NFL Draft 2011: The State of the Seattle Seahawks' Defense: Pre-Draft

RED BRYANT!

Continuing with my broad snapshot of the Seahawks roster pre-draft, we can use this as a template and then take a look and compare post-draft and during free agency to see what holes will need to be addressed. This is based on the actual guys on the roster right now and starters will surely change after the draft and during the free-agency period, but I wanted to just take a minute and imagine a scenario based on if the season were to start tomorrow. After the draft, it will be interesting to see what holes have been filled and where the new draftees and free agent signings fit in. Also, let me have it if you think I've placed a guy too high on the depth chart or visa versa.

Cornerback:

Starters: Marcus Trufant, Walter Thurmond

Marcus Trufant is a good corner when healthy but hasn't had the luxury in recent years of a good back or clear head free of concussions and his production has suffered. I have to assume he'll start the year in good shape though and we can expect some semblance of his dominating years to resurface. He probably will never get back to the level he was at in 2007 but my hope is that he'll be a good option for us in 2011. Walter Thurmond will be presumably fully healed from his devastating knee injury - it typically takes up to two years to fully regain your speed and movement - and will be ready to assume a starting role in 2011. He will be tested early and often, and we'll get a chance to see if he's up to the task. I believe he will be a solid starting corner for us and has room to grow as well.

Backups: Roy Lewis, Brandon Browner, Josh Pinkard, Kennard Cox

Our depth is actually not terrible at this position, in theory. Lewis and Cox are solid nickel and dime package guys and both are huge on the Hawks' elite special teams unit. Browner is a big question mark, but could be huge for the Hawks if he pans out. I see Browner having the ability to start if Thurmond or Trufant go down, and I could even see him providing some depth at safety. Josh Pinkard is another injury case that should be back to full health by the start of camp and ready to provide some solid depth. He's got good size and instincts at the position and could challenge for a roster spot.

Depth: Marcus Brown 

Brown is a speedster that has flashed at times in mini-camps and on the practice squad but is likely to remain there this season. He could be a name you see called in case of injuries and could surprise some people this season.

Safety:

Starters: Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor

Earl Thomas is a no-brainer. Possible Pro-Bowl caliber player that is only getting better. I have high hopes for him this season and expect he'll improve on his play from last year. He'll hold down the free safety spot well. Kam Chancellor should have the opportunity to sink or swim in 2011 with the (probable, possible?) departure of incumbent starting strong safety Lawyer Milloy. Chancellor is a big bodied, in the box safety that from what we've seen will need to shore up his coverage skills to succeed. I don't doubt his ability as a run stopper but the question mark lies in his ability to drop into coverage if need be. I'm confident in him to do so, but since there's not a ton of tape to allay our concerns, it will be something to watch.

Backups: Jordan Babineaux

Big Play Babs will look to fill his role as quality depth again in 2011. He had a bit of a whirlwind season in 2010 after being released, brought back, and restructured contract-wise. His play was pretty much commensurate to his early-season situation with the Hawks - he flashed brilliance at times, but then had frustrating miscues at others. I expect he'll bounce back from 2010 with solid effort in 2011 and can provide great leadership to our young nucleus of talent in the secondary. I like Babs a lot and respect his stance on the role he has embraced, and hope to see him in a Hawks uniform this season. 

Depth: James Brindley

The 5'11, 197 lb speedster out of Utah State currently has a futures/reserves contract with the Hawks and could provide depth at free safety in a pinch. Expect that he'll stay on the practice squad but he's could have some potential.

Linebackers:

Starters: Lofa Tatupu, David Hawthorne, Aaron Curry

Lofa's injury history is concerning but when he's healthy enough to play he's a very solid quarterback for the defense at middle linebacker. He hasn't been himself the last couple of seasons due to injury, but 2011 could be a comeback year. If not, the Hawks have David Hawthorne, who will start as the weakside in 2011 but is a versatile enough player to start in the middle as well. He's been the stalwart of our linebacking corps for the last two seasons and I expect it will be no different in this season. Aaron Curry is of course the conundrum. He's faced criticism for his perceived poor play but in reality the criticism comes from the fact he was the #4 pick in 2009 and his statistical production hasn't lined up with players taken after him that year. This, paired with the fact he has a penchant for overdramatic gesticulation and easily-audible-from-the-3rd-level yelling after every play he's involved in. He's in a system that typically dictates that he won't get eye popping stats but he's been solid enough to hold down the starting job. I look to him to continue to improve and have a better year in 2011 and hopefully he'll have more reason to let out his war cries and whatnot in this season.

Backups: Anthony Heygood, Joe Pawelek,

Heygood and Pawelek are good backups and developmental players, it doesn't seem that they'll be ready to step in to games this season. Heygood is coming off an achilles tear and Pawelek is a hardworking 2nd year guy. It's become more and more apparent that depth is needed desperately at the linebacker position. With Will Herring, Matt McCoy, and Leroy Hill all free agents, it's a wonder that this position hasn't been talked about more in the run up to the draft.

Defensive Tackle:

Starters: Colin Cole (1-tech), Kentwan Balmer (3-tech)

Colin Cole is a reliable and good starting defensive tackle at the 1-tech, nose tackle position. Kentwan Balmer is a bit of a tweener, who was brought in more to play the 5-tech defensive end position but could play at 3-tech in a pinch. He remains a project; he was a first round pick that we essentially swapped for Lawrence Jackson (not literally, but you know the story), but still could turn into a decent player. I don't think the Hawks will be relying on him to start at 3-tech so this is an obvious hole that will need to be filled with either a free agent or a draftee. Or both.

Backups: Jay Alford, Barrett Moen, Red Bryant

Jay Alford was recently signed and despite having a very promising start to his career with the Giants including a crucial sack in their Super Bowl win, he is a big question mark due to a torn ACL/MCL a few years back. He hasn't been the same since, but he'll look to get back on track this year. Barrett Moen is an undersized DT free agent signee that I would classify as depth at this point. He could surprise some people but I don't think the Hawks are counting on him to start this season. Red Bryant, though presumably occupying the 5-tech DE position, could also play DT in a pinch.

Defensive End: 

Starters: Chris Clemons, Red Bryant

Clemons seemingly came out of nowhere last season and recorded 49 tackles and 11 sacks. He'll hold down the starting job in 2011 and hopefully can improve on those numbers. Bryant did a great job at the 5-tech 

Backups: Dexter Davis, Kentwan Balmer, A.J. Schable

Dexter Davis has a lot of potential in my opinion. A few months back I went and watched some tape on Davis and he showed some good stuff. He's got a great motor and made the most of his chances in 2010. He gets to the QB against the backup players but will need to show more against the first team guys to get more playing time in 2011. Kentwan Balmer didn't play terribly while starting 11 games in 2010, but has room to improve. AJ Schable was signed to a futures contract and will likely be a practice squad guy.

The first round of the 2011 NFL Draft starts at 8 p.m. (ET) on Thursday, April 28th and SB Nation has everything you need to prepare for it - NFL mock drafts, draft projections, scouting reports, the full NFL draft order and more. Check it all out at SB Nation's NFL Draft Hub and our NFL Draft blog Mocking the Draft.

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