Should 49ers be worried about this NFC West rival's defense?

Seattle is trying to make the Seahawks defense great again.
Seattle Seahawks head coach Mike Macdonald
Seattle Seahawks head coach Mike Macdonald / Steph Chambers/GettyImages

While the Rams are likely the biggest threat to the 49ers in the NFC West, perhaps the Seahawks use their defense to get back in the conversation.

The San Francisco 49ers are the clear-cut favorites to repeat as NFC West champions in 2024. There's not much of a debate there.

If any other division rival stands a chance to dethrone head coach Kyle Shanahan's squad, it's likely the Los Angeles Rams, simply due to the presence of a still-potent offense with quarterback Matthew Stafford and receivers Cooper Kupp and Puka Nacua.

But what if there was a dark-horse threat?

Niners fans haven't soon forgotten the years of elite Seattle Seahawks defenses that plagued the NFC West during the early 2010s. And while it's been 10 years since the Hawks boasted that once-vaunted "Legion of Boom," the legacy of defense-first Hawks teams hasn't gone away.

In fact, Seattle might be looking to emulate that success from a decade ago again, this time under first-year head coach Mike Macdonald, who joined the fray after two successful years as the Baltimore Ravens' defensive coordinator.

If the Seahawks do threaten San Francisco's divisional hold, it'll be due to the defense.

How big a threat is Seahawks defense to 49ers in NFC West race?

A year ago, the Hawks' scoring defense ranked 25th in the league with a total of 402 points allowed, and they were also in the bottom 10 in yards allowed per play (5.5), which suggests a possible reason why the team moved on from longtime head coach Pete Carroll and brought in Macdonald as a replacement.

Macdonald's Baltimore defenses were solid, finishing in the top three for both of the aforementioned categories.

Plus, the new head coach inherits plenty of talent, which is something Bleacher Report's Maurice Moton pointed out when he eyed Seattle's defense as an NFC West X-factor for 2024:

"Macdonald will call plays for a talented group that includes Boye Mafe, who led the team with nine sacks last year, Jarran Reed, Leonard Williams and Dre'Mont Jones on the front line. Also, Seattle has a few recent Pro Bowlers in the secondary, Riq Woolen, Julian Love and Devon Witherspoon.

With those playmakers, the Seahawks could field a top-10 defense that can help them contend for the NFC West title."

Related story: Predicting NFC West standings and winner after 2024 schedule release

Granted, first-year head coaches often have growing pains, and Macdonald's presence alone certainly doesn't tip the scale fully in favor of the Seahawks over the 49ers.

But it is a legitimate threat.

The Niners face the Hawks in Weeks 6 and 11, so that matchup between Macdonald's defense and Shanahan's offense will be something to watch, as will how Seattle holds up, defensively, over the course of its own 17-game slate.

If Macdonald is making his impact felt, those games could be much tougher than originally anticipated.

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