Seattle begins a long run of defensive dominance
The third prong of Carroll’s plan was to overhaul the defense. He had inherited a defense that ranked 25th in the league in points allowed in 2009. Carroll’s first squad actually gave up 17 more points. Even though he kept defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, the 2011 defense gave up almost 100 fewer points than the year before and ranked seventh in the league. What made such a huge difference?
The Legion of Boom was born in 2011. Earl Thomas was outstanding as a rookie free safety in 2010. Kam Chancellor was there as well but played behind Lawyer Milloy. It was the addition of rookie cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner in 2011that transformed the Seahawks into an aggressive, predatory defense. Linebacker K.J. Wright arrived on the scene that year as well. Although they missed the playoffs in 2011, it would be the last time they did so for five years. Yes, I know about Brandon Browner, too. Lay off, this is happy time.
The 2011 defense ranked seventh in the league in points allowed, ninth in yards allowed, and were eleventh in red zone touchdowns allowed. Clearly, this wasn’t good enough for the former secondary coach turned head coach. 2012 saw more key changes. Bobby Wagner was drafted to take over at middle linebacker, and his impact was immediate. He led the team in combined tackles by 41, and led in tackles for a loss. And only became the best linebacker in the entire league in short order.
Sack machine Bruce Irvin was drafted in 2012 as well. While he was used strictly as a situational player as a rookie, he still racked up 8 sacks and 19 quarterback hits, both second highest on the team after defensive end/Leo Chris Clemons. For more on the Leo position, I highly recommend this article by Eric Stoner for bigcatcountry.com. Clemons, by the way, had 434 more snaps on defense than Irvin. Clemons was great, but Irvin was, well, a sack machine.
Clemons is another of Caroll’s success stories. He had bounced around the league for five years, played on three different teams. The Seahawks installed the 6’3″, 250 pound Clemons at the edge and let him go 16 games a year. For three straight years, he had at least 11 sacks and 21 quarterback hits. Carroll was putting his masterpiece together, but he wasn’t done yet.
Overall, the 2012 defensive unit ranked first in points allowed, fourth in yards allowed, and fourth in touchdowns scored in the red zone. They would actually improve on those rankings in 2013. But before we get there, we should probably mention a third-round pick in 2012 who had a little bit to do with the Seahawks return to the playoffs. Some may remember him as the kid who was drafted to back up Matt Flynn. All true 12s know him as the guy who will eventually hold the title of GOAT. Nope, it isn’t Matthew McConaughey.