When Kam Chancellor leads, other safeties will follow

Posted Aug 18, 2013

The Seahawks have six safeties on their 90-man roster, and Saturday night each made plays to help the team capture its seventh consecutive preseason victory in a home-opener romp over the Broncos.

There’s “safety in numbers,” the hypothesis that, by being part of a larger physical group or mass, an individual is less likely to be the victim of a mishap, accident, attack or other bad event.

Then there is the number of safeties on the Seahawks’ 90-man roster who are capable of making life miserable for opposing quarterbacks, receivers and other assorted ball carriers. That was never more apparent after the havoc dished out in Saturday night’s 40-10 romp over the Denver Broncos by Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas, the starters; Jeron Johnson and Chris Maragos, the backups; and DeShawn Shead and Winston Guy, who comprise the third unit.

Who’s the blame? That would be coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider, and they should have taken a couple of curtain calls after the Seahawks preseason home opener at CenturyLink Field.

Think about it, when Carroll and Schneider arrived as an almost package deal in 2010 to rebuild a roster that had produced nine victories combined in 2008 and 2009, none of the safeties who pinned so much mayhem on the Broncos were even around. The 2010 NFL Draft delivered Thomas (14th pick overall) and Chancellor (fifth round). In 2011, Johnson was signed a rookie free agent and Maragos was added to the practice squad after being released by the San Francisco 49ers and then signed to the 53-man roster. Last year, Guy was drafted in the sixth round and Shead was signed as a rookie free agent.

Against the Broncos, Shead helped finish what Chancellor started, and the others did their parts to varying degrees in and around Chancellor making 11 tackles in the first half and Shead intercepting a pass in the end zone with 4 minutes left in the game.

“That was just us doing our thing, playing as we’re capable of playing,” Thomas, the All-Pro free safety, said in the locker room after the Seahawks had won their franchise-record seventh-consecutive preseason game. “It’s a good group, and we played well tonight.”

That they did, starting with Chancellor, the strong safety who played in the Pro Bowl after the 2011 season and has produced 90-plus tackles in each of the past two seasons.

Facing future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning and the Broncos’ No. 1 offense in a much-anticipated exhibition between a pair of playoff teams from last season, Chancellor had seven tackles in the first quarter – before the bout became a rout. Then, in a five-play sequence to open the second quarter, the 6-foot-3, 232-pound Chancellor made three more tackles. He stopped running back Ronnie Hillman after a 1-yard gain; again after a 3-yard gain; and then teamed with middle linebacker Bobby Wagner to drop Hillman after a 2-yard gain.

“It seemed like a lot of the plays were designed for me to be in on it, so I took advantage of all the opportunities I had,” Chancellor said. “I didn’t realize I was making that many tackles until I got on the sideline. Then I’m just like, ‘Man, I feel like I was just on every play.’ ”

It didn’t just seem like that on the sideline. And Chancellor’s lead-by-example effort was needed after the San Diego Chargers had driven 74 yards in 13 plays on the first series of last week’s preseason opener. Saturday night, the Broncos went three-and-out on the game’s opening possession.

“We just want to play sound discipline ball,” Chancellor said. “That’s one thing we talk about on defense. We want to be one unit, with everybody flying to the ball and our main focus is getting the ball.”

That happened on two of the next three Denver possessions, when linebacker Heath Farwell forced a goal-line fumble that cornerback Brandon Browner first fell on in the end zone and then returned 106 yards for the touchdown; and defensive end O’Brien Schofield had a fumble-forcing sack and recovery.

For Shead, he just wanted to play – but playing behind Thomas and Maragos meaning waiting until deep into the second half of preseason games. Which only made his read-and-react interception of a Brock Osweiler pass in the end zone that much more gratifying.

“I knew he was going to try to get it out,” Shead said of Osweiler’s ill-advised pass into what turned out to be triple coverage. “So when I saw it, I just had to go snatch it.

“We work on that every day – tracking the ball, tracking the quarterback and reading QB intentions. So when I saw that, I just took that angle. We practice that, visualize it.”

All part of, as Chancellor said, taking advantage of the opportunities that come your way – even if you have to force the issue at times. It’s not easy being the backup to Maragos, who is the backup to Thomas. Or for Guy, the backup to Johnson, who is the backup to Chancellor. But it can be rewarding.

“I’m very fortunate to be a part of this secondary,” said Shead, who originally was signed as a cornerback and still plays the position on occasion. “I get to learn from the best of the best and grow as a player. So I’m very fortunate to be here and happy to play with these guys.”

After taking over for Chancellor, Johnson had four tackles. He was replaced by Guy, who had two tackles and came oh-so-close to blocking a field-goal attempt.

“We always preach to them, ‘It’s next man up,’ ” Chancellor said. “Anything can happen to the guy in front of you, so you’ve always got to prepare as a starter. And that’s what all our backups do. They all compete well and they’ve all got the same focus as the starters.

“So when they get in, they do things like they did tonight.”