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Seahawks fans need to stop worrying about Cody Barton

Seattle Seahawks v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Training camp for the Seattle Seahawks is close enough that fans are beginning to get excited, with the preseason opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers set for five weeks from Saturday. In the meantime there will, of course, be speculation regarding what the season holds for the team, as well as which players will excel and which players will prove to be liabilities during the 2022 season.

One of the names about which fans have expressed the most concern is fourth year linebacker Cody Barton, who is set to take on a much bigger role following the departure of six-time All Pro, eight time Pro Bowl middle linebacker Bobby Wagner. Wagner, of course, signed with the division rival and defending Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams this offseason after the team forgot to mention to him that he wouldn’t be back, allowing him to learn of his impending departure from his friends and contacts around the league rather than from team management.

Bringing the focus back to Barton, however, the concern among fans is that he could prove to be a liability at linebacker if he is given significant snaps for the defense during the 2022 season. Barton has never seen extended playing time on defense during his career, having logged just 454 defensive snaps since the Seahawks traded up in the third round to select him with the 88th overall pick in the 2019 draft.

The fear, of course, is rooted in the shift to a 3-4 defense that, in theory, would put two off ball linebackers on the field on plays. However, while that is certainly true from a theoretical standpoint, the simple fact of the matter is that the NFL of today is a league of substitutions and subpackages, specifically of nickel and dime packages.

To illustrate in part why Barton’s playing time should not be as much of a concern as fans are making it, one of the best places to turn to the data to understand the issue is to look at the playing time for the defensive front seven for the 2021 Chicago Bears. Current Seahawks associate head coach Sean Desai was, of course, the defensive coordinator for the Bears last season and worked with new Seattle defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt under Vic Fangio in 2015 and 2016.

In any case, the Bears defense was on the field for 1,058 snaps during the 2021 season, and here are the snap counts for the players listed as members of the defensive front seven:

  • LB Roquan Smith: 1,009
  • LB Robert Quinn: 755
  • LB Alec Ogletree: 697
  • LB Trevis Gipson: 489
  • LB Khalil Mack: 315
  • LB Bruce Irvin: 173
  • LB Jeremiah Attaochu: 129
  • LB Christian Jones: 115
  • LB Sam Kamara: 108
  • LB Cassius Marsh: 97
  • LB Danny Trevathan: 77
  • LB Charles Snowden: 6
  • LB Caleb Johnson: 5
  • DE Bilal Nichols: 678
  • DT Angelo Blackson: 583
  • NT Eddie Goldman: 337
  • DT Akiem Hicks: 304
  • NT Khyiris Tonga: 216
  • DT Mario Edwards: 212
  • DT Margus Hunt: 150
  • DE Ledarius Mack: 24
  • NT Damion Square: 5
  • DT LaCale London: 1

That’s a whole lot of numbers that don’t really show a whole lot regarding usage over the course of the season by themselves. Combined together, however, they start to shed light on why fears of Barton seeing extended playing time are likely overblown.

Specifically, as noted above, the Chicago defense was on the field for 1,058 snaps during the 2021 season. Thus, if the defensive front seven included seven players on each play, one would expect the total snaps for the members of the group to total up to 7,406 snaps played. In reality, the members of the defensive front seven for the Bears combined for 6,485 snaps during the 2021 campaign.

It doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to take the next step and crunch the numbers to come up with the following: 6,485 snaps played/1,058 snaps = 6.13 defensive front seven players per snap.

Long story short, the Seahawks probably aren’t going to have four linebackers on the field for the majority of defensive snaps. It’s likely not going to be the outside linebackers like Uchenna Nwosu and Darrell Taylor who come off the field when the team shifts to a nickel package in passing situations simply because passing situations are when the pass rush they provide is most needed. Similarly, the coaching staff isn’t likely to take 2020 first round pick Jordyn Brooks off the field and leave 2019 third round selection Barton on the field in subpackages given the fact that Brooks has played over Barton for the entirety of the time both have been on the team.

What it comes down to is that Barton likely won’t be on the field for enough snaps for his performance to be the deciding factor in the performance of the 2022 Seahawks defense. He’ll certainly have some good plays and he’ll certainly have some plays where fans will wish he’d performed better. However, at the end of the day, the reality is that he won’t likely be on the field enough to be the death dart that brings down the hopes and dreams of improved defensive performance this season.