The Seahawks secondary has been under fire the past few years, both on the field and by critics. They’re finally beginning to look like – well, like a Legion.
Now before you all snap my head off, or ask what product I may have ingested for recreational purposes, I clearly wrote “beginning”. I did not state this is now the new Legion of Boom, the LOB 2.0, or even the LOB 1.5. But there’s no denying that the Seahawks secondary is starting to play with that certain swagger. More importantly, they’re beginning to earn that swagger with their performance.
They’re not at the level of the Legion of Boom, I get that. But they are much closer than they were last year, or even earlier this season. I’ll use 2013 as the benchmark for the LOB. Led by safeties Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas, the Seahawks ranked first in fewest yards and points allowed. They also led the NFL in interceptions with 28 and had by far the lowest passer rating allowed at 64.7. The Bills had the second-best rating, and they were a solid10 points behind the Hawks.
Compare that number to last season. Seattle ranked 18th in the league, allowing a passer rating of 93.7. Chicago led at 73.2. That wasn’t a good look for the boys in College Navy and Wolf Gray, and occasionally Action Green. When you’re transitioning away from three likely Hall of Fame players at four positions, odds are that your stats are going to suffer.
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And yet the pieces were already in place for a new and improved secondary. Bradley McDougald had arrived in 2017 as a solid backup for both Chancellor and Thomas. I was happy about the pickup at the time, expecting him to play a big role for the Hawks. That optimism has been more than justified as McDougald has started at both safety spots for the Hawks. Both he and the coaching staff prefer him at strong safety. His performance shows they made the right choice. Even with the blown assignment that allowed the 58-yard touchdown catch by the Vikings, McDougald sports a sparkling passer rating allowed of just 36.5.
Rookie cornerback Tre Flowers played far better last year than anyone could have expected last season. So far this year he’s right on track to fulfill our own Lee Vowell’s prediction that he’d keep improving his game. When targeting the former college safety, opposing QBs have only managed a passer rating of 66.7, and he’s only allowed one touchdown. He picked off his third pass Sunday and has seven pass defenses on the year as well.
His counterpart at left corner, Shaquill Griffin, has bounced back from a tough sophomore season. In 2018, quarterbacks threw five touchdowns against Griffin’s coverage. He did have two picks and broke up eight passes, but the opposition posted a passer rating of 104.8 against him. 2019 has been a very different story. Despite usually facing the best receiver, his passer rating allowed is 80.5, and he’s given up just two scores. Griffin doesn’t have an interception yet, but he has broken up 13 passes, by far the best on the team.
One player seems to be the catalyst to remaking the secondary into something close to the dangerous unit of the past. That man would be free safety Quandre Diggs. The Lions were kind enough to make send him to the Hawks as an early Christmas present. Diggs has been, well, I’d say he’s been sensational for Seattle so far. As Geoff Shull put it, the Lions castoff has been the Seahawks secret weapon in their defensive resurgence. In three starts Diggs has one pick, forced one fumble and recovered one, and broken up a pass. He’s also had opposing receivers looking around for Kam Chancellor from their position on the turf. Opposing QBs have posted a dismal 33.3 passer rating against Diggs.
Like I said earlier, I’m not crazy enough to compare this group to the Legion of Boom. Not yet, anyway. But they’re a lot closer to that level now than they were last year, or even a month ago. The improved pass rush has helped, to be sure. But at the same time, the improved coverage in the secondary has helped the Seahawks line generate more pressure on the opposition. Sure makes me laugh when I read some idiot spouting off about defensive death spirals.