LOB and Seahawks defense returns mostly intact in 2017
The Seahawks led the NFL in scoring defense four straight years but fell to third in 2016. This may have been due to the fact safety Earl Thomas was injured twice late in the year. When Thomas is out, Seattle’s defense is not the same. Without Thomas, Seattle gives up more points per game and creates fewer turnovers. Thomas is to the defense as Russell Wilson is to the offense.
Was Seattle’s drop in defensive efficiency simply Thomas being hurt? Or is the Seahawks defense simply on a downward trend? Here is the worst that could happen in 2017. (This is not what I think will happen. Or what I hope will happen. Simply, this is what awfulness could happen.)
When Cliff Avril was injured in the Super Bowl against the New England Patriots, Seattle was never the same. Avril is the undervalued defensive end (undervalued in national scope and not by the Seahawks) who creates push on the opposing quarterback. He and Michael Bennett are one of the best defensive end combos in the league. Avril has been mostly healthy in his Seattle career, but in 2017 Avril gets injured early and misses most of the year.
Bennett also has trouble staying consistently healthy. This leaves Frank Clark to bear the pressure of creating havoc for opposing quarterbacks. Constantly double-teamed, Clark is unable to do much on his own. The interior line continues its trend from 2016 as far as getting no rush on the quarterback. Rookies Malik McDowell and Naz Jones are overwhelmed and the line falters. With no pressure, opposing quarterbacks pick apart the younger players of the Seahawks defensive backs.
Again, injury riddles two of the best linebackers in the NFL: KJ Wright and Bobby Wagner. While Seattle has amazing ability in those two players, there is a lot of unproven depth behind them. When Wright and Wagner each sporadically miss games there is no one who steps up. Tight ends are free across the field, running backs make it to the second level. The Seahawks vaunted defense is nothing close to previous seasons and Seattle misses the playoffs.
Richard Sherman is a great player. But this year all the rumors of him causing issues on the team come true. He creates turmoil in the locker room and on the sideline. Coach Peter Carroll is forced to suspend Sherman for two games. In his place are rookie defensive backs, like Delano Hill and Shaquill Griffin. Both players will become future long-term productive Seahawks, but are overmatched in their year one.
At safety, Thomas gets hurt again. Kam Chancellor plays five games as he is also injured. With new players all over the field deep, the Seahawks cannot control opposing quarterbacks like Matt Ryan. A team that was top three defensively for years falls to 14th in 2017.
Again, the hope here is that none of this happens. These are worst case scenarios. Still, these things could happen. Let’s just hope they don’t.