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2015 Seahawks Preview: Who Will Back Up The NFL's Best Safety Duo?

Jeron Johnson, who backed up Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor in 2014, signed with the Washington Redskins this offseason, leaving a spot for the Seahawks to fill at backup safety.

Oh how time flies. Scroll down a Seahawks roster and next to Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor there is now a 6, indicating they are heading into their sixth season together in Seattle. It really doesn't seem like that long ago that the two were rookies and Thomas was convinced Chancellor was lost when he walked into a safeties meeting for the first time—surely a man that big was looking for the linebackers or defensive ends.

But the calendar doesn't lie, the NFL's best safety duo is indeed heading into its sixth season, and fifth with both starting together. And while watching those two make spectacular plays and big hits is nothing new, it's really something that shouldn't be taken for granted. Thomas, a four-time Pro Bowler and three-time first-team All-Pro, is considered by many to be the game's best free safety, while Chancellor, a three-time Pro Bowler and two-time second-team All-Pro, is considered by many to be the game's best strong safety. It's something special, and something that again will be a treat to watch in 2015. Combine them with cornerback Richard Sherman and Seattle's secondary is something rarely, if ever, seen in the NFL. Since the AP All-Pro teams added a second team in 1972, only four teams have had three defensive backs earn All-Pro honors in the same seasons: the 1995 San Francisco 49ers (with Pete Carroll as defensive coordinator), 2002 Philadelphia Eagles and the 2013 and 2014 Seahawks.

Returning starters:FS Earl Thomas, SS Kam Chancellor
Additions:SS Ryan Murphy (seventh-round pick), SS Keenan Lambert (UDFA), SS Ronald Martin (UDFA), FS Triston Wade (UDFA)

Key losses:

Jeron Johnson (free agency)

Last year:

Initial 53-man roster included four safeties: Thomas, Chancellor, Johnson, and DeShawn Shead

What's At Stake In Training Camp

While the starting jobs aren't up for grabs, there should be plenty of competition going on for backup jobs. (And yes, I know, always compete, but sorry, nobody is unseating Chancellor or Thomas this year). With Jeron Johnson leaving in free agency this offseason, and Chris Maragos leaving the year before, the Seahawks have lost their top two backups over the past two offseasons. DeShawn Shead has started games for Chancellor in the past and been solid, and he worked in Thomas' spot in offseason workouts in May and June while Thomas recovered from shoulder surgery, so Shead as of now looks to be the top backup in addition to being a key special teams contributor. Shead's versatility—he also plays cornerback—almost gives the Seahawks an extra roster spot since he can play two positions.

"He's a crucial player for us," Carroll said of Shead. "He's a terrific player for us. What a great role guy for us. We've just watched him grow with us, from practice squad, in and out and all that kind of stuff. He's become a guy that we can rely on to play both safety spots, he can play corner if we need him. It's a tremendous growth we've seen in him… He's really become a real asset to us and we're thrilled about his play."

Considering that all of backups mentioned above—Johnson, Shead and Maragos—came into the league undrafted—it would be foolish to overlook any of this year's UDFAs, a group that includes Chancellor’s half-brother, Keenan Lambert, Steven Terrell, or seventh-round pick Ryan Murphy. Another name to watch in camp is Dion Bailey, an undrafted rookie last year who showed flashes in camp before an ankle injury slowed his progress. Even if none of those players can unseat Shead as the top backup, there's likely room for at least one more safety on the roster, so the competition should be fun to watch.

A player-by-player look at Seattle's safeties ahead of 2015 training camp.


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