The headlines surrounding Seattle this short offseason have focused on big signings on offense and big losses at defense. Sydney Rice and Zach Miller are expected to serve as capable targets for the Seahawks’ green quarterbacks. Robert Gallery was brought in to serve as a mentor to a young offensive line as they work to learn Tom Cable’s system in limited time.
The offense may have gotten a boost but what is Seattle doing about their defense which ranked 27th overall in terms of yards per game allowed?
To begin with, they didn’t re-sign veteran safety Lawyer Milloy and lost Jordan Babineaux in the Seattle exodus to Tennessee. They didn’t sign a marquee corner to play opposite Marcus Trufant and instead re-signed chronic disappointment Kelly Jennings. They asked Lofa Tatupu to restructure his contract and subsequently released the defensive captain.
None of those headline grabbers sound like improvements. So what has defensive-minded coach Pete Carroll been thinking through all this? What has he done to make his defense less of an embarrassment than last year?
There are myriad new faces at every position and depth seems to be the key word in Carroll’s competition-fueled training camp.
The current 89-man roster features 17 defensive backs, eight defensive ends (not counting tight end Jameson Konz who has been practicing with the defense), and 26 total rookies trying to make the final cut.
At the very least, Seattle won't be caught with their pants down again if they're unlucky enough to fall victim to another array of midseason injuries throughout the defense.
One of the only areas of Seattle’s team that still shows ample experience is the defensive line.
Red Bryant, who anchored Seattle’s defensive line until he was injured last season has recovered from his knee injury and will be back, working opposite Chris Clemons.
Raheem Brock, who filled in for Bryant last season adds depth to the position as does former Arizona nose tackle Alan Branch who is expected to back up Bryant in the five-technique spot as well as possibly start in the three-technique while Brandon Mebane assumes the role of nose tackle.
With Bryant on the field, the Seahawks defense was ranked well against the run. When he,and Colin Cole (who is out indefinitely with a mysterious ankle injury) were injured last season, the team’s defense plummeted to 21st overall against the run almost immediately.
Seattle isn’t relying on the same old faces (backups Kentwan Balmer and Junior Siavii are at training camp, too) to suddenly mend the depth-less line they featured last year. NFC South veterans Ryan Sims and Jimmy Wilkerson are competing for a final roster spot as well.
Seattle seems satisfied with the prospect of relying on their two young starting safeties.
Chancellor (23), a fifth-round draft pick, spent last year learning at the feet of veteran Lawyer Milloy, picking up on Milloy’s physicality, locker room presence and natural leadership ability—a good thing now that he is the oldest safety on the Seahawks roster.
The 6'3", 230-pound safety is known for his hard-hitting play and has spent the offseason focusing on his coverage skills. Those skills have, in fact, improved—he had a three-day stretch last week with an interception each day.
Thomas (22) has already had a chance to prove his place on Seattle’s roster. He started all
16 games last year and tallied five interceptions and one forced fumble.
The two—who are being called "Thunder and Lightning" by their teammates—are expected to be Seattle’s safety duo of the future.
The cornerback position may be Seattle’s biggest area of need.
Marcus Trufant is a solid starter, but at 31 he’s nearing the end of his production. The amount of passes defended by Trufant has been reduced to single digits in recent seasons (eight last year and six the year before compared to 20 in each of his first two years and 13 in 2008).
Opposite him has been Kelly Jennings who most consider a bust. Jennings’ abilities to keep up with receivers and, to a lesser extent, recognize routes are his only strengths. He struggles particularly against larger receivers and doesn’t possess the power to ever be effective after the catch.
Jennings was a free agent this year and fans either expected, or just plain hoped, he wouldn't be back. Jennings, though, is back with Seattle on a one-year contract.
This move may largely be for depth.
Both Walter Thurmond (ankle) and Roy Lewis (knee), who fans got to know a little last year, have missed some practice time, but there is no shortage of cornerbacks to fuel competition in Pete Carroll’s try-out style training camp.
Seattle’s current roster features 10 players listed as cornerbacks.
Size seems to be a focus for Carroll. All four of the CBs mentioned above are 5'10" or 5'11" and shy of 200 pounds. The other six all break six-feet and one training camp stand out, Brandon Browner, is listed at 6'4", 221 pounds.
Carroll’s options remain open. Though it may just be an Ochocinco-style publicity stunt, he’s even invited Oklahoma City Thunder star Nate Robinson to camp. Robinson played both football and basketball in his early years as a Husky.
It may be a bargain bin approach, but Carroll certainly seems to know what he wants for his secondary, and his focus on youth rather than experience may prove to solidify his future in Seattle.