As I pose this query to myself, I have to ponder what qualifies as the “Best” in the NFL. Is it based upon statistical makeup? Does Passing Yards Allowed or Red Zone Efficiency balance the equation? Will Passing Touchdowns Allowed tell us everything we need to know? Well, to answer bluntly, yes. It certainly helps. The overall performance of a defensive group, such as the DB’s must, in some way, be measured by their statistical breakdown.
The Seahawks pass defense allowed 219 yards per game, good for 11th in the NFL, while giving up 18 TD passes, good for a 6th place tie. They also amassed 22 interceptions on the year, which was good for 4th in the NFL. A pretty good showing if you’re just looking at statistics alone. By doing so, however, we are getting away from what really matters when examining what truly makes this unit so great. Cohesiveness, youth, knowledge of the system, and most importantly the heart-felt belief in the philosophies that steer this program. Let’s start with the Cornerbacks…
Brandon Browner entered last season as a Free Agent invitee to camp. Not his first stop in an NFL Training Camp, but he’d spent his prior playing time up North in Canada, as we all know. At 6’4” tall, and weighing in at 221 pounds, he was built more like a linebacker then a corner. Well, as the story tells, he goes on to make the team, and then proceeds to pick off 6 passes, 2 going for touchdowns, with 54 tackles. Good enough to book a ticket to Hawaii. He’s a lock to return to his post in 2012.
On the other side we have Richard Sherman. Another rookie, drafted in the 5th round out of Stanford. At 6’3” and 195 pounds, another big body when compared to other corners, Sherman found himself thrust into the starting lineup when Marcus Trufant went down, and played his way into the everyday starter. So much so that Trufant was allowed to leave in Free Agency, for a short period of time. Sherman went on to have a very good rookie year with 4 interceptions, 55 tackles, and a forced fumble. What doesn’t show in the stats is the great job Sherman did in some tough matchups against top Wide Receivers, as well as his strong run support, and tackling. Some may argue that Sherman should have been a Pro Bowl consideration as well.
Marcus Trufant only played in the first 4 games of the 2011 season after suffering another injury to his back. In those 4 games he tallied 23 tackles, and an interception. Had he played a full season, it would have been another solid performance for this crafty vet. With the back injury looming the Seahawks released Trufant to allow him to pursue an opportunity with another club. While he visited the Denver Broncos, I believe Trufant never really wanted to leave the only team he’d ever played for. So, with a bit of negotiation, welcome back Marcus. With the emergence of Browner, and Sherman, Trufant’s role will be more as a Nickle Back in 2012. The 3rd Corner, if you will. Not a bad player to have as a Nickle, wouldn’t you say 12th Man? Barring another injury setback, a healthy Marcus Trufant only adds to the success of the stingiest Pass D around.
Add in the likes of Walter Thurmond III, who is also coming off injury, but a solid Corner when healthy. Byron Maxwell, another tall Corner who, when developed, could challenge for playing time. Roy Lewis, a valuable Special Teamer who adds veteran leadership and brings his hard hat and lunch pail to the field every day, and you’ve got yourself a very talented, deep stable of cornerbacks. Let’s not fail to mention the likes of draft pick Jeremy Lane, Phillip Adams, and a few other camp invitees, and one might put the Seahawks Cornerbacks as, collectively, one of the best in the NFL. Now, on to the Safeties…
Earl Thomas is a Pro Bowl Safety. One of the best in the league. Admired by his peers, and opponents, he is a blue chip talent in every sense of the term. With 98 tackles, 7 pass defenses, and 2 picks, 2011 was no different. He is a ball hawk of a safety, violent in contact, and is also the leader of the unit. Not since Kenny Easely have the Seahawks had such a gem at the position. And that might be an understatement. A perennial Pro-Bowler, and candidate for All-Pro every season, Earl Thomas may go down as the greatest Defensive Back the Seahawks have ever fielded…well, that is unless our other Safety has something to say about it.
Kam Chancellor is a beast. 6’3”, 252 pounds of mean. (Until he takes off the pads, and then you find yourself faced with a true class act). 97 tackles, a sack, 13 pass defenses, and 4 picks to boot. The best Strong Safety in the NFL in this writers eyes. And not too far down on most others’ list. This sentiment was shared by enough, as Bam Bam joined Thomas, and Browner at the Pro Bowl. Kam Chancellor strikes fear in any player crossing the field, or carrying the ball for that matter. A Mack Truck who loves collisions, just ask Todd Heap. A wrecking ball, with ball skills to match, Chancellor is the Thunder to Earl Thomas’ lightning. A safety duo that should be considered tops in the NFL.
3 Pro Bowler’s and 1 that was a near miss. Even our 3rd Corner has been to Hawaii. Add depth at every position, and it’s hard not to argue the statement, “The Seahawks have the best Defensive backfield in the NFL.” I’ll leave the discussion open to you 12th Man. As we head into 2012, it’s certainly worth considering, and definitely adds fuel to the excitement that’s building around our fair city as the realization sets in that this team is for real. Stayed tuned my Blue Brothers and Sisters.