On Monday, I highlighted the new additions on offense, as well as depth chart and position battles. Well, the defense is perhaps even more crowded.
Though nothing compares to the musical chairs at offensive line, cornerback and linebacker are close. The good thing about the defense is that the starting 11 is still talented as all get out. At least two Pro Bowl players at almost every level, even the interior of the defensive line got a shot in the arm from the Seahawks number one pick.
This should be a really good unit once again, and hopefully for Seattle, one that has significantly better depth.
Defensive Tackle - Ahtyba Rubin, Jarran Reed, Malik McDowell (2nd Rd), Nazair Jones (3rd Rd), Quinton Jefferson, Garrison Smith, Rodney Coe, Shaneil Jenkins
The situation at defensive tackle is the same as it was last year in two key spots (the two likely starters) but potentially has more exciting depth. Most of that has to do with the high-ceiling addition of McDowell as an interior pass rusher; the Seahawks have lacked a decent pass rusher on the interior of the defensive line since Jordan Hill’s 5.5 sacks in 2014, but even those came in a spurt of game before Hill got injured. Seattle is looking for a regular dose of that, which McDowell could provide. Jefferson showed a lot of promise last year before he also got injured — he could play Michael Bennett’s role, but at the moment he’s listed as a DT on the team website.
As a third rounder, Jones will have every opportunity to contribute, while the team is also thought to be quite fond of Smith.
Defensive End - Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, Frank Clark, Cassius Marsh, Dion Jordan, Tylor Harris
It’s a pretty simple situation at defensive end. Two Pro Bowl edge players, a third who recorded 10 sacks last season and is headed that way. Marsh is a top-end special teams player and has solidified his roster spot with that, though he’s flashed some plays on defense before. Jordan will be an interesting player to watch try and find his space on this team, as he hasn’t played in a long time and nobody’s quite sure what type of defensive lineman the Seahawks are getting.
Established Linebackers - Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright
Competing Linebackers - Arthur Brown, Kevin Pierre-Louis, Michael Wilhoite, Dewey McDonald, Terence Garvin, Kache Palacio, Ronald Powell, Nick Usher (UDFA), Otha Peters (UDFA)
This is quite the mish-mash at the moment-momant. We know who the two stars are, we don’t know who’s next in line. Who is the favorite at SAM? Does it matter given that someone like Bradley McDougald could very well play many more snaps than that position? Will Mike Morgan be re-signed at some point?
Pete Carroll seems excited about the new guys Brown, Wilhoite, and Garvin. They also re-signed McDonald for a reason and we’ve yet to really see what his place on defense could be, but he’s listed as a linebacker. And maybe someone like Palacio or Peters has a big offseason/training camp/preseason. The first two spots are as predictable as tomorrow coming but the rest is anyone’s guess.
Starting Cornerback - Richard Sherman
Other Cornerbacks - Jeremy Lane, Shaquill Griffin (3rd Rd), Neiko Thorpe, DeAndre Elliott, Pierre Desir, Demetrius McCray, Perrish Cox, DeShawn Shead (injured), John Gibson (UDFA)
Potentially Fungible Defensive Backs: Bradley McDougald, Delano Hill (3rd Rd), Mike Tyson (6th Rd)
It’s a good thing that Seattle didn’t trade Sherman, because as fascinating as this depth is, Carroll is heading into some uncharted territory with the other options. Lane will open the year competing at outside corner, having not done that well in his first season as the starter in the nickel.
I’d also expect Griffin, Elliott, and Desir to give Lane a significant run for his money at that position — they all have something right now that could make you think they’re the next Byron Maxwell or Shead. I’d also expect Hill to come in and compete as the starting nickel cornerback, with McDougald expected to be plenty active on the field this season. It’s just too early to know where most of these defensive backs will eventually settle into by September.
Starting Safeties - Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas
Safety Net - Tedric Thompson (4th Rd), McDougald, Hill, Tyson, Desir, Tony Bridges (UDFA)
Let’s take a step back and appreciate how good this defense still is. The defensive end group starts with two Pro Bowl players and a third really excellent pass rusher. The linebacking corps start with two Pro Bowl players. The cornerback group is led by potentially the best corner in the game. The safety unit is led by two Pro Bowl players. Among these guys, a heavy handful of All-Pro nods. And of course there’s obvious talent in depth behind these guys and among the defensive tackles. It’s an exceptionally talented defense still with some really intriguing young players in the fold.
Seattle needs to feel more comfortable with the safeties they have behind Kam and Earl now more than ever. I think it’s smart to like the Thompson pick in the fourth round, while the two of the other new guys — McDougald, Hill — are potentially a bit more intriguing than the Kelcie McCray/Steven Terrell/Tyvis Powell unit.