For the third time in franchise history, seven Seattle Seahawks were named to the 2016 Pro Bowl roster, which was announced by the NFL on Tuesday.
Five members of a defense that currently ranks second in the league in both points and yards allowed were honored—defensive end Michael Bennett, linebacker Bobby Wagner, cornerback Richard Sherman and safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor—as were quarterback Russell Wilson and rookie Tyler Lockett, who made the team as a return specialist.
Defensive end Cliff Avril, receiver Doug Baldwin, kicker Steven Hauschka, running back Marshawn Lynch and left tackle Russell Okung were all named Pro Bowl alternates.
The Seahawks also had seven players earn Pro Bowl honors in both 1984 and 2005. This is Thomas's fifth Pro Bowl selection in six seasons, the fourth for Chancellor and Wilson, the third for Sherman, the second for Wagner and the first for Bennett and Lockett. This marks the fourth time in the last five seasons that three members of Seattle's secondary have earned Pro Bowl honors.
The 2016 Pro Bowl takes place on Jan. 31 in Honolulu, one week before Super Bowl 50, meaning Seahawks players, like every player on a postseason contender, would prefer to earn this honor while not actually being available to play in the game. The Pro Bowl will again be an "unconferenced" format with captains Michael Irvin and Jerry Rice drafting teams on Jan. 27.
Wilson, who is enjoying a historical stretch of play, becoming the first quarterback in league history to have five straight games with three or more touchdowns and zero interceptions, has already established career highs in touchdowns (29) and passing yards (3,538), and has a good shot to break the franchise records in both categories. Wilson also leads the league in passer rating (111.4) and is second in yards per attempt (8.5) and completion percentage (68.8).
Bennett, who has a career-best 9.5 sacks this season and ranks seventh in the NFL with 25 quarterback hits, has been a part of one of the league’s best pass-rushing duos along with Avril (7.5 sacks, 24 quarterback hits).
Thomas and Chancellor continue to form one of the best safety duos in football, with Thomas collecting a team-high four interceptions along with 59 tackles, and Chancellor totaling 74 tackles and two interceptions.
Wagner, the captain of this year's defense, has 101 tackles, which ranks second on the team to fellow linebacker K.J. Wright, five quarterback hits and six passes defensed. He also scored his first career touchdown this season, returning a fumble recovery 23 yards for a score against Cincinnati. Wagner is the second players in Seahawks history, along with Terry Beeson (1977-1980) to record four straight 100-tackle seasons.
Sherman has only two interceptions this year, but in a lot of ways is doing more than ever in his fifth season. Primarily a left cornerback throughout his career, Sherman has spent more time shadowing opposing teams' best receivers this season more than in the past, and helped limit the production of some of the league's best receiver like A.J. Green, Dez Bryant and Antonio Brown. Sherman's 26 interceptions and 81 passes defense since 2011 are the most in the NFL over that span, and he is tied for sixth in NFL history for the most interceptions in his first five seasons.
Lockett, a third-round pick out of Kansas State, introduced himself to the NFL with a touchdown on his first career punt return, a 57-yard score against St. Louis. Two weeks later he set a team record with a 105-yard kickoff return touchdown against Chicago. Teams have made more of an effort to avoid Lockett since then, but he still ranks seventh in the NFL with a 25.7 yard-per-return average. Lockett is also a big part of Seattle's offense, contributing 46 catches for 595 yards and six touchdowns, making him one of only two rookies, along with Hall of Famer Gale Sayers, to record six receiving touchdowns and scores on punt and kickoff returns in his rookie season.