In the NFL Top 100 Players list on NFL.com, Seattle Seahawks strong safety Kam Chancellor was ranked 65th by his NFL peers. Is that a little low for the the freakishly athletic enforcer? Probably.
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But Chancellor can take solace in this: he may not be the best player in the Seahawks vaunted Legion of Boom, but he is just as valuable as Earl Thomas or Richard Sherman.
Seattle plays a cover-3 heavy scheme, which means Sherman, Thomas and Byron Maxwell will be the players who drop back in coverage. When the Seahawks play this defense, it allows imposing Chancellor to play in the box as a fourth linebacker.
Chancellor has the coverage skills and speed of a safety built into the body and physical tools of a linebacker. Check out this video: Chancellor sits in the box with the front seven and absolutely demolishes Eric Winston and tackles the running back for a loss.
This clip illustrates Chancellor’s ability to contribute in run support. Chancellor is an instinctual player; he always seems to be in the right place at the right time, whether it be in coverage or in run support. But out of Chancellor’s spot in the box, he can also play in coverage.
In the NFC Championship game, Chancellor had a key interception to kill a San Francisco 49er drive in their own territory. In a cover-3, Chancellor acts as an outside linebacker, who are required to play any intermediate routes such as curl or dig routes. For Chancellor’s interception, he does exactly what he needs to do.
Watch Chancellor drop in coverage and pick off the pass (skip to 2:46).
Chancellor’s ability to play in coverage as that fourth linebacker is imperative to the success of the Seattle defense. The strong safety has consistently shown that he can cover both speedy slot receivers and big tight ends while playing in the box.
Those skills are things that many linebackers are unable to do. Chancellor offers the Seahawks a sort of hybrid safety-linebacker who fits perfectly in the scheme.
But Chancellor can play safety too, and just because he spends extended periods of time in the box doesn’t mean he can’t play in coverage.
In the Super Bowl, Chancellor made a brilliant play to break up a pass from Peyton Manning towards Wes Welker. Many people were focused on the fact that Chancellor absolutely pummeled Welker, but there’s more to the play than just the hit.
Again, Chancellor’s amazing football instincts are on display. If you watch closely, Chancellor starts to switch to Welker before Manning even throws the ball. If Chancellor waits a split second longer, Welker comes down with a catch.
But Chancellor’s instincts combined with his rare physical tools allows him to change directions on a dime and make the play on Welker.
Wait… Did I forget about something?
Oh, right! I completely forgot about Chancellor’s HITS.
The importance of Chancellor’s bone-jarring tackles can’t be shown on tape or film. It’s something that can’t even be measured; Chancellor is intimidating.
You can’t tell me Vernon Davis wouldn’t be shaken after a hit like this.
And clearly, Kam Chancellor set the tone for the Super Bowl with this:
That hit set the tone for the Super Bowl: Wes Welker, Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas and Eric Decker didn’t look the same after Chancellor delivered that booming blast.
The new trend in the NFL is to copy the Seattle Seahawks’ defensive blueprint with a dominant secondary. There will always be great cover corners and great cover safeties, but there aren’t too many players who can do what Kam Chancellor does for the Seattle Seahawks.