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Even in Seahawks secondary there are primary concerns
After what his Legion of Boom unit did during the Seahawks’ run to the franchise’s first Super Bowl championship in 2013, what more could defensive backs coach Kris Richard ask?
If you have to ask, you don’t know Richard – or the other assistant coaches on Pete Carroll’s staff. Before they began preparing for the NFL free-agency period or the May 8-10 NFL Draft, the first order of business for the coaches after the dust settled from the 43-8 beat down of the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII on Feb. 2 was their self-scouting sessions.
There was, obviously, a lot to like about the Seahawks’ secondary last season.
Individually, cornerback Richard Sherman and free safety Earl Thomas were voted first team All-Pro, with strong safety Kam Chancellor garnering second-team honors. The trio also was voted to the Pro Bowl, but couldn’t play in the NFL all-star game because it was preparing for the Super Bowl. Sherman also led the league with eight interceptions, while Thomas was the only player in the NFL with at least 100 tackles and five interceptions.
Collectively, the Seahawks led the league in interceptions (28, the third-highest total in franchise history); average passing yards allowed (172.0, second-best for a 16-game season in franchise history to the 166.3 by the 1992 team); and opposing passer rating (63.4, with the Buffalo Bills next-best at 74.2).
“First of all, I definitely was happy with the overall execution – the broad spectrum of our level of execution and level of competitiveness that we’ve come to demand of ourselves,” Richard said. “I think for the most part, that was done at a high level on a consistent basis.”
Not to mention an opportunistic level as Sherman returned an interception for a game-tying touchdown late in the fourth quarter of the Week 4 overtime win against the Texans in Houston and then had his “Immaculate Deflection” in the end zone to ice the victory over the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship game. Chancellor had a 14-tackle performance in the divisional playoff victory over the New Orleans Saints and added an interception and an early tempo-setting hit in the Super Bowl. Thomas had double-digit tackles in four games, nine in two others and three of his interceptions came in the end zone or near the goal line.
|DEFENSIVE BACKS: 2014|
2013 Significant statistics:
Things won’t be status quo in the secondary, of course, because the unit lost cornerbacks Brandon Browner and Walter Thurmond in free agency. Byron Maxwell stepped into the starting lineup on the right side in December, while Browner was injured and Thurmond was serving a league-imposed suspension, and responded with four interceptions in five regular-season starts. During that period, Jeremy Lane also moved into the nickel back spot.
“We’ve got some younger guys that we’re obviously going to be looking to as far as having a much bigger role – primarily Jeremy Lane and (injured 2013 draft choice) Tharold Simon,” Richard said. “Again, here we go. Next man up. Let’s go.”
That’s nothing new. Sherman entered the lineup in 2011 as a third-option injury replacement on the left side – and no one in the NFL has more than his 20 interceptions since then. Maxwell followed the same path to the starting unit on the right side last season.
“They need to take ownership, again, which for the most part they pretty much have,” Richard said of the increased roles for Maxwell, Lane and even the versatile DeShawn Shead, who can play corner as well as safety.
“That’s the beauty of the group. Hence the term ‘Legion,’ it’s many, more than one.”
But back to what Richard wants to see from his new-look unit in 2014.
“Now, where we need to improve obviously is just in the efficiency of a lot of our movement and in turn decision-making, because decision-making in turn leads to body movement,” Richard said. “So I’d just like to see some things done just a little more efficiently in regards to technique and decision-making.”
In other words, even the best can get better.
“Now we’re battling to see the 2014 edition,” Richard said. “What’s done is done. That’s over with. It’s this year’s edition. What’s next?”