The Seahawks defensive performances against the 49ers and Steelers have been worrisome, but it is easier to name bright spots there than it is for offense. Particularly, our young safety duo of Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor have been getting a lot of praise. Personally I'm pretty pleasantly surprised to see Kam Chancellor play as many snaps as he has, I expected the strong safety position to be more of a rotation, especially after the addition of Atari Bigby.
Bigby's certainly been present and has made an impact, but it's mostly been Chancellor and Thomas. They lead the team in tackles, Chancellor with 19 (15 solo) and Thomas with 15 (12 solo). Neither one has any registered play against the pass, in fact the Seahawks have yet to register an interception and the only players with passes defended are Marcus Trufant (2) and Aaron Curry (1, that should have been an interception). Traditional stats work poorly when analyzing secondary players, tackles can just as easily be racked up by assignments as by flubbed coverage by corners or safeties. But while tape analysis trumps all, having your safeties lead the team in tackles but not show up in passing stats is kind of worrisome.
Earl Thomas is probably my favorite current Seahawk, and watching him fly around against the 49ers was fun. But both Thomas and Chancellor played a lot of that game sneaking up to the line, as we had little reason to respect the 49ers passing game. It's good to see Earl Thomas be more of a force in run support, and Chancellor was expected to be an enforcer on the line but it's good to see him capable of doing it. But it left me with open questions about the two defending against the pass.
After finishing up my writeup on Browner a few days back, I found myself wondering why Browner was all alone in the endzone on that PI, and again why Earl Thomas was not in position to bat what should be an easy forced incomplete on the long Mike Wallace reception. Then Pete Carroll pointed out the same thing. Much like the pass rusher argument, this doesn't excuse Browner much, but it's football, and failings rarely stand on their own.
On the PI TD, Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor started deep, but both recognize the pass late and are well behind Browner chasing down Wallace. One the 53-yard pass, Kam Chancellor is on man coverage on Heath Miller, which leaves Earl Thomas as the single high safety. It's impossible to tell from the TV broadcast how or why he's out of position, but he is.
Television broadcasts really are little help in getting a close look at safety play. Thankfully, the NFL Gamepass and Game Rewind offer "coaches film" on selected plays. The coaches film is grainy and doesn't offer a lot of angles, but I'll take any all-22 I can get. Sadly, Gamepass limits the plays available to you, and they tend to be big plays only, so I had little to work with in week one. It got a lot better this week.
(13:32) (Shotgun) 7-B.Roethlisberger pass short middle to 88-E.Sanders pushed ob at SEA 44 for 30 yards (31-K.Chancellor).
No All-22 on this one, but a play worth mentioning, with about 26-27 yards after the catch. Browner is over Sanders but with no under help and no chance to catch up to him after the catch. Thurmond is in the vicinity but focused on his receiver and apparently unaware that a pass was already made. Chancellor is in position to make the stop after about twenty yards but hesitates as Sanders stutter-steps, and then misses his tackle, as does Earl Thomas. Chancellor eventually forces him out.
1-10-SEA 39 (14:13) 7-B.Roethlisberger pass short left to 17-M.Wallace to SEA 23 for 16 yards (29-E.Thomas).