As per last year, I’ll be sharing projections for every team in the NFL. I use past production in specific roles for each team’s scheme to work out realistic production profiles. You can see how accurate I was in 2017 in my IDP Projection Marking series.
Remember the days when the Seahawks had the most ferocious defense in football and it powered them to a Super Bowl title? Those days feel a long time ago but it’s a great reminder that innovation in this league only buys you a handful of years at best. The combination of coaches and talent leaving the team and other teams taking inspiration and then creating countermeasures happens so fast.
That doesn’t mean the Seahawks are resting on their laurels and not innovating anymore but the 4-3 under/over system that relies on Cover 3 or Cover 1 and pattern matching is no longer something teams don’t know how to attack.
As always, the Seahawks are likely to rotate their big men up front quite heavily. Jarran Reed is the best all-around player but (as is typical for Alabama tackles) he’s more of a gap-controller than a penetrator. Nazair Jones is more of an inside rusher and he had a fine rookie season (including a brilliant pick six!) but there might not be that many snaps for him.
In the Seahawks scheme, the tackles in many ways are there to soak up pressure and create opportunities for the edge players and linebackers to make plays. That is reflected in their IDP value.
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The Seahawks under Pete Carroll have always managed to create pressure. Think back to Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett taking over playoff games. There’s been a bit of an exodus of talent this season but there’s plenty of reason to believe the coaching staff can create lemonade of lemons.
Frank Clark is far and away the biggest threat to quarterbacks this season. He should be in the same realm of productivity as in the last two years and double-digit sacks are within his reach. A year ago, you could win bets by betting on him not hitting that level which shows you how fast things change in IDP.
Behind Clark, there’s a big void of playing time left open with Bennett’s departure. He managed 932 defensive snaps last year (58 per week). No player on the roster is likely to immediately gobble them all up and we’re likely to see more of a rotation.
Marcus Smith and Branden Jackson aren’t getting a lot of talk but they are going to have significant roles in 2018. They played 253 and 261 snaps respectively last season in 13 and 12 games. That’s a solid role of about 20 snaps a week.
Rasheem Greene is schematically similar to Bennett and fits more as an “Otto” in Seattle’s parlance. He should get some playing time but obviously won’t play 900+ snaps. No rookie linemen do.
And that leaves Dion Jordan. He managed some sacks late on so plenty of people think he’s about to finally fulfill his potential. It’s unlikely. After he signed in Seattle, he played just 137 snaps across five games. He was inactive for another three games. Yes; four sacks were a nice return but he played very limited snaps and the team showed no proclivity in making him a major part of the defense. Let it be someone else in your league pinning hopes on him.
Bobby Wagner remains one of the very best linebackers in football. He’s a spectacular player and the Seahawks assist-friendly stat crew helps a lot too. He’s firmly in the top tier of inside backers. K.J. Wright is a very solid number two option and tends to be a reliable LB3 player. He’s a safe plug-and-play option for your IDP team. Those two are locked in and will play every snap unless injury strikes.
After them, things get a bit more interesting. It looks like Barkevious Mingo is the favorite to play Sam to start the season. He was pretty good over 500 snaps for the Colts in 2017 which people seem to have forgotten.
Shaquem Griffen will compete with D.J. Alexander to be the top backup. Neither is likely to see the field that much tough. In 2017, Wagner and Wright played 1,980 snaps combined. Every other LB on the roster combined for 564. It would be amazing to see Griffen succeed but owners will likely need to wait a year.
Legion of whom?
Shaq Griffin played a lot as a rookie and did fine. He was a good IDP because he was the obvious weak link in this secondary but should be improved enough in his second year for that to be less of a factor.
Across from Griffin, Byron Maxwell is back with the knowledge the grass is often not greener on the other side of the fence. He’s a fine starter but not really a strength. Feel free to switch these two player’s names around if you think that’s more realistic.
Justin Coleman leads the rest of the group but really it seems thin. Pete Carroll is a wizard with defensive backs and could easily find another gem here but it’s a scary group going into the season.
At the time of writing, Earl Thomas is still a Seahawk – albeit a reluctant one. Assuming he plays, he’ll stay right on being the purest deep safety in the NFL. As always it’s better to let one of your league mates own him.
Bradley McDougald is one of the more underrated safeties in the league. He was good in Tampa Bay and he was good in 2017 in Seattle. He’ll be a starter in 2018 regardless of Earl Thomas. But if Thomas leaves, McDougald could easily be the deep safety so there is some risk.
At the moment, we don’t know the ‘Plan B’ for life after Thomas. Maurice Alexander or Delano Hill could come in at strong safety with McDougald going deep, or Tedric Thompson could play at free safety with McDougald at strong. Keep an eye on camp reports about this.
Bobby Wagner. It’s simply undeniable Wagner is a top five inside linebacker both for 2018 and long-term. He’s the definition of a stud.
Dion Jordan. There is so much hype for a player who managed to line up less than Tannoh Kpassagnon, James Cowser, Cassius March and Noah Spence. It’s possible the Seahawks love him and they did give him a new contract (at the cheapest possible tender rate) but it seems unlikely.
Bradley McDougald. Only 12 safeties have more tackles than McDougald over the past two season. He’s in a great position to be the first name on the teamsheet in this secondary. And still, he’s not being treated like a top IDP. Let other people’s mistakes be your success and go get him.
This is very much a roster of extremes. There are some extremely good and settled players in place but also spots where rookies or untested starters are being asked to step up. That’s not normally ideal but Pete Carroll and his staff have shown the ability to maximize defensive talent before. Who are we to say they can’t do that again?
Thanks for reading.