Now that the Seahawks pre-season is coming to a close, it’s time for the Match Ups Zone to take a really hard and honest look at the Seahawks projected defensive starters as we transition into the regular season. I’m going to break this up into two articles and really dig deep into the strengths and weaknesses of our team.
After reviewing each pre-season game several times, here is my take on what we have on the defensive side of the ball for 2011.
THE STARTING DEFENSIVE LINE
DEFENSIVE LINE QUICK NOTES: The Defensive line is going to have a new look this year as Brandon Mebane has made the switch from the 3 technique to the 1 technique. Alan Branch (picked up in free agency this year) will take Mebane’s old position and add some serious size to the line.
NOTED DEPTH: Raheem Brock, Jimmy Wilkerson, Dexter Davis
TOTAL WEIGHT: 1213 lbs
AVG HEIGHT: 6’4
AVG WEIGHT: 300 LBS
STRENGTH: STOPPING THE RUN
WEAKNESS: ONLY PURE PASS RUSHERS ARE FROM LEO DE POSITION AND 1 TECH MEBANE
#91 Chris Clemons DE 6’3, 254 LBS 8 YRS (GEORGIA) BIAS: PASS RUSHER Chris Clemons is the prototypical LEO in Pete Carroll’s 4-3 Under scheme. He is explosive at the snap, and is fast enough to pressure the QB on a consistent basis. His weight has made him vulnerable to the run in the past because he does not excel at holding his ground or shedding blockers at the point of attack. This must improve or defenses will focus the majority of their running game to his side.
#92 Brandon Mebane 1 TECH DT 6’1, 311 LBS 5 YRS (CAL) BIAS: ALL AROUND PERFORMER Brandon Mebane is extremely agile and powerful. His ability to shed blockers, or manipulate his blocker to plug running lanes is a very disruptive force to deal with. He always seems to understand the look and scheme the offense wants to attack him with, and is very quick to adjust. He has been dominant on nearly every snap I’ve watched him this pre season.
#99 Alan Branch 3 TECH DT 6’6, 325 5 YRS (MICHIGAN) BIAS: ALL AROUND PERFORMER Alan Branch is a LARGE man. That amazing analysis aside, he is loaded with strength and short-range agility and should be a consistent disruption. The fact he has yet to really show that, validates my feeling that he plays a little high, which negates all of that natural power. Technique can be coached and improved, so hopefully that happens in 2011.
#79 Red Bryant 5 TECH DE 6’4, 323 4 YRS (TEXAS A&M) BIAS: RUN STUFFER Red Bryant is downright beastly. When you add in the speed and quickness it makes for a very disruptive force. He consistently compresses the edge, and takes good angles in pursuit. As a former DT he is not a natural pass rusher, so you may have the inverse effect that Chris Clemon’s side does. Offenses will be able to assist the weak side tackle in protection schemes, which may negate Chris Clemon’s effectiveness on occasion. Red Bryant is a very gifted athlete, so look for him to improve in that area in 2011.
THE STARTING LINEBACKERS
LINEBACKER QUICK NOTES: This is a group in transition at every position. With fan favorite Lofa Tatupu’s departure, David Hawthorne has moved from the Will Linebacker position to the Mike. Aaron Curry who recently took a large reduction in pay and contract length, has moved from the Sam Linebacker spot to the Will to replace Hawthorne. This may be a make or break year for Curry so hopefully this position will fit his skill set. Leroy Hill makes his surprising return to the Seahawks front 7 after a couple of years of off the field issues and injuries. He will now move into the role vacated by Aaron Curry at Sam Linebacker. Hopefully Gus Bradley will find a way to get this crew more opportunities at rushing the QB, which was one of their weaknesses last year.
NOTED DEPTH: Matt McCoy, KJ Wright, Malcom Smith
STRENGTH: STOPPING THE RUN
WEAKNESS: ZONE COVERAGE (PASS)
#59 Aaron Curry (WLB) 6’2, 255 LBS 3 YRS, (WAKE FOREST) BIAS: SPEED
When Aaron Curry was drafted, it was assumed that his explosiveness and football instincts would translate to the NFL seamlessly. He seems to be slow at times to decipher the play, but his incredible speed can cover up that mistake. In my opinion, he favors running around blocks over engaging to compress the hole. He has not tackled well this year due to poor angles, and several arm tackles. His impressive pure speed as a pass rusher is sometimes negated by poor angles and a limited arsenal of moves. It’s obvious to me that Aaron Curry is a gifted athlete, but can he put all those incredible natural abilities to better use at the Will Linebacker spot? Time will tell.
#57 David Hawthorne (MLB) 6’0, 246 4 yrs (Texas Christian) BIAS: HARD HITTING RUN STOPPER
David Hawthorne is the Seahawks most impressive LB. His ability to play all positions well make him indispensable in the front 7. He’s proven to be a playmaker and will not miss many tackles when the opportunity presents itself. He’s a very hard hitter and will sniff out and attack blockers from tackle to tackle to stop the run. He’s an explosive linebacker and seems to perform better in man coverage than in a zone. This may be due to a slower reaction time to targets passing through or settling.
#56 Leroy Hill (SLB) 6’1, 238 lbs 7 YRS (CLEMSON) BIAS: ALL AROUND PERFORMER
At one time, Leroy Hill was touted by Lofa Tatupu as the best Linebacker on the Seahawks defense. Since then, he has run afoul of the law, and been hit with an injury bug. He is hoping to turn that all around this year. There is no disputing his ability. He’s fast, agile, and stout. He’s a wrap tackler, and he takes solid pursuit angles. His football instincts always seem to take him to the play, and he’s consistently part of the tackle due to his ability to decipher and squeeze down blocks. One can only hope his insertion back in the LB corps will pay huge dividends in 2011.
THE STARTING DEFENSIVE BACKS
DEFENSIVE BACK QUICK NOTES: This is another part of the defense in transition. Long gone are Josh Wilson and more recently fan “favorite” Kelly Jennings. The Seahawks have added several new players highlighted by corners Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman, and safety Atari Bigby.
NOTED DEPTH: Brandon Browner, Richard Sherman, Atari Bigby, Jeron Johnson
STRENGTH: ZONE COVERAGE
WEAKNESS: MAN COVERAGE
#23 Marcus Trufant (LCB) 5’11, 197 LBS 9 YRS (WASHINGTON STATE) BIAS: ZONE COVERAGE Marcus Trufant is hands down the Seahawks’ best and most accomplished corner. His Pro-Bowl caliber years may seem like a memory due to injuries and age, but he can still get it done on a consistent basis. He may need over the top assistance from the safety against speed receivers. He plays the ball well and is strong enough to re route receivers at the line. He must avoid the penalties that have plagued him in recent seasons.
#28 Walter Thurmond (RCB) 5’11, 190 LBS 2 YRS (OREGON) BIAS: ZONE COVERAGE Walter Thurmond has everything you want on paper. He’s fluid, quick in transition, and is a willing tackler. One thing he has struggled with is man to man coverage. He has not developed into a player that can stick with his man tightly enough. This may be a route recognition issue, or perhaps a tendency to peek into the backfield. Without the complete camera angles on broadcast TV it’s hard to tell.
#37 Brandon Browner (RCB) 6’4, 221 LBS 1YRS (OREGON STATE) BIAS: PRESS MAN Browner is an imposing specimen at the corner position. After starring in the CFL he has found his way back to the NFL. Browner has above average speed for his position and size. He is a bit stiff, but his length and speed can cover up for that limitation. He is still very raw, and must learn to play the ball better if he is going to push for a permanent starting position opposite Marcus Trufant.
#31 Kam Chancellor (SS) 6’3, 232 LBS 2 YRS (VIRGINIA TECH) BIAS: HARD HITTING There is a reason they call Kam Chancellor “Bam Bam”. He loves the big hit. This love of hitting can make for a great highlight or a the less attractive result, a missed tackle. He is very young in his development so it will take some time for him to develop the ability to read the action on the fly. Consider this his “freshman” year at the position. There will be missed assignments, blown coverages, great plays, and huge hits all mixed in while he learns to play safety in the NFL.
#29 Earl Thomas (FS) 5’10, 202 2 YRS (TEXAS) BIAS: PLAYMAKER, ALL AROUND PLAYER Earl Thomas is a great mixture of speed, coverage ability, instincts, and ball skills. There doesn’t seem to be much he can’t do well. He is also a willing tackler and will not miss in the open field. He is Seattle’s playmaker in the secondary and is schematically free in Pete Carroll’s system to roam and utilize his abilities to the fullest.
From my view-point the Seahawks defense has the potential to be a very bright spot in what some “experts” are saying could be a tumultuous season. Experts aside, I love the direction Pete Carroll has gone. Bigger, stronger, tougher with a pinch of nasty. That’s my kind of defense.