The Seahawks had two absolute studs along the defensive line this year, Frank Clark and Jarran Reed. Clark needed to produce at a high level but there was a question of whether he could after Seattle lost fellow pass rushers Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril. But Clark showed he’s a boss and collected either 13 or 14 sacks, depending on who you believe. (Oddly, ESPN lists Clark with 14 sacks this year while Pro Football Focus and NFL.com have Clark with 13.)
No one was sure how good Reed would be as he was a second-round pick who proved he could be good but not great. In 2018, Reed was great. He had 10.5 sacks and 12 tackles for loss. Maybe he isn’t Aaron Donald but he is a lot better than most defensive tackles in the NFL. And he could be better in 2019.
The rest of the defensive line, though, were not near the consistent quality of Clark or Reed. Dion Jordan needs not be re-signed. Even though he had his healthiest season since 2013, he only produced 1.5 sacks. Not good enough. Shamar Stephen was decent but Seattle still struggled against the run sometimes and that is what Stephen’s specialty was supposed to be – stopping the run. Nazair Jones was invisible most of the season and is now transitioning to end.
Grade: B- (Clark and Reed are solid As, though)
Bobby Wagner proved to once again be the best linebacker in the NFL. Before the season he was supposed to become the leader of the defense. I am not sure, though, that he did that. Wagner is the defense’s best player but being a vocal leader isn’t a natural thing for him. Clark seemed to become more of the leader on the field as the season wore on.
Wagner had an ever-changing cast of linebacker partners, though. K.J. Wright missed most of the season with a knee injury. Mychal Kendricks was good when he played but he was suspended for a chunk of the year and then got hurt. Austin Calitro wasn’t supposed to play as much as he did but he was simply OK in his first season in Seattle.
Grade: B (Wagner with an A, though)
The cornerbacks were a huge question entering the season. Shaquill Griffin got moved to the left side and he was good but not great this season. Seattle needs Griffin to be near-great if he continues to play the left side in his career. To be honest, though, Tre Flowers might be a better corner than Griffin in time.
Flowers transitioned from college safety to professional corner and was forced into action when more seasoned veterans got hurt early in the season. By the end of the year, Flowers was better than Griffin. Opposing quarterbacks seemed more comfortable throwing towards Griffin than Flowers. To move Flowers to the left side in his second year might be too much to ask, but by 2020 12s could be looking at a Pro Bowl corner in Flowers playing Richard Sherman’s old spot.
At safety, Bradley McDougald was very good and for most of the year looked like a Pro Bowl-type player. He didn’t produce at the level he did early in the season by the end of the year, but he still showed that he was a good re-signing last offseason. Earl Thomas played and got hurt in week four. He won’t be coming back to the Seahawks. And Tedric Thompson was more than decent for the entire season but needs to make another jump in 2019 to be considered a long-term starter.