Seahawks Insider

2012 defense among NFL elite?

Post by Dave Boling / The News Tribune on June 20, 2012 at 3:12 pm with 33 Comments »
June 20, 2012 3:12 pm


The question was raised: Can the Seahawks be a top-10 defensive unit again? They finished ranked No. 9 overall, and hovered around the top half most of the season, providing a show of consistency. I think more impressive was their rating in “scoring defense” – No. 7 at 19.7 points per game.

From that starting unit, they lost only middle linebacker David Hawthorne, a crucial cog, of course. But Hawthorne was slowed by injuries much of the season.

I think the raw stats from the whole season, then, are misleading, and projections for this season are more valid when we look at the second half – even though they faced only two playoff-bound teams (Baltimore and San Francisco). Over the second half of the season, their points-against average dropped to 16.25 a game.

Four key players were in their first season as starters: Kam Chancellor, Brandon Browner, K.J. Wright and Richard Sherman. And Allan Branch was in his first season with the team.  All those players are returning with a full off-season to further settle into their roles. Browner, particularly, struggled to find a balance between coverage that was physical and coverage that drew flags. We may assume that will be less a problem.

A few question marks exist. How to replace Hawthorne? The Hawks drafted Utah State’s Bobby Wagner and signed free agent Barrett Ruud. Wagner showed a smooth athleticism in off-season workouts, and must be a quick-learner, too. It was initially suggested that Wright would be relied upon to call the defensive signals, but Wagner soon took over that role. The return of Leroy Hill (in fit condition) and Wright could help stabilize Wagner in the middle. Korey Toomer, a rookie from Idaho, also showed flashes in OTAs. The added effect of the speed and athleticism of these young linebackers will be felt on every special-teams unit, as well.

The other prime question is the status of Chris Clemons, who has been a no-show as he lobbies for a contract upgrade. He has 22 sacks the past two seasons, but he’ll also turn 31 during the season. I don’t think the drafting of Bruce Irvin in the first round makes Clemons expendable. Irvin would make Clemons more valuable, and vice versa. They added Jason Jones (15 sacks in four seasons with the Titans) to add interior pass pressure. Jones is long-armed guy with a quick get-off who would be even more threatening with Clemons on one end and Irvin on the other.

So … top 10 in the fall? Sure. Maybe better.


Leave a comment Comments → 33
  1. SandpointHawk says:

    Nice post Dave, thanks, I agree if that’s worth anything.

  2. I love our defense but have worried a bit about some of the stats having been inflated due to some of the mediocre QBs they faced, as in an abnormal amount of bad ones compared to most years (Caleb Hanie, Vince Young, Rex Grossman, John Skelton, Colt McCoy, etc.).

    However, I think that the offense is going to be much improved to the point where it’s going to aid the defense (where it really didn’t last year, especially early in the season). When some national guys talk about how we didn’t really add anybody on that side of the ball, I chuckle a bit because continuity is so important with that unit that I sincerely think that them playing together for another season, at their mostly young ages, are going to be more beneficial than had they drafted a talent in the 1st round on offense that was a greenhorn to the NFL. Sometimes you just need to let the kids play and gel and not bring in even younger players with high picks at this point. That and Sidney Rice being healthy (a big, if, I know). I get warm fuzzies thinking about our defense playing with a 14-3 lead midway through the second quarter of a bunch of games this year. Even if they face better opponents (QBs), they will be in better position, IMO, to get after it more, too.

    I hope Flynn can spread the ball around enough early to get the defenses to play honest and then for the Beast to hammer them later in the games and for our defense to actually be on the field for less than half the game (a fresh defense is a more productive defense; especially when they are ahead).

  3. OBTW – Thanks for answering the question!

  4. Singularitarian says:

    got my sights on top 5. If bruce Irvin pans and we get a little from Jones, mixed with an offense who can hopefuly hold their own, with some long drives featuring a healthy run game, we could crack the top 5. We do play a few tem who will bring down our averages. I mean, if you hold the Pats to 400 yards you’ve done great. It will be nice to see our defense play those patriots and the packers. I’m interested to see how we’ll handle an empty backfield with Gronkowski, Hernandez, Welker, Brandon Lloyd and Deion Branch ready to spread us thin. It will be scary, and fun to watch. If we hold those 2 teams in check (relatively) I’d say our defense is top notch.

  5. ComeOnMan12 says:

    The Seattle Seahawks are definitely on the verge of becoming one of the most feared defensive football teams in the NFL. Already, the Seahawks secondary puts fear in the heart of quarterbacks all over the league. The Seahawks corners and safeties aren’t just big for their position, they are huge. They are tall, angular and extremely active and this creates matchup problems for other teams passing schemes. Earl Thomas is already considered to be the heir apparent for the great safeties of the NFL like Troy Palomaulu and Ed Reed, but it’s not enough to say that Earl Thomas is great, and it’s not even enough to say that Thomas is replacing some of the greatest athletes to ever play the game. Thomas is relentless and has the ability to play much taller than his 5’11” frame. He jumps with the 6’5″ 225 pound prototypical wide receivers without effort and he can cover anyone, and I mean anyone. 40 speed is great at the combine, but Thomas takes his speed from start and stop faster than perhaps any player in the NFL. Closing speed is what is so necessary for the NFL safeties of Y2K. You must float in a zone until the ball has been released and then break on the ball before the receiver can catch it. This is what Earl Thomas does week in and week out. But, Seattle also has a fellow by the name of Kam Chancellor at safety. The Godfather of the Bam Bam Brothers, Chancellor is huge for safety and he can cover just as well as he can put a hit on you that will affect you in the next weeks game. Bone crunching hits that make the best WRs develop alligator arms when they feel the footsteps of Kam Chancellor. He surveys or prowls the secondary looking for big contact after the catch or better yet, to swallow up a football from a wide receiver who can’t seem to get away from the big body #31. Chancellor also roams the field with Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner, two of the biggest corners you are ever going to see on a football field. Sherman and Browner are big enough to play linebacker, so is Chancellor, but these three players have the natural speed of wide receivers. It’s not going to be fun for anyone to throw the ball against this quartet of great players, and fifth on the list of defensive backs for Seattle is Marcus Truffant. That’s how good this team is. Trufant is going to play nickel back. Walter Thurmond, Roy Lewis and newcomers Winston Guy and Jeremy Lane will also likely stick with the 53 man roster. All of these players are going to be nightmares for opposing quarterbacks and wide receivers. Not to mention, they are beastly good in run support.

    But that was just the secondary of the Seahawks. Pete Carroll and John Schneider have assembled a very formidable defensive line, partially through the draft and also signing free agents. First, Carroll and Schneider took care of business in their own backyard. They re-signed their huge run stuffer in 2011 standout Red Bryant. They also kept Brandon Mebane, Charles Davis, and Chris Clemons; their sack specialist. But the Seahawks only tallied 33 sacks last year and the second highest sack total by a player came from Leroy Hill, with four. That just isn’t enough to scare anybody in the NFL and Carroll and Schneider knew it. They spent seven other 10 draft selections on defense, three of them on the defensive line, two linebackers and two defensive backs. Bobby Wagner is an absolute tackling machine who can also cover in the flat where the tightends and running backs lurk. Korey Toomer is a very athletic, but slightly small, linebacker who just might create all kinds of problems for quarterbacks in blitzing packages. But it’s Wagner who will be the big difference maker at linebacker. Smart, fast and extremely muscular, Wagner is a sure, fundamental tackler who also has the speed in blitzing situations and won’t have to leave the field. That’s absolutely imperative if Seattle wants to put pressure on the quarterback at will. Last year, David Hawthorne was certainly a surehanded tackler, but never possessed the kind of speed necessary to pressure the quarterback. That’s why he is now playing with the New Orleans Saints. Back to the defensive line, Seattle utilized their first-round pick on a player not many people recognize. That’s usually a horrible thing to consider when you have the 12th pick overall in the draft, Seattle saw something in Bruce Irvin and they made sure that they did what it took to select the sack specialist from West Virginia. Seattle took a lot of heat from doing this, but the way that the Seahawks play defense, he will fit in just fine. Imagine Chris Clemons on one end and Bruce Irvin, the player at the combine with the most speed, the best start stop speed and the fastest get off in football on the other end. Carroll loves the LEO End position and Chris Clemons is living proof that it works. Seattle’s problem last year was that that was the only speed they had on the defensive line and it showed. Now, with two speed edge rushers, Seattle should be able to put a lot more pressure on the quarterback just with those two players. Seattle also went out in free agency and collected Jason Jones, a pass rushing defensive end from Tennessee and Barrett Ruud, a linebacker from Tampa Bay. To add to the defensive line the Seahawks drafted Jaye Howard and Greg Scruggs, two athletic defensive ends that could make an impact immediately as well. In the defensive backfield, Seattle has been very pleased with the play of Winston Guy from Kentucky and Jeremy Lane from Northwestern State. They will be in tough to make the team, but they’re both talented and could possibly stick. It’s a good thing to have so much competition and that’s exactly what Pete Carroll preaches all the time, compete, compete, compete. So, I think Seattle could have a very good defensive squad, perhaps even elite if things all fall into place the way that Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider have played them to. Now it’s up to the players to show their worth and to compete everyday for a starting job, not just their to claim one already tailored for them without working. Go Seahawks!

  6. Dukeshire says:

    As excited as I am about this defense, a couple things to consider (if a ranking is important): 1 – They will play much better offenses this season. The Packers, Patriots, Cowboys, and Lions among them. Those will be tests. 2 – As a counter to #1; Branch did not play particularly well against the run late in the season. Should he be able to have his snaps reduced by Jones taking 3-tech snaps on passing downs (nickel, which they ran nearly 60% of all defenses in ’11) he ought to be more productive throughout the whole season.

    Then there is the matter of a likely improved pass rush, which they’ll need against the aforementioned teams. All in all, this is a top defense in the making. Top 5? That can be measured in any number of ways, but I’ll say this: I can’t think of another defense in the league that I would take over them, from now and for the next 5 years. I believe they’re that talented and will be that good.

  7. Dukeshire says:

    Carroll did not have Clemons playing Leo, most of last season. They mostly played an over front, not under. Anyway…

  8. JMSeaTown says:

    Looking forward to the 1st “BRUUUUCE” after his 1st sack. Awe football season, as if we needed another reason to hate Mondays…

  9. Hammajamma says:

    No revelation here, but these big corners could do some amazing things if the pass rush could force the ball out even a half step earlier in the route.

    I expect big plays every single week from the secondary with even a little added pressure. Being physically superior, size wise, does get results. That’s why getting Clem on board and the Irvin, Jones additions were so strategic. The DB’s can dominate <4 sec windows and get their long arms on the ball. Should be a fascinating group to watch.

  10. Last year the defense had many talented first year (Browner, Sherman, Chancellor, Wright) and second year (Thomas, Bryant) players. They will be better merely because of the growth of the young players and because the defensive starters will have one more year under their belt as a group. This will counteract the effects of having a tough schedule.

    This isn’t a 2007 situation with aging veterans combined with low-end talented youth that benefited off a ridiculously easy schedule. That season was a fraud. And how many Seahawks seasons since 2002 can we really say had a tougher schedule than last year? I would say last year was the toughest year the Seahawks faced since joining the NFC West. 2003 might be close.

    The offense will be better than the second half of last year if a few of the below happen:
    1). Rice plays an entire 16 games.
    2). Lockette/Tate/etc step up in ways we can only dream of
    3). Winslow’s knee holds up
    4). Wilson has a Rookie season far exceeding anyone’s expectations

  11. pabs – I remember your posts about the defense in ’07 (how easy they had it – and you were right).

  12. PC really changed the attitude of this defense from Holmgren’s bend, don’t break defense to were coming hope your players know Kam, or ET are coming hard. KC should strike fear into anyone catching the ball(Poor Knox). WTIII, and Roy Lewis covering the slot won’t hurt either, but I could see our run defense falling a little with the loss of Hawthorne. Let’s let Hill,and Bruce eat.

  13. All I hope for is the fact that if we get a team in 3rd and long – they are not comfortable.

    For too many years the QB got too much time OR the secondary played way to soft (or both) and we ended up giving up first downs – ALL THE TIME!!

    Our whole section in the stadium was always hoping for a 3 and 4 or less because we were less likely to give up the first down.

    The nice thing I see from this defense is:
    With the press coverage no receiver should be open quickly – Meaning

    Hopefully we will getting pressure from one or more of Mebane,Irvin, Clemons, any LB or DB on a blitz

    all leading to – inc passes, sacks or int’s :)

  14. bbnate420 says:

    We don’t really know how the tough the schedule will be next year. The one thing that is almost certain is that not all the teams we play will be as projected. Injuries will play into this. There’s no guarantee that Brady, Romo, Rodgers, and Stafford will be healthy when they play us.

  15. OregonHawk says:


    Is there a wide receiver (or set) that we don’t match up well with, and what type do we cover well?

    We all saw how well the two TE worked so well in NE, how will we combat that? Is there a LB that can cover a TE? Correct me if I am wrong, I remember that a LB is usually not pass savvy or too slow and a Safety is too light?????


  16. Dukeshire says:

    Second thing first: Chancellor matches well with most TEs that split out. And Carroll will put him in a position to do that. We’ll also see Wright dropping into coverage.

    I think at this point, it’s hard to know where Seatle’s weakness will be in the secondary. To venture a guess however, I’d say something like bunch sets or other concepts that free up small, quicker receivers. Seattle is fast, and certainly big and strong there, but quick they are not. That’s just my guess, however.

  17. bbnate420 says:

    I think it’s probably right that they tend to struggle most with smaller quick/fast receivers. Mike Wallace and Victor Cruz both had big games against them, although those games were both in the first half of the season. Fitzgerald had a big day versus them in the finale but, if I remember correctly, he made some pretty tough catches.

  18. psoundpowerhouse says:

    I’m hoping the Seahawks can have the #1 ranked defense by seasons end.
    Why not? I’m sick of second best. Take a #1 defense and solid special teams play and thats enough to win a Superbowl.

  19. montanamike2 says:

    This offseason we’ve upgraded our defense in all our percieved weak areas. Jason Jones will be a huge factor, I expect a lot of experts to eat crow when Irvin shows he was worth the first round selection. We’ve upgraded big time on offense too, Kellen Winslow is way better than Carlson and Robert Turbin behind an improved line is an upgrade too. Then there’s special teams and the fact that our youth has a full year under their belts, how can we not be significantly better?

  20. It’s still a huge unknown on how strong the pass rush will be. Maybe Red Bryant even steps it up a bit? He shown some amazing growth in his first few years in the league.

  21. BobbyK: “I get warm fuzzies thinking about our defense playing with a 14-3 lead midway through the second quarter of a bunch of games this year.” Gave me warm fuzzies! Thanks!

    xcman: “All I hope for is the fact that if we get a team in 3rd and long – they are not comfortable.” …and I am for a change!

    Dukeshire, pabuwal, and BobbyK (in no particular order): I like reading your comments as much as I like reading the articles you comment on…thanks.

    Dave: Well done as usual. Keep up the great work. We are entering the worst part of the offseason, all potential and hope, but no real news. Thanks for keeping us sane :)

  22. It’s good that Dave is here to keep you sane, because the rest of us will drive you insane going back and forth with the same QB discussion.

    Have you ever heard the joke that starts, “Three drunks walk into a bar….”

  23. PixelDummy says:

    3 guys walk into a bar, and the bartender says, “hey you guys look like pro football players…we have a special today- free drinks for starting NFL quarterbacks” The first guy says, “My name is Tavaris Jackson, and I am the starting QB for the Seattle Seahawks, I’ll have that free drink”. The second guy quickly chimes in, “My name is Matt Flynn and I AM the starting QB for the Seattle Seahawks!” Confused, the bartender looks to the third guy for clarification…”Not so fast fellas, my name is Russell Wilson and I AM the starting QB for the Seattle Seahawks”.

    Just as the bartender throws up his hands in exasperation, a forth gentleman who has been sitting at the bar and quietly listening, turns around and proclaims, “My name is Josh Portis, put their drinks on my credit card, I am buying drinks for everybody!”

  24. Good one Pixel!

  25. The bartender rings up the tab and realizes that Portis has someone else’s credit card! LMFAO!

  26. New Game: Whose credit card did Josh Portis steal? Or was he looking over the shoulder of someone and wrote down the same credit card, as was listed on someone else’s ‘test?’

    My belief is that we should be one of those rare teams that only go with 2 QBs to begin a season (Flynn/Wilson or Wilson/Flynn).

  27. If Portis can go PS that’d be ok.

  28. I believe that the NFL rule is that a player can’t have had more than 6 games on an NFL 53-man roster — or he’s NOT eligible for the practice squad. That would mean Portis is NOT eligible for the practice squad, as he was eligible for all 16 games last season. Essentially, you could be a 3rd year player that still has practice squad eligibility or you could be a rookie with no eligibility in the second half of your first year.

  29. bbnate420 says:

    Section 4. Eligibility: (a) The Practice Squad shall consist of the following players, provided that
    they have not served more than two previous seasons on a Practice Squad: (i) players who do not have an Accrued Season of NFL experience; and (ii) free agent players who were on the Active List for fewer than nine regular season games during their only Ac­crued Season(s). An otherwise eligible player may be a Practice Squad player for a third season only if the Club by which he is employed that season has at least 53 players on its Active/Inactive List during the entire period of his employment.

    Section 1. Accrued Seasons Calculation: (a) For the purposes of calculating Accrued Seasons under this Agreement, a player shall receive one Accrued Season for each season during which he was on, or should have been on, full pay status for a total of six or more regular season games, but which, irrespective of the player’s pay status, shall not include games for which the player was on: (i) the Exempt Commissioner Permission List, (ii) the Reserve PUP List as a result of a nonfootball injury, or (ii)i a Club’s Practice Squad.

    So it seems you’re right that Portis would be ineligible for the PS Bobby.

  30. Come on Man
    Holy cow, dude. Nobody’s gonna read that ‘comment’ of yours. Keep ‘em a little shorter guy – you got good things to say. :)

  31. Ambassador says:


    Yeah, longest post ever award bro’.

  32. richardfg7 says:

    Carroll had the two goals this off-season for the defense. Pass-rush and speed at LB. My opinion is he hit it out of the park on both. So I see a top five defense. Offense will need ore time to gel but they have the players to be in the top 10 at least. All together this team can play anybody and on a good day can whip anybody.

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