Seattle Seahawks Defensive Position Grades Heading into 2013 Training Camp

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Welcome back to the second part of my personal grades of the 2013 Seahawks team heading into training camp this week! Camp kicks off in two days, and I know we’re all anxious to get things started here in Seattle. Now, before I dive into this article, I want to be sure, you; the reader has read my previous article, “Seattle Seahawks Offensive Positional Grades Heading into 2013 Training Camp” as it will give you my perspective of this team’s offense heading into this upcoming season. Now, let’s get started on grading this dominant defense.
Defensive Line 

I’ll begin with the defensive tackles. The Seahawks are bringing eight defensive tackles into training camp this year, with Brandon Mebane being the only clear starter at the right-defensive tackle spot. Seattle will likely look to let “The Monster out of Australia”, Jesse Williams learn underneath Mebane for a season, or get him in at nose tackle this season, leaving Clinton McDonald to hit waivers during the preseason.

That leaves a big competition to be decided as to who will step up to take the vacant left-defensive tackle position left by Alan Branch, who departed to Buffalo during the offseason. The left-defensive tackle spot will come down to Tony McDaniel, Jaye Howard and Jordan Hill. I believe McDaniel will win the starting spot, due to his length at the position, with Howard and Hill competing to back him up. Ultimately, Jaye Howard, Michael Brooks, Jared Smith, and Clinton McDonald will most likely be on the chopping block during cuts.

I give the defensive tackles a B- at the moment, but watch for Jesse Williams to rise to the occasion this season as one of the best defensive players of the 2013 Draft Class.

 

Defensive Ends

The Seahawks have plenty to work with when it comes to the defensive ends this season, on top of who they already had, the Hawks acquired Cliff Avril of the Detroit Lions and Michael Bennett of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during this offseason. These two combined for a total of 76 tackles, 5 forced fumbles, and 18.5 sacks last season. They should compliment this defense well when they take the field this year.

The left-defensive end spot will likely be split between two guys this year, Red Bryant and Michael Bennett. Both of these guys will bring a ton of physicality to the left side of the line, with Bryant being a bigger tackling presence and Bennett being a lighter quicker option on the outside to rush the quarterback on blitz packages.

The right-defensive end spot should be claimed by Avril to start the season, due to Chris Clemons coming off of a torn ACL last postseason and Bruce Irvin facing a four game suspension due to PEDs. Avril should be able to get to the opposing quarterbacks quite a bit this season, which is why he should be in consideration for “Most Improved Player” come mid-late season this year. But look for Clemons to get back into the action once he gets back into playing shape.

Looking towards who will stay to give depth to the position and who will get cut at this position, it’ll come down to: Kenneth Boatright and Benson Mayowa, two undrafted-rookie free agents. Both of these guys are close in size, but Mayowa is one of my sleepers on this team going into this season. The kid is quick, the coaches like his explosive first step and relentlessness coming off the edge during rookie minicamp and OTAs, and should be kept on the team as a practice squad player for now, but watch for him to make an impact on special teams this season, and possibly earn a bit of playing time underneath Avril in the first couple of weeks of the year.

The defensive ends get a B from me until we see what Avril brings to the field, how Bruce Irvin performs after his suspension, and if we get the old Chris Clemons back from his 2012 season ending injury.

 

Linebackers

The Seahawks surprised many by not addressing the vacant starting weak-side linebacker spot during this offseason. During the draft and free agency, we didn’t see any motion towards that spot until recently. Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn announced he will move swtarting strong-side linebacker K.J. Wright to the weak-side linebacker spot. Therefore, the strong-side linebacker spot has a vacancy now. However, according to reports, Bruce Irvin will move to the SLB spot after he serves his four game suspension due to PED use. Irvin will learn the spot while serving his suspension, but who will play there during that time?

The strong-side linebacker spot will be a preseason competition between Malcolm Smith, Mike Morgan, Korey Toomer and Alan Bradford. This may be one of the biggest competitions in the Seahawks locker room come training camp, due to how much skill all four of these guys bring to the field. Smith will likely win the spot in Irvin’s absence, with Toomer filling in for depth, leaving Morgan and Bradford to compete for a spot on special teams.

The middle linebacker spot belongs to Bobby Wagner easily, due to the impact the kid made in his rookie year last season. Wagner went under the radar for most of the season, but was eventually considered the “Defensive Rookie of the Year” by many by the end of the year. I expect an even bigger season out of Wagner in 2013, as he develops into being one of the best linebackers in the entire league. Ty Powell should take the backup spot behind Wagner, leaving Craig Wilkins to be cut.

The weak-side linebacker position will now belong to Wright, as he takes over in LeRoy Hill‘s absense. Wright should do well in learning the new spot, therefore I don’t see any chance in him losing it at camp. Heath Farwell and John Lotulelei will compete for the backup role at camp, where ultimately, I believe Lotulelei will beat out Farwell and earn a spot on this team.

I expect Mike Morgan, Alan Bradford, Craig Wilkins, Kyle Knox and Heath Farwell to be on the chopping block for linebackers, with Farwell being the only guy to make the roster out of the five, due to his leadership presence on special teams.

I give the Seahawks’ linebackers an A-, due to the physicality and speed the starting three (Wright, Wagner, and Irvin) possess, and everything they’ll bring to the field come gameday. Also, because I strongly believe Bruce Irvin will do excellent at linebacker with his size and speed.

 

Defensive Backs (Legion of Boom)

The Seahawks’ secondary has got to be the best in the league, and if you don’t believe so, please feel free to persuade me otherwise. This secondary is scary good; they’re big, they’re fast, they’re explosive, and they leave opposing quarterbacks literally shaking in their cleats from frustration (Insert Richard ShermanTom Brady conversation). This position group is the most exciting element of this team, and by far, the most competitive as well.

 

Cornerbacks

I’ll start with Richard Sherman. Sherman was a surefire Pro-Bowl cornerback in my opinion last season, with 64 tackles, three forced fumbles, eight interceptions, and one touchdown; the guy was at the top of the pedestal! Yet, he wasn’t awarded a Pro Bowl spot, and Arizona’s Patrick Peterson was, due to the fact he can return kicks for touchdowns? I won’t get into that,  but in regards to 2013, I see Sherman having an even bigger season in 2013 with 58 solo tackles, two sacks, four forced fumbles, and 11 interceptions including two touchdowns.

Now, I know what most of you reading this are thinking… “You seriously think opposing quarterbacks still want to throw this guy’s way?” I’ll give you an honest answer, “I believe they will, and by God, I hope that they do!” Because Richard Sherman is the best cornerback in the NFL today and the numbers won’t lie.

Brandon Browner is entering a contract year this season, and could very well be receiving an extension at some point this season. I hope the ‘Hawks do decide to resign Browner, due to how physical the guy plays at the position. Many opposing players have called him, “The most physical corner in the entire league”. After seeing this guy play game after game, I can’t say I disagree!

Browner is extremely physical and doesn’t get nearly as much credit as the other three main Legion of Boom members receive. I expect a good year out of Browner, proving to the front office, why he deserves an extension. Surely they don’t want to separate the Legion of Boom when the good times are just getting started!

The starting nickel corner spot is a toss up to me at this point. Seattle brought in veteran Antoine Winfield from Minnesota on a one year contract during the offseason, which should help throwing him in there when the Hawks play teams like Atlanta, with a tall big play making tight end like Tony Gonzalez lining up opposite of him. But the job isn’t necessarily Winfield’s yet, due to his competition at camp, Walter Thurmond III.

Quote me here, “This will be the biggest competition for a starting position in all of the 2013 Seahawks’ training camp.”

Thurmond will definitely give Winfield a run for his money if he can finally stay healthy. Thurmond has great quickness and big playmaking ability, which makes me believe he could very well win the starting job if he can remain healthy. This will be a fun competition to watch for all of you planning to attend training camp in the next couple of weeks.

That leaves Will Blackman, Chandler Fenner, Jeremy Lane, Byron Maxwell, Ron Parker, Tharold Simon, and DeShawn Shead to compete for the remaining two or three spots left. I believe Lane, Simon, and Blackman make the final cuts if three are kept, but just Lane & Simon if only two are kept.

The Seahawks Cornerbacks get an A, due to the size, strength, speed, and overall dominant coverage these guys bring to the defense.

 

Safeties

The Seahawks have five safeties on the roster heading into training camp. Strong safety Kam Chancellor signed a five year, $35 million dollar extension during the offseason, and many analysts expect free safety Earl Thomas to be the next Seahawk player to be on the list of multiyear extensions as the season approaches.

Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor are both in for big years in 2013, as both are two of the best young players in the league right now. I expect more sacks and interceptions out of Chancellor this year, while Thomas gets more tackles and forced fumbles than he did last season, as these two safeties continue to progress as a part of the best secondary in the league.

Winston Guy Jr and Jeron Johnson should get roster spots as backups behind Thomas and Chancellor, while Ray Polk faces an imminent cut from the squad this preseason.

The Seahawks safeties get the only A+ on the entire team from me, because I believe they combine to be the best strength on the whole squad. They’re excellent at stopping the run, short coverage and only getting better at defending the deep ball as time progresses. Expect a big year out of both Thomas and Chancellor this season.

That does it for my grading of the Seahawks offense and defense heading into 2013 training camp. Overall, I give this team an A as a whole, and I believe in a completely unbiased opinion, this Seahawks team has everything they need to win a Super Bowl this year. Between all of their new additions, a young gifted quarterback and best defense in the year, I don’t see how this team can be stopped short of a championship come next February.

Thank you for reading my work and I hope to see some of you at Seahawks’ training camp up in Renton, WA while I’m there July 25th and 26th. Go Hawks!