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Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright Play Linebacker ‘The Way You’re Supposed To Do It’
ORLANDO, Fla. — Carolina Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis knows a thing or two about mastering the position at a high-level in the NFL.
With 12 years of experience and production under his belt, Davis has been a key member in the Panthers’ defensive dominance the last few seasons alongside four-time Pro Bowler Luke Kuechly. They’ve helped Carolina become one of the best defensive units, especially in 2015, when the team made an appearance in Super Bowl 50 against the Denver Broncos.
In the Pacific Northwest, the Seahawks have a similar situation with linebackers Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright, who have been at the forefront of Seattle’s defense on their journey to five consecutive playoff appearances, including a Super Bowl title in 2013. All players in the NFL are unique, but Davis admires the way Wagner and Wright take the field and guide the unit.
“I think when you look at K.J. and Bobby, by the way they work on the field, you can tell that those guys have been around each other for a long time,” Davis said following Day 2 of NFC Pro Bowl practices.
Neither Wagner or Wright have been in the league as long as Davis, but their chemistry alongside one another in Seattle on and off the field has been more than formidable. With communication, linebackers need to pick up calls, receivers, tight ends and running backs while monitoring opposing quarterbacks, an aspect of the game that's extremely crucial for anybody at the position. It doesn’t come easy, though.
“It definitely takes time, you want to get to a point where you know and expect a person to be in a certain place and know that he’s going to be there and have that confidence of being there,” Davis explained. “You can see it on film (with Wagner and Wright). It’s there for those guys and they’re a big part of the reason Seattle’s defense has been so good.”
Before facing Green Bay in December, the Seahawks didn’t lose a game by more than 10 points for an NFL record 95-straight games. They went 98 consecutive contests either leading or being within one score in the fourth quarter of games before facing Tampa Bay. They also led the league in scoring defense for four-consecutive years (2012-2015), becoming the first team in the Super Bowl era to accomplish that feat.
“It means a lot, we pride ourselves on not putting points on the board and not being scored on,” Wagner said earlier this season. “That’s shows the consistency of doing that over the years."
Both Wagner, who’s enjoying his third-straight trip to the Pro Bowl, and Wright, who’s earned his first Pro Bowl nod in his six-year career, finished in the top-15 for tackles across the league in the regular season, with Wagner setting a new franchise-record at 167 and becoming the first Seahawks player to own the NFL-tackles crown. Wright’s mark of 126 was a career-high, along with his four sacks.
Looking at the Seahawks defense, they use a base 4-3 scheme (four defensive linemen, three linebackers) at times just like the Panthers, but Davis mentioned how that actually gives some outside linebackers like Wright a disadvantage in getting Pro Bowl honors.
“It’s one of those things with K.J. and myself where we kind of get caught up in the numbers,” Davis said. “When you think about the outside linebacker spot and who gets those positions, it usually goes to the 3-4 guys. They don’t really show a lot of love for the 4-3 guys, so for both of us to be here today, I think that really speaks to how we’re evolving as a position group. Hopefully someday they’ll create a position where it’s 4-3 guys and 3-4 outside linebackers that can co-exist in the Pro Bowl.
“We don’t get a high sack total, but we have other stats. We have interceptions, we have tackles — and tackles are very important, I don’t think people put a lot of stock in making tackles. If you don’t make tackles, then teams continue drives and score touchdowns. I think more stock needs to be put into that and more attention needs to be paid to it. At some point, people are going to have to start paying attention to the 4-3 outside linebackers.”
Hopefully they will, but regardless for Wright, along with Wagner, their names can only continue to grow from this point forward on the national stage as one of the most consistent and feared linebacker duos across the sport.
“I sort of look at the way me and Luke have been able to play as a unit, and that’s what I see in those guys and they have fun doing it,” Davis said. “They play fast and do it the way you’re supposed to do it at the position and I definitely feel like they have the potential to be the best tandem in the league.”Read