Safety is an interesting problem for the Seahawks. On the one hand the players are extremely good, but on the other hand they’re so good that it makes the Seahawks vulnerable.
Earl Thomas might just be the best free safety in the NFL. His range in center of the defense is incredible, and allow the Seahawks to take risks in coverage because they know he’s capable of masking many of the mistakes. Thomas’s impact on a game doesn’t always show up on a stat sheet, but there isn’t a player that matters more for the Seahawks pass defense.
His partner, Kam Chancellor, plays the roll of the hammer on the Seahawk’s defense. He can line up almost anywhere, and punished receivers and ball carriers. Chancellor had more to do with the success of the run defense than and of the Seahawks linebackers.
The problem is that Thomas and Chancellor are one of the kind players. There is no one else who could possible do what they do and be effective. The Seahawks cornerbacks, especially Browner and Sherman, are successful because they are allowed to play a certain way. If you were to remove Thomas from the secondary, they would have to play of the receivers more, which would make them much less effective.
The same could be said for Chancellor and the run defense. Chancellor bailed out the linebackers repeatedly in every game this past season. If Chancellor had been hurt, the run defense would have greatly suffered.No matter how good the backups are, they simply will not be able to do what those 2 players do the Seahawks defense. And injury to either and the Seahawks would have to convert to a more standard defensive scheme.
But the rest of the defense isn’t, at least as of right now, built to run normal defensive scheme. The linebacking corp is weak and wouldn’t be able to stand up if it lost the support that Chancellor provides. The corners on the roster are built only to cover in press-coverage and really struggle when they have to play off the ball. Without Thomas covering over the top, the corners will get beat deep with regularity.
And there in lies the problem. The Seahawks have built part of the defensive roster around the strengths of these 2 star players. If the lose either of their safeties to injury
Atari Bigby is good enough to start on a number of teams, and as a free agent he will likely get a better opportunity than what the Seahawks will be able to offer. If the Seahawks can convince him to return, that would be a major victory. As a Seahawk, Bigby offers a veteran savy to the nickel back position, as well as quality insurance for both of the starters. While he isn’t the special player that Thomas and Chancellor are, the team could do far worse.
Jeron Johnson was an undrafted rookie who beat out a draft pick for one of the last spots on the roster. He simply didn’t get enough playing time for me to commit to an opinion about him. He played well enough on punt and kick coverage, but almost never got on the field with the defense. I do believe that since the Seahawks cut a draft pick in order to keep Johnson, the coaches must think he has some upside.
Coye Francies and Phillip Adams also on the roster as practice squad members. Neither appears to have a future with this team.
Prediction: Bigby will get an offer to start for another team, and will take it. The Seahawks will then spend a 7th round pick on a player who can play both LB and SS, in an effort to try and find a true backup for one of their starters.