With Earl Thomas officially ending the Legion of Boom’s Seattle legacy by either A) breaking his leg again (what was he thinking?) or B) leaving the team with a smile on his face / the team deciding to hang onto their cash for other resources, it seemed like the Seahawks would have to count on Marquise Blair, Lano Hill, or Tedric Thompson filling his shoes. After all, they’re the young ones. They’re the ones who are meant to have potential. And I would assume at least Blair does, if not all three.
But the safety who will start garnering attention for the Pro Bowl this season isn’t the one who replaced Thomas, it’s the one who replaced Kam Chancellor back in 2017: ‘cause Bradley McDougald is on fire.
According to Pro-Football-Reference, McDougald has the fourth-lowest passer rating against of any player in the NFL right now with a minimum of 10 targets, and the second-lowest for a safety. The number one rating against belongs to Harrison Smith of the Vikings at 17.5 on five targets, followed by Patriots reserve corner J.C. Jackson at 21.1 on 16 targets. Third is linebacker Kwon Alexander of the 49ers, with 22.2 on nine targets. Then McDougald at 22.4 on 16 targets.
At the end of the day, that means that McDougald is really just behind Harrison, a recent All-Pro, since Alexander’s duties are much different as a linebacker (his average depth of target is less than a quarter that of Harrison, McDougald) and Jackson also has a different assignment. Either way, that at least makes McDougald second among all safeties.
Quarterbacks are apparently 6 of 16 for 58 yards with no touchdowns and one interception when throwing passes in McDougald’s direction. That’s the kind of defensive territory we expected for elites like Thomas and it’s what we’ve been seeing from the guy who had to take over that leadership role in the secondary when Earl left.
Which also makes this a good time to mention that McDougald is one year younger than Harrison Smith.
McDougald is in the second year of a three-year, $13.5 million pact he signed in 2018 when the team felt it necessary to insure the backup jobs at free and strong safety, not knowing if Chancellor would be a part of the team moving forward. He wasn’t able to get back on the field and McDougald, who made nine starts and seemed to do an adequate job, ended up starting all 16 games, mostly staying at strong safety. He’s now started 31 straight games for Seattle, including a playoff loss to the Cowboys.
With all the attention on a breakout season by Shaquill Griffin, the constant back-and-forth on the other safety spot, the healthy scratching of Blair, and Tre Flowers just kind of existing while fans focus their attention elsewhere, McDougald has rarely been a topic of conversation. But it’s a fascinating study of a person who went from undrafted out of Kansas in 2013 to a short stint with the Chiefs, 36 starts for the Buccaneers, a reserve role behind two of the greatest safeties of this generation, and now making his mark as perhaps yet another defensive back that is shining under Pete Carroll.
Or maybe it’s just 16 attempts into his 2019 season, he made an outstanding pick that bumps his numbers in the positive direction, and he’ll settle back into just being really dependable. You don’t hear McDougald’s name called out very often for negative reasons.
Today seemed like a great opportunity to call it out for a positive one.