Super Bowl 51 Contenders: Seattle Seahawks, Part 2. The Defense, Special Teams and schedule

The Seattle Seahawks have made a name for themselves in years gone by as boasting the League’s stoutest Defense that boasts a hard hitting Front Seven and playmakers in the Secondary who have earned their own nickname, the ‘Legion of Boom.’ Seattle’s Defence has been dominant over the past three seasons and the statistics prove this.

 

2013

  • Gave up least amount of total yards
  • Gave up least amount of points
  • Gave up least amount of passing yards (350 yards less than 2nd)
  • Gave up 8th least amount of rushing yards

2014

  • Gave up least amount of total yards
  • Gave up least amount of points
  • Gave up least amount of passing yards (300 yards less than 2nd)
  • Gave up 3rd least amount of rushing yards

2015

  • Gave up 2nd least amount of total yards (Behind Denver)
  • Gave up least amount of points
  • Gave up 2nd least amount of passing yards (Behind Denver)
  • Gave up least amount of rushing yards

 

The Defense has undergone many permutations over the past seasons as teams round the NFL are keen to replicate the success Seattle has enjoyed. This has resulted in the departure of both players and coaches from the Defense nearly every offseason. However, the Seahawks Defense still has 6 Pro-Bowlers and plenty of star power that will scare any opposing Offence in 2016.

 

Front Seven

The Seahawks in years gone by have boasted athletic and hard hitting Linebackers who fly round the field to close down running lanes and help out in the pass rush off blitzes. Their Defensive Line has also consisted of premier pass rushers Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett alongside a run stuffing Nose Tackle. The Seahawks play a base 4-3 Defense with a slight variation whereby they employ a Nose Tackle alongside a Defensive Tackle.

Seattle’s Defensive Line has under gone a slight permutation in 2016 although starting Defensive Ends Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett will still bring a pass rush round the edge. However, Seattle’s big run stuffing Nose Tackle Brandon Mebane left this past offseason for San Diego. To address this the Seahawks took NT Jarred Reed in the 2nd round of this years draft. Reed is a 1st round talent out of Alabama, however, he fell as teams saw his limitations as a pass rusher and thought that he would be a luxury being only effective playing the run. This is perfect for the Seahawks as he will fill in straight away as a rookie and be tasked with simply stuffing the run at the Line of scrimmage and allowing Ends Avril and Bennett to go to work on the outside. Reed will most likely line up alongside Ahtyba Rubin who started all 16 games for Seattle last season at Defensive Tackle. The Seahawks also have plenty of depth along the Defensive Line if Reed fails to adjust as a rookie.

 

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(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

 

The Seahawks will also have Pro-Bowler Michael Bennett at Right Defensive End with Cliff Avril occupying the Left Defensive End spot. As a pass rusher Avril uses speed and his quick hands to get round the corner and fight away blocks while he blows by Right Tackles. When playing slower Tackles Avril lowers his shoulders at he’s shoots round the corner giving Tackles a smaller target area to punch and rips off any contact from Tackles allowing him to cannon his way into the backfield and towards Quarterbacks. However, Avril suffers from a lack of size and strength at times is unable to shake blocks when playing against Elite Tackles who are able to move quicker and closer Avril’s route round the corner. Meanwhile Michael Bennett is one of the most difficult players to block in the National Football League as he can beat both Tackles out on an island or hook inside and beat Guards in order to get to the Quarterback. He has a versatile repertoire of moves and can either use a bull rush or a speed move in order to shake off blocks and get in the backfield. In 2015 he received his first Pro-Bowl honour as he put up 10.0 sacks on the season.

Seattle have in recent seasons always had great Linebackers and despite the departure of Malcolm Smith and Bruce Irvin in the past two seasons they still have two game changers in K. J. Wright and Bobby Wagner. At Middle Linebacker Bobby Wagner is a big hitter who also excels in coverage. Wagner can come down and stop the run by blowing up runners or fly up the gut and hit Quarterback’s. Yet Wagner is more than just a tackling machine and tone setter on Defense. He is also able to cover Tight Ends and can even run shoulder-to-shoulder with Wide Receivers lined up in slot. K. J. Wright is an explosive player who seems to just fly round the football field to wherever the ball or danger appears. He and Wagner are an effective duo as they possess both big-hitting ability and the athleticism to get home to the QB or to close down the run. As Bruce Irvin (Seattle’s 1st round pick in 2012) has followed former teammate Malcolm Smith to Oakland, the Seahawks currently have an opening at the Strongside Linebacker position. Mike Morgan will most likely start here week 1 (another Undrafted rookie) as he has proved himself in his 5 years in Seattle as a great Special Teams player and has proved to Head Coach Pete Carroll exactly what he can do. Morgan will most likely start at the SAM position, however, he will have the hungry and impressive duo of Eric Pinkins (6th round 2014) and Cassius Marsh (4th round 2014) competing for the starting job as both have impressed with their reps early on in training camp.

 

Wagner
Tony Overman/ The News Tribune

The Seahawks clearly have an incredibly strong Front Seven that is able to generate enough of a pass rush to cause opposing QB’s problems alongside being stout against the run. However, the Seahawks have the best Secondary in football and this allows their pass rushers that extra few seconds in which to tear loose of blocks and get home to the Quarterback.

 

Secondary – “The Legion of Boom”

The Seahawks have the best Secondary in Football. The only secondary that comes close is the Denver Broncos or the Arizona Cardinals but neither have the amount of playmakers that Seattle possesses. They have three absolute studs in the backend with Cornerback Richard Sherman, Free Safety Earl Thomas and Strong Safety Kam Chancellor all being arguably the best, if not second best player in their respective position in the League. Neither player needs any introduction as “Bam Bam Kam” is a Linebacker playing Safety who appears to take pleasure in blowing up receivers and running backs. Alongside Bobby Wagner, “Bam Bam” is the tone setter on Defense. Chancellor is also excellent in coverage and can go shoulder-to-shoulder with some of Leagues best Tight End’s. Earl Thomas is a field general and although small in stature at only 5 foot 10, he surveys the field from the Safety position and is athletic enough to play taller than he is and flash around the field to make interceptions and stop players in their tracks. Richard Sherman apart from being the biggest trash-talker in the NFL (ask Michael Crabtree) is a long Corner who plays the position like a Wide Receiver as he is exceptional at locating the football and fighting for interceptions. He is also a sticky corner in that players who enter his Zone are regularly unable to shake his coverage.

 

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AP Press

The biggest question heading into 2016 is who will play in the open Corner spot. The three key pieces of Seattle’s Secondary have not changed, however, players who have had success alongside these three studs have regularly cashed in and gone on to play poorly elsewhere. Seattle currently has 10 Corners on the roster competing for the open no.2 and slot positions. The most likely candidates to start at the no.2 spot are either Jeremy Lane (The CB who had that impressive interception in the Super Bowl against Brady before breaking his arm on the return play) or Brandon Browner (a player who falls into the category of failed Corners post-Seattle). Jeremy Lane is an athletic corner who is able to play man coverage effectively while Brandon Browner is a slow corner yet has the advantage of being one of the tallest in the NFL at 6 foot 4. Seattle will be able to mask a lot of Browner’s deficiencies through their zone scheme and by asking Browner to play press, meaning that he won’t be asked to travel or run with receivers (something he proved during his time in New England and New Orleans that he is awful at). Browner will most likely get the pick over Lane as Lane could slide inside to the slot where he would play tight man coverage on the quicker slot receivers around the NFL.

Yet Seattle will also have competition between Marcus Burley (5 foot 10) and the tall duo of Tharold Simon (6 foot 3) and DeShawn Shead (6 foot 2) for the slot position and back up jobs. Shead and Burley saw a significant number of snaps for the Seahawks last season which could bode well for their spot on the depth chart. Seattle has exceptionally tall Corners who thrive in the zone scheme that they employ and who are able to use their size in press coverage to bully Wide Receivers at the line of scrimmage. Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas are the best Safety partnership in football and they command the field from the back end while also helping out in run support. When Chancellor is brought down into the Box it is as if Seattle is play with two stud Middle Linebackers and it is incredibly difficult for teams to pound the ball against Seattle.

The Seahawks have the best Defense in football (despite this award going to Denver last year) and have the talent in order to limit the amount of yards and points other teams can put up. The back end helps out the front end and visa-versa as they are able to generate an effective pass-rusher while being one of the best at stuffing the run in the past few years. They are also regularly among the league leaders in shutting down others teams’ passing attack and it looks like the “Legion of Boom” will be in full effect in 2016.

 

Special Teams

The Seahawks are in safe hands or feet in the Special Teams department in 2016. Punter Jon Ryan has a career average of 44.8 yards per punt while he also proved in the 2014 NFC Championship game that he is also pretty nifty as a Quarterback. Place Kicker Steven Hauschka had a shaky first season in Seattle after coming via Baltimore and Denver. Yet from 2012 to 2015 he has posted field goal averages of 88.9%, 94.3%, 83.8% and last season 93.5% (3rd best in the NFL). The Seahawks also have Tyler Lockett on Kick off and Punt Return duty and it looks likely that after earning Pro Bowl honours in this department in his rookie season (scored both a kick and punt return TD) that he will return to this duty in 2016.

 

Jon+Ryan+passing+the+football+to+Garry+Gilliam+to+complete+the+fake
Seahawks.com

 

The Schedule

As I have previously mentioned, any team playing in the NFC West will struggle with the Arizona Cardinals who I have previously highlighted as a Super Bowl contender; the Los Angeles Rams who always perform well in Divisional games and the now Chip Kelly led San Francisco 49ers. Seattle have the tied 5th most difficult schedule in 2016 with tough match ups @ Los Angeles in week 2; @ Arizona week 7; @ New England week 10; vs. Carolina week 13 followed by a trip to Green Bay the following week. They will also play Arizona at home in week 16. I expect Seattle to be 2-2 heading into their early week 5 bye as I am predicting them to lose away against the always difficult Los Angeles Rams (who will be hosting their first regular season home game) and slip up @ New York in week 4. I then have the Seahawks losing week 7 @ Arizona, week 10 @ New England, week 13 vs. Carolina and week 14 @ Green Bay. I expect the Seahawks to finish the season at 10-6 behind the Arizona Cardinals in the division and forced to go through as a wild-card team. However, if any team is built to be able to go on the road in cold weather in December and January and grind out a victory then it is undoubtedly the Seattle Seahawks.

 

The Skinny

The Seahawks have the best Defense in the League and I expect them to win that title back from Denver in 2016 (statistically speaking anyway). Their Defense is strong enough to win Seattle a second franchise Super Bowl and to keep the score low and leave Seattle’s Offence in good field position. Whether Seattle’s Offence will be successful or not in 2016 all depends on how the Offensive Line can perform. I expect there to be the same game of musical chairs as there was in 2015 although I believe that by bringing in the experienced head of Jahri Evans who can be a leader in the meeting room and should help elevate the play of those around him. The Seahawks have some promising young Running Backs and Wide Receivers who although may struggle elsewhere round the League, seem to be effective in Seattle. Russell Wilson will need to continue his high level of play and limit turnovers in 2016 if Seattle is to make a run at the Super Bowl. Seattle will need to utilise more of the read option and its threat now that they no longer have the threat of Marshawn Lynch, however, I believe that Rawls and the two other rookies should do just fine and that this Seattle team possesses the ability to go on the road and get a result deep in the play-offs against any NFC team.

 

– Tom Like

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