In my continued look at hidden gems found by Pete Carroll and John Schneider over their two-plus years in Seattle, I quickly switch over to the defense. As of this writing, I expect that I should publish this soon. Why? Because I imagine that you guys were quick to point out all of the players I didn't! (Told you so)
Which is good, because our collective brains are a lot better than my puny brain (my parents genes should be ashamed!) but also bad because look at how much work I spent on all those other names. Especially on defense, because while Earl Thomas might be the best player on defense and was a first round pick, it's largely built on guys that have had unexpectedly great production.
It's not surprising that a defense with eleven starters wouldn't be entirely comprised of first round picks, because that's not how the NFL works and it would be hard to make up an entire defense with first rounders, but it is surprising that you could have this many good players that came at such low costs. This is an amazing model of how you build a top ten defense in two years. Pete and John weren't just blessed to inherit all these great players, they built them up, and they had to do it with finding a bunch of players being undervalued.
Just look at what they did:
Acquired: 5th round pick in 2010
Kam is the first player I'm mentioning as a draft pick, but finding good players after the first three rounds is just as good as finding them anywhere. They used a fifth round pick to acquire Leon Washington but still had a fifth rounder to draft Chancellor when every other team in the NFL could have had him at a pretty good value if they had used their own pick on him. He didn't start a game as a rookie, and to be honest I had mostly put him in the back of my mind, but that would have been a mistake for an offensive opponent to do in 2011 and he made them pay for it. He's the best pure hitter that I can remember on this time since the heyday of Ken Hamlin, but he's also making strides to become a great all-around strong safety and has made the Pro Bowl already, which you can't say about many 5th rounders in their second year.
Those other names after the jump....
Acquired: Free agent from CFL
Joining Kam in the Pro Bowl this year, Browner managed to make it during his first season as an active NFL player. We are all aware by now of the penalties and the inconsistency of coverage, but he also recorded six interceptions, two defensive touchdowns, and 23 pass deflections. It's rare to say that you are "kinda worried" about a Pro Bowl cornerback, but I think most of us are still "kinda worried" about Browner to start and think that he'll eventually get burned more than he gets praised. However, I would have never expected him to be good at all coming from where he was coming from and then being asked to start. He has way out-played his value and there's room for him to grow and he seems to be the model of player that Carroll is looking for at corner.
He also provided us, the fans, with some great highlights of the season that we'll never forget.
Acquired: 4th round pick in 2011
You could make the argument that Wright has already been more valuable to Seattle in his career than Aaron Curry ever was, and all at the cost of a 4th rounder instead of 4th overall. He wouldn't blow you away with his rookie stats, but he seemed to get burned less and understand more about playing defense than Curry ever did. You'd probably want to imagine what it would be like to put Wright's head in Curry's body and wonder what kind of a player you'd get, but so far I've killed every single mouse that I've tried that experiment with.
Wright looks like he's going to be a starting linebacker here for a very long time and that's not easy to find in the fourth round, especially after only one year.
Acquired: 5th round pick in 2011
So in the fourth round they acquired their starting linebacker, and in the next round they drafted not only their starting number one cornerback, but a guy that some publications have rated as one of the top five corners in the NFL in 2011. And this is a player that didn't start until week seven.
Sherman had 17 pass deflections and gave hell to opposing number one receivers. There's also just something about him, about his character on the field, about his passion for winning. I feel like Earl Thomas is a guy that goes about his business and is elite at what he does, but Sherman is the guy that I feel charges up the players around him. Sort of like Kam laying a player out and saying, "Look what I did" and then Sherm jumping on him and saying even louder, "LOOK WHAT HE DID!"
The secondary became the focus and the star of this team last year (along with Marshawn Lynch) and a major part of that is Richard Sherman. It's not only about what the stats say, or even what the advanced stats say, but it's about what he says on the field with his emotions. He pumps me up for the game, and I am only a moron sitting on a bar stool, watching the game miles away on a TV screen. Imagine what those emotions do for the players around him. He's got me believing, so I think he's got the rest of the defense believing too.
Acquired: with a fourth round pick for Darryl Tapp
Sorry, you mean we sent a fourth round pick to Philly, right? Nope. Because Tapp is younger, a lot less expensive, and was perhaps more productive at the time, the Seahawks were actually getting the "bum end" of the deal in many ways. Can't believe I'm saying that now.
Funny that this is like the seventeenth time in Clemons career that he was going to be a hidden gem, but it's actually working out with major positive results in Seattle. Twenty-two sacks and 68 solo tackles over two years. He had 20 sacks and 40 solo tackles during his first five years combined.
Tapp has 5.5 sacks in Philadelphia and Seattle used the pick on E.J. Wilson. Hey, at least if you're going to waste a pick, it wasn't yours originally!
Acquired: Free Agency
Schneider signed Branch to a 2-year, $8 million contract before last season. The former 33rd overall pick of Arizona had made just three starts (all in 2010) over his four year career. He made 15 starts for Seattle last season and was an integral part of a top ten defense.
Acquired: Fourth round pick by Tim Ruskell in 2008.
Yesterday I had pointed out Max Unger on offense and was given hell for it because Unger was already here and already had played center. My point was more that this coaching staff has found an ability to find hidden gems and part of that staff is Tom Cable and Cable said, "Wow, you got something special here in Unger. Don't move him to anywhere but center, for any reason."
Bryant is probably an easier player to make a case for. He was not super successful as a defensive tackle, even when he did play, and Carroll made the move (by suggestion of Dan Quinn, h/t to shams) of putting Red at defensive end. It was curiously odd at the time, since Red looks so obviously like a defensive tackle, but it's really worked out. He's not your typical rusher on the edge but he's a major part of why Seattle can stop the run. When he got injured after seven games in 2010, the defense suffered big time. He started every game last year and had a career year, not to mention his four blocked kicks on special teams.
The coaching staff felt they needed a run-stopping defensive end, and they found that they might have had the best one in the league on their team already, just playing in the wrong position.
Okay, now that's it. Now this is done. Now you may tell me which players I forgot.