Now that the 2021 season has officially come to an end with Super Bowl LVI in the books, it's time to look ahead to an offseason that will help shape the Seahawks' fortunes in 2022. With free agency kicking off next month and the draft following in April, Seahawks.com is taking a position-by-position look at where the team stands. So far we've covered the offensive line, the defensive line, and tight end, and today we turn our attention to linebacker. Check back Monday for a look at where things stand at receiver.
While last season represented a big change for the Seahawks defense, which played without K.J. Wright for the first time in a decade, linebacker was still a strong position for the Seahawks thanks to the play of perennial Pro-Bowler Bobby Wagner and second-year linebacker Jordyn Brooks.
Wagner, who made the Pro Bowl for an eighth straight year and was also named second-team All-Pro, led the NFL in tackles for much of the season and broke his own franchise single-season tackle record with two games left in the season. Unfortunately, an injury early in Week 17 caused Wagner to miss almost two full games, and as a result, to lose that franchise record to Brooks, who finished with 183 tackles, the second most in the NFL.
Brooks, a 2020 first-round pick, did more than just accumulate big tackle numbers in his first season as a full-time starter, he also led the Seahawks with 10 tackles for loss, and perhaps most encouraging, he improved as the season went along, particularly in pass defense when it came to the screen game, something that was an issue for him and the rest of the defense early on.
A look back at some of the best photos of Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner from the 2021 season.
Question to answer this offseason: How will a change at defensive coordinator change things for the linebackers?
The Seahawks made changes to their defensive front last season, using more 3-4 looks that featured five players on the line of scrimmage with the likes of Benson Mayowa and Carlos Dunlap II playing the type of hybrid linebacker/pass-rush role that is common in a 3-4 defense.
With Clint Hurtt, whose background prior to Seattle is in 3-4 defenses, the expectation is that the Seahawks will use even more of those looks in 2022. Hurtt said earlier this month that any changes in scheme shouldn't require an overhaul in terms of personnel, but there is always some turnover in any offseason, and it will be interesting to see if the Seahawks look to add more pass-rush/outside linebacker hybrids who can thrive in Hurtt's defense.
Another question will be how, if at all, things change for the off-ball linebackers, Wagner and Brooks. There has always been a lot of similarities between the middle and weakside linebacker roles in Seattle's defense, but a shift to more 3-4 principles, should Hurtt indeed go down that route, could change things up a bit for those two spots.
Biggest reason for optimism in 2022: Jordyn Brooks' upside.
OK, the presence and play of a future Hall of Famer is probably always the biggest reason for optimism for as long as Bobby Wagner wears a Seahawks uniform, but looking beyond the most obvious answer, the Seahawks have every reason to be thrilled about the future of Brooks based off what he showed last season.
After playing a part-time role as a rookie, Brooks was outstanding in his second season, and as mentioned above, he showed a lot of growth throughout the year. That ability to recognize areas of his game that needed work, address them on the fly midseason and improve considerably showed that Brooks is a player who, despite setting a franchise record for tackles, can and should come back even better in 2022.
Another encouraging development late in the season was the play of Cody Barton, who filled in at middle linebacker for Bobby Wagner in the final two games, recording 18 tackles while looking comfortable and aggressive in the spot. Barton has made a few spot starts in his career at weakside and strongside linebacker, but those two games were his first regular-season action at his most natural position, and it showed up.