Originally written on NorthWest Sports Beat  |  Last updated 11/17/14
League’s Top Scoring D The Seattle Seahawks season began with a certain level of expectations. The defense was youthful with loads of promise and the offense held a top rushing attack. Playoffs were a reasonable goal, and then Russell Wilson threw the ball. After Wilson displayed his incredible ability to develop week after week, the new goal was not merely to make the playoffs – but to win the Super Bowl. It was a season that united the city of Seattle and brought life back into this franchise. It unfortunately ended too soon, but nevertheless, the future is bright for this young team. The offense evolved as the season went on, but the defense was the big and bruising backbone of the team from start to finish. Here is a review of their performances. The Legion of Boom When your secondary is nationally given a nickname, you know you’ve got a group of studs. In the preview of every game, the analysts broke down the match up between our secondary and the opposing receivers – constantly recognizing our players’ unique combination of size and speed. These players were the anchor of our defense, and each individual had a special season. Earl Thomas It is difficult to depict a safety’s performance by stats alone. When his tackles are up, that means the opposing running backs are making it to the second level or the receivers are completing catches before being hit. His ball skills are like those of Ed Reed So the higher the number of tackles, the worse the defensive is playing as a whole. This is why Earl Thomas‘ tackle numbers have dwindled from 98 last season to 66 this year. Thomas is not a safety that is constantly in the box and making plays in the backfield. His stats are not going to jump off of the page at you. Yet he is still the most important player on the defense. His ball skills are like those of Ed Reed, who is arguably the greatest safety of all time. His acceleration is second to none, giving him the ability to catch up to nearly any deep pass – like we saw with his two interceptions in the postseason this year. Earl gives the corners on the outside the best safety blanket you could ask for with protection over top, and gives quarterbacks a warning in the back of their minds before every pass attempt. These unique abilities are the reasons he was nominated to the Pro Bowl for the second time in his 3-year career. Richard Sherman This year Richard Sherman took the nation by storm with his cocky, can-do attitude. He easily became a fan-favorite with his intellectual abuse of opposing receivers and hilarious hand gestures all season long. If you haven’t already seen it, here is just one game with Sherm mic’d up: It is simple to see why opponents hate him, but we love him. He is the ideal example of what Pete Carroll has brought to this team. A physical, cocky, can’t-be-beaten atmosphere surrounds this team – one that has never existed in Seattle before. He plays like a Cortland Finnegan, but can actually live up to the trash talk. While he has the loudest mouth, you could argue his actions still speak louder than his words. Sherman was widely regarded as the top shutdown corner in the league this past season. Widely considered the biggest Pro Bowl snub in the league, he still remained to be the top CB voted to the all-pro team – as he said he would. His stats this year were insane – 24 passes defended (second behind J.J. Watt), 45.6 quarterback rating against (2nd best), and tied for first with 8 interceptions. This year Richard Sherman took the nation by storm There was no other corner in the league that had the emotional or physical impact on their team that Sherman had on Seattle. And he is only 24! Brandon Browner Coming off of a Pro Bowl season, Brandon Browner was expected to be the perfect compliment to his co-corner, Richard Sherman. And that he was. Browner was suspended for the final four games of the season due to a substance abuse claim – the same Richard Sherman appealed and won – but he still remained to have a terrific season. Browner is one of the bigger corners in the league at 6’4″, 220 – and by far the most physical. He doesn’t seem to know – or care – when the play ends, because he remains in contact with the opposing receiver until they get back to the huddle. Here is a clip from the Packers game earlier this season: To go along with this physicality, he still remains to play the ball extremely well – 3 interceptions this year, 6 the year prior. But make no mistake, Browner consistently gives evidence of the reasoning behind the nickname Legion of Boom. Kam Chancellor Speaking of physical, the Seattle secondary also boasts the hardest-hitting strong safety in the league in Kam Chancellor. If you need any proof, look no further: Now as a strong safety, the numbers tend to gather a little more importance. Free safety is typically dropping back deep, while strong is often in the box defending the run or the tight end. Which is why Kam’s career-high 100 tackles are a positive – a big positive. If you have seen him in interviews or heard him speak, you wouldn’t know who you were listening to. Kam is very soft-spoken, but when he gets out onto the field he is a machine. A machine programmed to kill. And that he did, all season long. Adding to the title – The Legion of Boom. The Linebackers Although they didn’t have a cool nickname, the linebackers were the glue that held the defense together. Led by Defensive Rookie of the Year nomination Bobby Wagner, the Seattle linebackers were constantly using their athleticism to shoot the gaps in the run game and match up with receivers in the slot. Bobby Wagner Seahawks’ General Manager John Schneider has been the silent hero for the program. He and Carroll both have scouted players at the collegiate level that fly under other teams’ radars, and put them in position to succeed. One of Schneider’s greatest picks so far has been rookie linebacker Bobby Wagner. Wagner was selected in the second round of the 2012 NFL Draft out of Utah State. Criticized for his lack of size and strength, many believed Wagner wouldn’t go until the mid-to-late rounds. Schneider and Carroll liked what they saw in his football IQ and unique athleticism – he ran a 4.46 40 yard dash – and took him with their second round pick. 140 tackles later and he is considered a front-runner for Defensive Rookie of the Year. KJ Wright Selected in the 4th round of the 2011 NFL Draft, KJ Wright followed suit in Schneider and Carroll’s formula of rare athleticism. At 6’4″, Wright is the hammer of the linebacking corp. He began his career behind top draft pick Aaron Curry, but eventually showed more production and consistency as he overtook the starting job. 2012 was Wright’s first full year as a starter, and his numbers flourished. Recording 98 total tackles with a sack and an interception, Wright was one of the league’s most consistent outside linebackers. He doesn’t have the speed of Wagner, but he compliments him perfectly with strength and physicality on the outside. At age 23, he and Wagner have a bright future together. Leroy Hill The veteran of the Seattle defense, Leroy Hill brought seniority and leadership to this defense. Hill is like a mentor to the young linebackers His numbers weren’t anywhere near his previous years’ production – 47 tackles, 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble in 13 games – but he wasn’t expected to fill the stat sheet. Another reason for the lack of production was the time split with 2nd year player Malcolm Smith. Smith ran a 4.44 40 yard dash at USC’s pro day, and because of this he was a better fit in certain schemes than Hill. Leroy plays an important role on the Seattle defense, bringing his knowledge and experience to the young players around him. If you have seen The Real Rob Report – and I recommend that you do – you often see Hill and Wagner together. Hill is like a mentor to the young linebackers of the Seahawks. And yet he is only 30 years old, so that shows the youth of this team. Defensive Line In the 2012 NFL Draft, Seattle used their 15th overall pick on West Virginia’s Bruce Irvin. This move was hoped to improve the Seattle pass rush, arguably their biggest hole entering the season. The defensive line has been stoutly known as a run-stopping group since the beginning of the Carroll era, but they wanted to add a dimension opposite of Chris Clemons. And that they did. Brandon Mebane The 6-year veteran has been the anchor of the defensive line since he was drafted out of California in 2007. Mebane has been one of the most consistent players on the Seattle defense, yet has not made a Pro Bowl in his career. 2012 was a career year for Mebane, recording a career-high in tackles with 56 to go along with 3 sacks. Along with Richard Sherman, Mebane was thought to have been one of the bigger pro bowl snubs. Like safeties, defensive tackles stats typically don’t impress the naked eye. They don’t record a lot of tackles or sacks. Their main mission is to absorb blockers, stuff the run, and create push into the backfield. If these were stats, Mebane would be near the top of the list in every category. Chris Clemons After being signed by the Washington Redskins in 2003 as an undrafted free agent, Chris Clemons struggled to remain on a team. He bounced around from the Redskins to the Browns and the Raiders until finally receiving a 5-year contract from the Eagles. Only to be traded to the Seahawks two years later. Fortunately, Clemons can now call Seattle home. He recorded a career-high 11 sacks in both of his first two years in Seattle – earning him a contract extension. In 2012 Clemons was second in the NFC with 11.5 sacks behind San Francisco’s Aldon Smith. Clemons has been the most consistent pass rusher Seattle has seen for a while, and his pressure has forced quarterbacks into turmoil on a consistent basis. Unfortunately, Clemons went down with an ACL injury in the Wild Card match up against the Redskins. The pass rush greatly suffered from this in the Divisional game against the Falcons. Irvin had 8 sacks with a forced fumble. Red Bryant The Seahawks resigned Red Bryant in March of 2012 to a 5-year deal after a record-breaking 2011 season. In 2011, Red broke the franchise record with 4 blocked kicks. He also returned an interception for a touchdown, and was awarded the Steve Largent award – which honors the player best exemplifying the spirit, dedication, and integrity of former Seattle Seahawk great Steve Largent. That is a very impressive resume considering the size of the big fella – 6’4″ 323 – and the fact that he was brought in here to simply plug gaps. Red has over compensated for all expectations of the Seattle ownership, constantly surprising people with his unique athleticism. Bruce Irvin As previously stated, Bruce was the first round pick for the Seahawks in 2012. He was a fantastic speed rusher in his college career at West Virginia, with an outstanding 4.5 40 yard dash. Many critics claimed the Seahawks (once again) reached on Irvin, and could have gotten him in later rounds. But he proved to be a great pick, posting 8 sacks with a forced fumble. Irvin received his first starting role in the final game of the season against the Falcons – due to the injury to Chris Clemons. He failed to record a sack, and Matt Ryan was rarely pressured as the game went on. However – with Irvin’s unique skill set – he is already a great situational pass rusher, and could very well become an every-down player. Recap All in all, the Seattle defense was elite all season-long. Standing at #4 in total defense and #1 in scoring defense as the league’s youngest, there is a lot to be proud of. This Seattle team shows passion, pride, and determination to be the best. They have the personnel to do it, and plenty of years to improve even more. The city of Seattle has never been more excited in the history of this franchise. GO SEAHAWKS!!! 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