The announcement of the Seahawks final 53-man roster Saturday brought three significant surprises that made it abundantly clear that this is no longer a Mike Holmgren team.
Welcome in the Jim Mora Jr. era, where the focus on defense rules supreme.
I thought keeping ten defensive linemen was a stretch, but Mora and company did one better holding onto Derek Walker, along with Nick Reed and Michael Bennett. All three showed flashes of brilliance during training camp and the preseason. Reed lead the NFL in sacks during the preseason, posting 4.5.
Walker's impressive game against the Oakland Raiders helped him secure a spot, but what is more intriguing is making 11 of 25 players on the defense linemen.
Mora is making a smart, calculated move. Any coach will tell you every play begins in the trenches. A consistent pass rush is the best way to manufacture turnovers. Mora, in his second stint as a head coach, has taken some notes from such recent successful defensive minds as Steve Spagnola when he was the Giants defensive coordinator.
Keeping the line fresh and rotating situationally will pay dividends by taking pressure off of a secondary that rated last in the league against the pass (especially without Marcus Trufant in the lineup for six weeks).
Speaking of the Secondary, surprise number two. Brian Russell among the list of released players. Russell took the majority of the snaps with the first team the entire preseason and played well enough to hold onto his spot. The Seahawks ranked 15th against the pass for the preseason, giving up just one play over 40 yards.
Mora was the defensive backs coach for two years prior to becoming the head coach here, which is why I understand Russell's departure. Russell has consistently proved that he is not an aggressive open-field tackler and has shown he can be burned in open-field scenarios (see: Seahawks v. Packers, 2007 Divisional Round Playoff).
Enter Jordan "Big Play Babs" Babineaux. The tweener cornerback/safety has always come through in the clutch, and I personally think its about time he gets a shot at being a starter.
Lawyer Milloy will not start. He missed an entire camp and preseason and doesn't even know the defense yet. Having the veteran presence will be helpful and Milloy gets to return to his hometown, but may play at some point in the season.
I applaud Mora for his willingness to do whatever it takes to improve the worst secondary in the league, as Russell proved to be the weakest link.
As expected, the Seahawks kept Olindo Mare as their kicker for his superior kickoff depth. Neither kicker was exceptional during the preseason, which is why the proven veteran Mare gets the nod.
Kick coverage had been a problem for the Seahawks at times this preseason and with Brandon Coutu kicking off to the five-yard line at best, opposing teams had every opportunity to break big returns. Keeping opponents to the 20-yard line will help keep momentum on the Seahawks side.
In all, nothing too shocking came from the roster deadline, and the Seahawks are built especially well on the defensive side of the ball. With one week until the regular season kicks off, Mora can now focus his attention to game planning for divisional rival St. Louis in a game that can set the tone for the year.
Seahawks kick off the season at 1:00 p.m. Sunday, September 13.