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His big chance has arrived
When Kam Chancellor looks at Red Bryant, he sees opportunity.
Say what? Chancellor is a second-year strong safety, while Bryant is a fourth-year defensive end. But when Bryant got his chance to step into the Seahawks’ starting lineup last season, he stepped up – anchoring a line that helped the defense rank second in the league against the run at midseason, before Bryant went down with a season-ending knee injury in the Week 8 loss to the Raiders in Oakland and run defense followed.
Now, it’s Chancellor’s turn, as he has stepped in as the starter to replace Lawyer Milloy.
“It feels good to come out and compete with the (starters),” Chancellor said. “I feel like I worked hard for this opportunity and I’m just going to take advantage of it.”
You notice he didn’t say “try” to take advantage of it.
Chancellor’s confidence is another attribute in his impressive total package, and it’s rooted in the success he had at Virginia Tech – which can be traced to the success he had as a quarterback at Maury High School. As a senior, he passed for more than 2,000 yards and ran for another 500 in leading the team to a 10-2 record and the Virginia state playoffs.
He began his career at Virginia Tech in that role, but moved to cornerback as a freshman, started at rover as a sophomore and then moved to free safety as a junior.
“I’m very versatile,” he said on draft day. “In order to do that, coaches have to see versatility.”
The Seahawks have had big plans for the big safety (6 feet 3, 227 pounds) since they selected Chancellor in the fifth-round of the NFL Draft last year. After playing primarily on special teams in the first four games, coach Pete Carroll used the team’s bye-week practices to take a longer look at Chancellor at safety – and he liked what he saw.
In the post-bye game against the Bears in Chicago, Chancellor played strong safety in the nickel. That allowed Milloy to step up and fill a linebacker’s role, and collect two of the four sacks he had last season. Chancellor continued to be used in that role the rest of the season, notching his first NFL defensive tackle and also a sack in the game against the Raiders in Oakland and then registering a career-high six tackles in the Week 9 loss to the New York Giants.
“I feel like every opportunity they gave me last year I kind of took advantage of it,” he said. “I came in and got some good plays, some good hits.”
Chancellor also continued to play on special teams, finishing with 11 coverage tackles to rank second on the club behind Matt McCoy (19).
Obviously, there’s a lot to like about Chancellor, and it starts with the most obvious asset: His size.
“It’s nice to have that strong safety back there who’s a hitter,” defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said. “When you’re 227 pounds and can lay the wood, we’ve got to take advantage of that.”
Milloy was the leader of the Seahawks’ secondary last season, and also mentored rookie free safety Earl Thomas. Now it’s Chancellor who will be paired with Thomas, a first-round draft choice last year.
“When I first came in, our chemistry was just there,” Chancellor said. “We became best of friends. So I think we’re going to work well together.”
Thomas as the ultimate centerfielder of a free safety with his instincts and speed; Chancellor as the prototypical strong safety with his size and fondness for dishing out big hits.
“When Kam first came in he was learning the whole system, so it was great to have guys like Lawyer and (former defensive back) Jordan Babineaux around who really helped him out,” Bradley said. “You can just tell in this camp that Kam is very poised, he knows he’s the guy back there for us.
“He’s a very confident player and he’s going to be a really good leader. That’s what you need back there.”
Just like the player whose lead Chancellor followed as a rookie. Milloy might be gone, but his presence lingers in the tricks of the trade he imparted to Chancellor, as well as Thomas.
“Lawyer taught me a lot – on the field, off the field – just knowing how to handle certain situations,” Chancellor said. “So I learned a lot from Lawyer. And what a great guy to learn from.
“And then just getting into the games as rookie – and knowing the tempo, the speed, just the intensity in the game – that helped a lot, too.”
Chancellor the high school quarterback also has helped in the development of Chancellor the NFL strong safety.
“I think like a quarterback, knowing that a guy will try to look you off,” he said.
Now, there’s no looking back for Chancellor.