Seattle Seahawks Breakdown: Defense (2009 ed)
Gotta love Lofa Tatupu (man that guy is a beast).
Now, to the article.
I'm sure we all remember the old saying, "defense wins championships" and considering the Pittsburgh Squeelers Superbowl win last year, it's a hard statement to rebuff.
I'm going to breakdown the Seahawks' defense for the upcoming season and see if they have what it takes to get back into the top ten in the NFL and possibly the top five.
Also what that might translate to in terms of wins and losses.
With the change in coaching staff, the effects could potentially thrust the defense upward, be one step forward, or two steps back.
The new defensive philosophy of Casey Bradley will incorporate a variation of the "Tampa Two" defense that has safeties each playing one half of the field in deep zone, the inside linebacker Lofa Totupu playing midfield coverage, an increase in blitzing, an aggressive mindset, and a majority of pressure generated by the front four.
This new approach at defense should create more turnovers with the increased pressure on quarterbacks and running backs without giving up big plays.
This will be due mainly to the coverage assignments of the safeties, cornerbacks, and inside linebacker.
The aggressive style of play should be an upgrade over the stagnant play of the overworked defense of the 2008 season.
Now to take a closer look at each position...
The Defensive Line
The defensive line is crucial in getting pressure on the quarterback, stopping the run behind and around the line of scrimmage, and taking on blockers to allow the linebackers/defensive backs to move freely and make plays.
The defensive tackles play the middle of the line and are currently comprised of Colin Cole, Brandon Mebane, Cory Redding, Red Bryant, Craig Terrill, and Kevin Brown.
This group has a good (not great) amount of talent and will be able to succeed in taking on defenders and allowing the linebackers/defensive backs to make plays.
Colin Cole and Red Bryant will be playing more of a nose-tackle position, but both have the size/strength to take that role on.
I look for a healthy Bryant to see some playing time and really clog some gaps.
The other members of the DT group should perform well also with Cole and Bryant to take on double-teams.
My standouts of this group are Brandon Mebane and Cory Redding, both of whom can contribute consistently.
The defensive end group is responsible for getting pressure on the quarterback and forcing plays and players back inside to the defensive tackles.
This group is Patrick Kerney, Lawrence Jackson, Darryl Tapp, and Baraka Atkins. With Kerney/Jackson/Tapp alone the Hawks have three players who are all potential pro-bowlers, but have been injury prone.
When healthy and living up to potential, this group can preform at a high level.
I'm looking for Tapp and Jackson to be standouts this season. With Tapp in a contract year and Jackson following the learning curve at defensive end, the group should be much better than last year.
With an increased focus on pressure from the front four, there will be more turnover.
By that I mean that the horde of defensive lineman of the Seahawks' roster will be constantly coming in and out of plays to keep everyone fresh and preforming at their best.
Defensive line grade: B-/B
The Seattle Seahawk linebackers are among (if not) the best group in the NFL.
This long-standing strength has recently gotten younger and more talented.
This can only be good news...right?
With the improved ability of the defensive line to occupy blockers and free up space, I can only see this group getting better.
Hard to imagine...Huh?
The starters of this group include Lofa Tatupu, Leroy Hill, and Aaron Curry. Each of these players either has, could be, or should be playing at a pro-bowl level.
The learning curve with Aaron Curry will be significantly shortened with Leroy Hill and Lofa Totupu to help the rookie along.
This will continue to be the Seahawks' strongest group, outproducing the others. Barring serious injury, there is potential for at least one (probably two) members of this group to get invited to Hawaii this year.
Good news for us Seahawks fans.
The backups include D D Lewis, David Hawthorne, and Will Herring. Both D D Lewis and David Hawthorne are capable backups who will not let their presence on the field be too much of a downgrade.
With this group at linebackers, I have no choice but to give a grade of A/A+ and hey, they earned it.
The cornerback position has been a tricky one for the Seahawks.
The search for a legitimate No. 2 reminds me of the search to replace Steve Hutchinson.
For all of the Seahawk faithful out there, you already know Marcus Trufant is among the best cornerbacks in the league.
With the improvements in both levels of defense in front of them, his performance should return to 2005/6/7 levels.
He has been a professional player, and with the right players in place around him...he will perform.
The hard part is deciding how the No. 2, No. 3, and No. 4 cornerback positions will pan out.
This is the $125,000 question...and it is a doozy.
The candidates are Ken Lucas, Josh Wilson, and Kelly Jennings.
Josh Wilson has some playmaking ability but is undersized and gets exploited by taller receivers. Although he is good, this size differential gets him (and the Seahawk defense) into trouble.
Clearly not good.
Ken Lucas played on the Seahawks before and was brought back into the fold via the free agency market.
The way he got burned in Carolina makes me uneasy about starting him.
He has decent size at 6' and was a part of the Seahawk run in the 2005-2006 season, but with his speed/ability in question Ken Lucas might not be the best option.
Kelly Jenning was drafted in the first round by the Seahawks only a few years ago. He showed potential during his rookie campaign, but did not seem to actualize that potential due to injuries.
This is his year to show what he's made of.
With some of the playmaking ability of Josh Wilson and some of the length of Ken Lucas, he has the best shot of the three to succeed here.
Ultimately the preseason will determine these positions for us, but just to throw a prediction out there it will be: No. 1 Marcus Trufant, No. 2 Kelly Jennings/Ken Lucas, (in a tie) and No. 3 Josh Wilson.
Cornerback grade: C/C+
The safeties are (at least in the Tampa Two) here for a few reasons: to prevent the deep ball from going off on a big play, to act as a last line of defense, stop a running back from breaking off a big play, and to occasionally blitz or play as an eighth man in the box.
Starting at the strong safety position we have nine year veteran Deon Grant. He has been a solid contributor, nothing flashy as he is not pro-bowl material, but he gets the job done.
In this system he will be a reliable asset and help solidify the defensive backfield.
At the free safety position we have Brian Russell. For those of who have seen him try to tackle or make a play, have also seen him miss a tackle and the other team make a play.
Although I am hoping his eventual replacement will come in the form of Eric Berry, (via the Denver pick) there are some options to improve on our worst faring position.
The candidates are Jordan Babineaux, Jamar Adams, and Courtney Greene.
Of these players...
Jordan Babineaux has the most experience and has shown potential to take on a greater role in the defense, but his preseason play (and pending injury over the course of the season) will determine if that opportunity comes this year or not.
Jamar Adams has length at 6' 2" and shows more promise than both Babineaux and Greene.
I currently see him taking over a starting role this season with a good preseason on his part.
Greene is a first year man out of Rutgers (where I will be attending in the spring semester of this upcoming year) who seems to be suited to career backup at this point.
I'd like to be proven wrong about him, but the only place that can happen is on the field.
All in all I see the FS is Grant and the SS is Adams.
Safety Grade: C/C+ (but only with Adams in the lineup instead of Russell)
All in All
I'm giving the defense an overall grade of B. This grade is factoring in all four groups including potential for success.
This ought to translate into a 10-6 season.
I've already considered each of their games for the 2009-2010 season, and 10-6 seems fair with all factors considered.
All in all there is going to be some controversy over these assessments, which is why I am not doing this for a living.
But the biggest question marks remaining are:
Can the defense put this team back on top of the NFC West, the NFC, or even possibly the NFL?
Can the players bounce back after a tough year and get back into playing at a high level?
Can I stop asking questions and end this article so that you can get on with your life?
Only the regular season/playoffs will tell us that.