Want to know one of the best kept secrets in the NFL?
The Seattle Seahawks have a potentially elite defense in 2012 with perhaps the best secondary in the league. Ok, so for Seahawk fans this isn't shocking news, but there is genuine cause for excitement given the unit's potent mix of youth and talent.
What's funny is that this time last year, the Secondary looked to be a real disaster, with a patch-work mix of players just getting their first real taste of the NFL after injuries knocked out starters Marcus Trufant and Walter Thurmond III.
By the season's end, though, three starters in Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, and Brandon Browner made it to the Pro-Bowl, and you could argue that it should have been four with Richard Sherman.
Generally speaking, though, fans should be excited at the talent that head coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider have managed to amass in only a few short years. It's rare enough to have one Pro-Bowler at a position, but to have three, with two under the age of 25 entering only their third season, is remarkable.
Whether it was by design or not, building from the back forward might seem crazy, but with the way the passing game has evolved, it might be the best course of action to fight the tide.
How opponents approach this unit over the course of the season could determine whether the 'Hawks make it to the postseason. Even beyond the big games against Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers, this unit will be put to the test as there aren't likely to be any gimmies.
Meanwhile, before we get too far ahead of ourselves, there are a few other issues to consider as well going into this year:
Will all of the starters continue to improve upon their Pro Bowl nods?
Can Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor refine their games to avoid injury and penalties?
Can the likes of Marcus Trufant and Walter Thurmond III make noteworthy contributions after being injured last season?
Will Winston Guy be this year's Richard Sherman?
What's encouraging is that none of these questions seem terribly far-fetched, as we can hopefully watch this unit grow into one of the league's best.
Historically, defensive backs have served as the last line of defense in a somewhat thankless position, given how it's basically feast or famine on every play.
If you do your job, it's expected, if you fail, you never hear the end of it, but especially now with teams putting up ridiculous passing numbers each and every week.
At the same time, opponents should respect this unit more than last year when they were still relatively unknown. The key will be whether the 'Hawks pass rush will help lend a hand in keeping pressure along the line, and if the linebacking corps can manage the real estate in between the trenches and no man's land way down field.
Right now that looks to be a tall order. This defense could very well end up being elite by year's end, but that would require several other young players, namely KJ Wright, Bobby Wagner, and Bruce Irvin, living up to expectations to form the core of something special.
Is that possible?
I have some doubts, but then again I wasn't sold on the secondary this time last year, either. Once again, I would be more than happy to be proven wrong.
Until then, let's take what we can get and be thankful for Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Brandon Browner, and Richard Sherman and let's also not forget Marcus Trufant, Walter Thurmond, Roy Lewis, Winston Guy and the rest of the reserves.
They might be the 'Hawks secondary, but if they continue to perform at the level we saw last year, they could be second to none.