Overview: Brian Russell started 16 games in 2008. He did not appear on the injury report and missed only one snap all season. His statistics were in line with his career numbers: 72 tackles, one sack and three passes defended. It was his fourth season in six seasons starting he had three or fewer passes defended. He turned 31 on February 5, 2009.
What went right: Russell had a couple good stops against Philadelphia and headed off a couple long plays.
What went wrong: Russell is a bad player, perhaps below replacement level, that's schematic use has negative utility in the modern NFL. He ensures swearing is present and persistent at Field Gulls, because swearing is a healthy release from extreme physical pain.
Outlook: Negative utility is the operative phrase there. Russell is played to reduce the greatest amount of harm, neglecting the fact that a team can prevent scoring passes without being a successful pass defense. Russell sometimes stops a 30 yard play from going for 50 and the score. That leaves the opposing team in the red zone with a new set of downs. In 2007, Seattle parlayed that strategy into an improbable mix of a high number of opposing pass attempts, a below average number of yards allowed, but the league's best touchdown's allowed*. At the time, I accepted it as the hallmark of a bend but don't break defense, but I've become ever more skeptical of the bend but don't break phenomenon. Seattle flexed the other way in 2008, allowing more relative attempts - an extraordinarily high number of pass attempts for a 4-12 team - the worst pass yards in football, and the 27th ranked touchdown passes allowed.
Opponents provided compelling evidence that neither the strategy nor Russell work. Seattle allowed ten touchdown passes of ten or fewer yards. Proving the Seahawks couldn't cede field position and then toughen in the red zone. It also allowed ten touchdowns of 20 or more yards. Proving that as a deep cover safety, Russell wasn't covering shit.
Seattle didn't draft a safety until the seventh and Courtney Greene is a project Seattle hopes to develop. Jamar Adams hasn't received much pub. However cringeworthy, Russell is the presumptive and almost uncontested starter at free safety. Seattle could mitigate that some by making Russell just a safety. That is, a cover 2 safety and therefore not truly a strong or free safety. It absolutely must avoid putting Russell on an island and hoping his savvy and field marshalship overcomes his broken wheels, bad compass, terrible technique and leather-helmet athleticism.
*25th, 19th and 1st.
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