With Seahawks training camp kicking off later this month, Seahawks.com is taking a look at 10 of the most intriguing storylines, position battles and players heading into the 2022 season. Today, we take a look at linebacker, where Jordyn Brooks is looking to build off a big 2021 season, and where Cody Barton is preparing to step into a bigger role in 2022. Check back Thursday when we look at the competition for the No. 3 receiver spot.
For the past three years, coaches and teammates have praised the play of linebacker Cody Barton, and for the past three years, he has regularly shown up as a playmaker in training camp and the preseason.
But for the past three years, Barton, whose most natural position is middle linebacker has also been behind a future Hall of Famer in Bobby Wagner on the depth chart, and for two of those seasons behind K.J. Wright at Seattle's other off-ball linebacker spot.
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The Seahawks released Wagner in a salary cap related move this offseason, however, a year after Wright went unsigned in free agency, meaning that for the first time in his career, Barton has a clear path to earning a starting job. That's not to say the starting middle linebacker spot next to Jordyn Brooks will be handed to Barton, he will have to compete for it in training camp, with the stiffest competition likely coming from free-agent addition Iggy Iyiegbuniwe, a longtime special teams standout who signed with Seattle in part for the chance to compete for more playing time on defense.
"I'm very excited to compete," Barton said earlier this offseason. "I'm looking forward to this. I've waited three years now for this, so I'm just very excited for the opportunity to take it and do the most I can with it."
While Barton has been stuck on the depth chart behind a couple of all-time great Seahawks linebackers, he has played well in limited opportunities when they have arrived, most notably at the end of last season when he played two games in place of an injured Wagner, recording 18 tackles.
"His effort and energy (stand out)," defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt said. "He's really, really good in the pass game, he's always had a great awareness for that—he's got background being a safety growing up, and then obviously working his way down into the box. So you see some of those things where there's awareness and picking up pass routes, and communication with guys on the back end. I'm really excited for him for the opportunity for him it's just the opportunity being there. The effort and the attention to detail for Cody has always been a part of it, but now he has a great opportunity, and he's really had a really nice spring so far."
With the Seahawks moving to a 3-4 scheme, Barton, or whoever else wins that job, will be one of two inside linebackers along with Brooks, who last season set a franchise record with 184 tackles, and who will be taking on a bigger leadership role on defense in Wagner's absence, taking over the role of being the defensive player who will have the headset in his helmet to communicate with Hurtt. And for as good as Brooks was last season, his first as an every-down player, the Seahawks are expecting even more as he steps into a bigger role.
"He's just stepped to the front, realized the opportunity is here," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "We need him, and he's the play caller. Along with that, it just has traditionally been that role, he senses it, and he's done a marvelous job, not with what he says, but with what he does and how he approaches this work. He's worked every day, giving you everything he has every step of the way. I mean, he has been a beautiful leader in that regard, and we couldn't ask for more."
With the switch to a 3-4, the Seahawks will now have outside linebacker playing in roles similar to that of defensive ends in past Seattle defenses. Those players will have important roles in the run game, and to a lesser extent, pass-coverage responsibilities, but one of the primary roles of an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense will be to get after the quarterback, something the Seahawks did often ask of the strongside linebacker in their previous scheme.
And when it comes to that group, the Seahawks are excited about the speed, talent and depth of a group that features the likes of Darrell Taylor, free-agent addition Uchenna Nwosu, and draft picks Boye Mafe and Tyreke Smith.
During our 2022 12 Tour, presented by Safeway, we visited Eastern Washington making multiple stops to hang out with the 12s, which included walking in the Yakima Pride Parade, a Juneteenth celebration, an NFL Flag tournament, and more.