Surgery went well.. The doctor gave me great news! Thank you all for your prayers— KJ (@KJ_WRIGHT34) December 12, 2013
So ready to come back for the playoffs and finish the season the wright way— KJ (@KJ_WRIGHT34) December 12, 2013
When John Schneider mentioned in an offseason interview that fans may have to see some of their favorite players leave in a future free agency because there is no way that they will be able to pay everyone, I immediately thought that K.J. Wright was going to be one of those players.
On a team full of absolute ballers, some may write off Wright as a possible future sacrifice. He is a 4-3 OLB with mediocre pass rush skills in a pass happy NFL. He is not ridiculously athletic, which unfortunately limits his potential and he doesn’t create a lot of turnovers.
Additionally, Wright will probably never be selected to a Pro Bowl. He plays on a defense full of stars so he is not going to get an insane amount of tackles. He also does not rush the passer which puts him at a severe disadvantage when comparing him statistically to OLBs that play in a 3-4 defense. Just because he may never be considered a Pro Bowler, however, does not mean that he is not one of the better OLBs in the NFL. He is, in my opinion.
He is, naturally, also one the best linebackers on the team. Bobby Wagner and Bruce Irvin get a lot of the hype because they are high draft picks, who are ridiculously athletic, have tons of upside, produce at a high level, and are good players in their own right. However, I would say they still are not as good as Wright.
What makes Wright so good? First, he always knows where the ball is. Russell Wilson, Richard Sherman, Doug Baldwin, Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor all have the reputation of putting in long hours of film study. I would wager that Wright puts in just as many hours as those guys because he is a psychic on game day.
Wright’s psychic ability is on full display whenever an opposing offense tries to run a screen. Here is an example of Wright blowing up a New Orleans’ screen pass.
And another one:
I would not be surprised if on the field Wright is one of those players that is yelling, "WATCH THE SCREEN, WATCH THE SCREEN!" when the opposing offense lines up in their formation. Which then leads the entire opposing offensive linemen to think, "How the hell does this guy know that we are running a screen every time?" Because he us a psychic, that is why.
His psychic ability also makes other players on the team better. Presnap, Wright is the one that makes the calls for the front seven. He is always making sure that everyone is aligned properly based on the offensive formation. Now that Wright is out, it will be up to Wagner and Smith to make the calls for the front seven to make sure that everyone sees the same thing.
Furthermore, where Wright separates himself from other LBs is through his coverage ability. He is one of the best coverage LBs in the NFL. He can man up on RBs, TEs and even slot receivers. Yes, I said slot receivers.
Here is an example of Wright, against the Rams in 2012, manning up on Danny Amendola and eliminating him from the play.
Sam Bradford knew presnap that he has his best WR lined up on a LB in man coverage. He looked to hit Amendola on the out route initially but Wright is all over him which forces Bradford to have to go second read which gives Chris Clemons enough time to get to the QB.
Wright’s coverage ability was perhaps best displayed when he was tasked with the responsibility of covering the best TE in the league, Jimmy Graham.
On 4th and 10 from the Seahawks’ 36 yard line, the Saints broke the huddle in "11" personnel -1 TE, 1 RB, 3 WRs – and the Seahawks countered with their nickel package. However, the Saints lined up Graham outside, a spot that is usually reserved for WRs, which forced Wright to essentially have to become a CB for a play. The Saints tried to exploit the mismatch of Graham vs. Wright on the outside but as we are all starting to find out, there is no such thing as a mismatch when Wright is involved.
Wright played this play as well as any LB could have played it. He lined up with inside leverage to take away inside route, shuffled his feet until he recognized it was a go route, turned his hips, didn’t panic, and got inside position to block Graham from making the catch. Not bad for a LB.
Lastly, what makes Wright one of the best LBs in the league is his tackling ability. There has never been a good LB in the NFL that was a poor tackler. It is what they are on the field to do. Wright doesn’t make many very big hits but he is as sure as a tackler as they come.
John Carlson, get some:
Steven Jackson, get some:
It is a shame that Wright is out, likely, six weeks with a broken foot.
With that being the situation for the foreseeable future - perhaps the whole season, including the playoffs, the Seahawks may make slight changes to their scheme to make up for the loss of coverage excellence. They may stick to coverages that have Kam Chancellor manned up on the TE in Cover 1 or possibly play more Cover 3 zone. They may even try to incorporate some Big Nickel packages with an extra SS. They also could just do a business as usual approach and play the same way regardless of who is in there. They run with that strategy a lot.
For the next few weeks at least, though, it is time to see what life without Wright looks like. Let's hope Wright's optimistic tweets of a return by the Playoffs prove accurate.
Big up to Danny for the GIFS!