It was only nine months ago that Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman stood at a podium and lobbied for his team's linebackers, and middle linebacker Bobby Wagner in particular, to get more recognition.
Seattle's "Legion of Boom" secondary garnered plenty of headlines as the Seahawks allowed the fewest points in the NFL for three straight seasons, and an improved pass rush featuring Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril was rightly given a lot of credit for Seattle's success on the way to a Super Bowl XLVIII victory. But the linebackers were often the forgotten men in the middle of the NFL's best defense.
"Obliviously the last couple of years, our linebackers have been a little overshadowed," Sherman said last fall.
That, of course, began to change in a big way last season. Wagner returned from a turf toe injury to lead a dominant stretch of defense over the final six games, and was so good that he earned his first Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors despite missing five games. He also even received one MVP vote and was recently named one of the top 100 players in the league by the NFL Network. K.J. Wright, long an underappreciated and versatile part of Seattle's defense, earned a multi-year contract extension late in the season, and Bruce Irvin, in his second season playing strongside linebacker, took big steps forward at his new position.
Seahawks linebackers still aren't as celebrated as the Legion of Boom, but their days of being overlooked are long gone. So where do the Seahawks stand at linebacker heading into the 2015 season? Let's take a look.
|Returning starters:||K.J. Wright|
|Additions:||Tyrell Adams (UDFA)|
Quayshawn Nealy (UDFA)
Alex Singleton (UDFA)
Eric Pinkins (moved from DB)
Malcolm Smith (free agency)
Initial 53-man roster included seven linebackers: Wagner, Wright, Irvin, Malcolm Smith, Mike Morgan, Brock Coyle and Kevin Pierre-Louis.
What's at stake in training camp:
With all three starters returning, the Seahawks are in pretty good shape at linebacker—hence them not drafting any—but there is still plenty of work to be done to sort out the depth behind those starters.
Malcolm Smith, who signed with the Raiders this offseason, was a valuable backup who could play multiple positions. Without him, the Seahawks need to find somebody who can be a viable starter should injuries take their toll at a position that's physical nature tends to lead to a few missed games here and there. The Seahawks are very high on the potential of Kevin Pierre-Louis, a fourth-round pick in 2014 who finished last season on injured reserve. He could not only be a valuable backup, but also help replace the loss of Smith on special teams.
Another player worth watching in camp will be Eric Pinkins, a former cornerback and safety who switched to strongside linebacker this offseason. If Pinkins can make a smooth transition to linebacker, he would offer a lot of athletic upside both to the position group and on special teams. And finally, don't count out the undrafted rookies. As Brock Coyle showed a year ago, and as others have at various positions in recent years, undrafted rookies are given a very real chance to make the roster.
A player-by-player look at Seattle's linebackers ahead of the Seahawks' 2015 training camp.