According to NFL.com, the Seattle Seahawks allowed 332.2 yards per game last year on defense placing them in ninth overall in the league. The defense held opposing runners to an average of 112 yards per game while holding opposing quarterbacks to an average of 219, placing the Hawks, 15th and 11th overall, respectively. The defense was able to apply pressure on the QBs, and had a season total of 33 sacks. I should also mention that their secondary managed to create 22 turnovers (interceptions).
Overall, based on those stats, the Seahawks defense fared pretty well in 2011, beating the odds stacked against them. They were young, many got shoved onto IR, but they stepped up and made a name for themselves.
The Defensive line for the Hawks was huge. Chris Clemons, Brandon Mebane, Alan Branch and Bryant. Clemons had another solid year as he added another 11 sacks to his resume. Brandon Mebane and Alan Branch kept things bunched in the middle and stood up alot of running backs. Bryant became a beast this year, and the front office noticed, re-signing him to a multi-year contract. These monstrosities didn’t just stop the run, they annhilated it, only allowing 8 runs of 20+ yardage. All four will return this next year to resume their assault on opposing teams.
So far in free agency, the Seahawks have brought in Jason Jones, a highly tuned motor that should figure to start between Mebane and Bryant. With DE Dexter Davis coming off of IR, the Hawks have plenty of weapons. This is one area in which the Hawks are looking at some upgrades. In 2011 the Hawks defense ranked 19th in total sacks throughout the league, so finding a way to get some more pressure on the QB should be a high priority. One logical option in the first round of this years draft is (DT) Fletcher Cox out of Mississippi State. However Cox has gone as high as the top 10 on some mock drafts which means Seattle would need to move up a good deal in order to land him, or hope that he somehow falls in the Seahawks lap.
The Linebackers were definitely the weak link in the Seahawks defense in 2011. They weren’t horrible by any means, just need to improve the most on the defensive side of the ball. Hawthorne once again took the lead tackling role, nailing down 115 tackles. He also accounted for three intereceptions, returning one for a TD. Hill managed 89 tackles, while making a comeback after being injured last year. After shipping Curry to the Raiders, Wright stepped in and made the most of his rookie campaign making 65 tackles in 12 games.
Overall, the linebackers looked slow and out of place last season. Linebacker has been the topic of conversation since Pete Carroll told the press he fully intends to get faster and better at that position. David Hawthorne took to free agency and inked a deal down in the bayou to help the Saints out. Hill also tested the Free Agency waters, but ultimately came back to Seattle riding another one year deal, as did Matt McCoy who is returning from IR and signed a one year deal. The Seahawks still look to fill the big shoes in MLB since the departure of Lofta Tatupu, and may have done that in Free Agency. They agreed to a deal with MLB Barret Ruud(6’2, 241). In the Draft the Seahawks might have a shot at a MLB from Boston College standout Luke Kuechly with their first pick.
The defensive backfield was the most intruiging part of the defense this year. The Seahawks traded the longtime starter Kelly Jennings, and new additions were installed. Marcus Trufant provided the team with one interception, but was moved to the IR early in the season. Walter Thurmond filled in briefly before his trip to the IR, making room for the rookie from Stanford, Sherman to finish the season. Sherman held his own and managed 4 interceptions to help the Hawks out. On the opposite side of the field, Brandon Browner was making a new start in the NFL after playing in the CFL. Browner snagged six interceptions, returning two of them for TDs to help the Hawks.
The safeties were phenomenal and were ultimately asked to attend the Pro Bowl based on their performance. Earl Thomas accounted for 98 tackles and two interceptions while Kam Chancellor racked up 97 tackles and notched four interceptions. Both Thomas and Chancellor are considered to be rising stars and one of the best safety duos in the league. Sherman and Browner both appear to be in great position to rise again and help the Hawks antagonize opposing receivers. Thurmond coming off IR, as well as the re-signing of Trufant will solidify the backfield, and make it one of the most feared.
With the Draft coming up here in less than a month, there are quite a few players the Hawks could be looking at. Pete Carroll has stressed the need to strenghten and speed up the linebackers, its really unknown who he is looking at on his draft board. He’s proven that he can make picks like K.J. Wright, a fourth round, and Richard Sherman who is a fifth round, and turn them into very viable starters. But this is a very young defense, and only has room to grow and flourish. Minimalizing penalties and trusting each other will make this defense one to contend with for years to come.