions general manager John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll have made this offseason via free agency and the draft.
"I'm not going to get into all the stuff and say we're going to do this do that," Hurtt said. "I don't get into all those things; the proof is in the pudding, and we'll show that during the course of the year as we continue to progress. But I'm excited and appreciative about what John and Pete have put out here with us to work with. We're a developmental staff, so we've got to get these guys up to speed and everything is going in the right direction right now."
While the fine details of the defensive improvement will develop over time, the overarching theme Hurtt is trying to instill this offseason is one of consistency. Last season the Seahawks had stretches of playing really good defense, while in other games they struggled. Most notably, a team that has historically played very good run defense and stopped explosive plays under Pete Carroll struggled in both of those areas in 2022.
"It's being consistent," Hurtt said. "Consistency has really been my name of the game for this whole offseason. The consistency with fitting the run game the right way—if I've got to turn the football back, turn it back, if I'm fast flow spill, be fast flow spill, if I'm a cutback defender, let's do that. But it has to be down after down, there' s a discipline to doing that. And again, that doesn't all fall on players, coaches, we've got to make sure we hold them accountable to that too. And obviously cutting back the number of explosives. Control the run game, don't let people run the football on you, and cut back explosives, because explosives lead to points. You fix those two issues, and you're going to have a dramatic improvement right there."
A big key to improving the run defense will be the play of an almost entirely new-look interior line. While those players won't be able to really show what they can do until the pads go on, Hurtt likes what he has seen from a learning prospective from that mix of veteran and rookie newcomers.
"I'm really just watching young guys continue to progress—how fast do they take in information and process things while they're out there?" Hurtt said. "There's veteran guys, obviously bringing Jarran (Reed) back, who we're very familiar with, and him getting with that group, it's been good. There's a lot of details that go into it—the position is not hard to learn in terms of playbook information, but physically obviously it's very challenging, so I always temper my expectations when there's no pads on. So the little details I like to see is the communication in the run game, the alerts, protection-wise knowing where slides are going and things like that, and seeing how well the young guys are picking that stuff up too when we have rookie development periods. So I would say it's a nice start in that aspect."
Another reason Hurtt is excited about the improvements his defense can make in 2023 is an obvious one—the return of six-time first-team All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner. And even though the defense looks a bit different than when Wagner was last here in 2021, Hurtt doesn't expect anything to change when it comes to Wagner's presence or performance.
"You are still dealing with a guy that is the ultimate leader," Hurtt said. "For those things, I wouldn't expect anything different. What I do appreciate about him is, and it speaks to how great of a person he is, he is very humble. He didn't come in assuming anything. He's humble and it's almost uncomfortable for me because I am like, 'Look dude, we all know who you are, your work ethic, the kind of man you are, the effort you put into your everyday process, and the consistency as a player and how he prepares.' For him, he just wants to work and still earn it with new teammates. For me, that's beyond admirable and for the young guys, I think that is a great thing to be able to learn. For my expectations in terms of him setting the defense up, his communication out on the field, and he and I being an extension of each other in the communication, it's been great."
Seahawks players participated in the first OTA of the 2023 offseason on May 22 at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center in Renton, Wash.