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Free Agent Kelly Jennings

Earl Thomas is a great young talent, and should provide a quality foundation for the Seahawks secondary. But he may be the only defensive back from the 2010 team with a future in Seattle.
Earl Thomas is a great young talent, and should provide a quality foundation for the Seahawks secondary. But he may be the only defensive back from the 2010 team with a future in Seattle.

According to Football Outsiders, Seattle finished dead last at defending number two wide receivers in 2010. That is the consummation of  four-year trend. Seattle finished 27th in 2009, 24th in 2008 and 18th in 2007. In 2006, Seattle finished 5th.

The problem might be Kelly Jennings. Jennings and the volume of snaps Jennings receives at right cornerback, seem to roughly coincide with the dips and crevasses in Seattle's ability to defend number two receivers. Of course, determining exactly who a team's number two receiver is has always seemed problematic to me. Would that have been Ben Obomanu yesterday or Brandon Stokley. I would say Obo, but then, sometimes Obo plays on the left, sometimes on the right and sometimes from the slot. Sometimes he motions in and is essentially a tight end. Often, he is playing from a bunch formation, and his position is somewhat undefined. Stokley was more valuable and more active than Obomanu, and since neither has a fully defined position, what's to say Brandon wasn't Seattle's number two yesterday? What's to say he wasn't Seattle's number one?

Jennings is a tough nut to crack. He doesn't inspire faith with his visible play. He does seem to inspire faith in coaches with his ability to do what is asked of him. He's fast and healthy and his profile is that of a player we can expect to age gracefully. Some of his ineptitude at tracking and playing the ball might be attributed to inconsistent pass rush. It's hard to defend an accurate pass, and the Seahawks struggle with harrying quarterbacks into bad decisions and bad mechanics. But if pressure was the primary problem, we should expect Seattle to struggle defending primary receivers too, and it hasn't to nearly the same extent: 14th in 2010, 28th in 2009, 31st in 2008 and 6th in 2007. A couple bad seasons for sure, one in which Marcus Trufant missed six games and then returned a shell of himself, but not the same kind of sustained weakness and not the same kind of trend towards worse each season.

So, given the numbers, given the recognized limitations of the numbers and their ability to describe who is at fault or even who on the opposing offense succeeded, should Seattle replace Jennings? Will Walter Thurmond be ready to start next season? And, given that Seattle's depth behind Thurmond is Roy Lewis and Jordan Babineaux, and given the Seahawks penchant for seven defensive back packages, do the Seahawks need to upgrade both their talent and depth at cornerback?

I would argue that the Seahawks should replace Jennings. He can not defend the pass or tackle, and his inability to intercept passes is particularly damaging to a bend but don't break defense that survives on turnovers.

I don't know if Thurmond will be ready to start in 2011, and think the Seahawks should at least challenge him to seize the position. It could push him to be better. It definitely provides some kind of safety net if he doesn't.

The Seahawks absolutely must improve their talent at defensive back. The Bandit defense was novel at first, but finding ways to get Babineaux and Lewis on the field, much less Kam Chancellor, just doesn't make sense. If Seattle intends to make the formation a fixture, it needs to upgrade its overall talent at defensive back, and not by a little but a lot. The Seahawks said they traded Josh Wilson because of their abundance of talent at defensive back, but that was a flimsy excuse then and proved indefensible as the season wore on. Seattle decided Wilson didn't fit their profile, okay, but finding players that do, particularly young players that can grow into their responsibilities, is a priority this off-season.