Seahawks Players 2 Through 10: The Blue Chippers
2. Richard Sherman (3)– Why is Richard Sherman still as good as he is? It’s because he came into the league with a huge chip on his shoulder and even though he now lives in a multi-million dollar house with two children and several years worth of NFL collisions on his body, he still carries that same chip around with him, along with a nearly unmatched work ethic that never leaves him unprepared for a challenge. His success versus the great Antonio Brown last year served notice that Sherman is still arguably the best player on Cornerback Island.
3. Michael Bennett (4)– Contract shmontract. Perpetual unhappiness with his current deal aside, Bennett continues to dodge, dip, dive, duck, and dodge into opponent backfields, wreaking havoc with offensive game plans. He combines explosive athleticism for his position with (mostly) uncanny snap anticipation to blow up plays in the run and pass game. He’s getting better with age (30), self-driven to be great and is invaluable to the success of the Seahawk defense.
4. Earl Thomas (1)– Last year’s #1 ranked player entered the 2015 season with one arm still smarting from surgery and Thomas struggled to regain his customary dominant form. He still led the team with five INT’s but we didn’t see as many “EARL!” plays as we’ve come to expect. Knowing the kind of competitor Thomas is, 2016 promises to be a much different story as he enters it healthy and revving to go.
In addition, the team is tweaking their scheme in a way that will allow Thomas more freedom to make anticipation plays this season. While this will make the team more vulnerable to big plays over the top if Thomas’ judgment is incorrect, expect the savvy free safety to be right much more often than not, creating many more chances to turn the opponent over.
5. Doug Baldwin (12)– Never mind the stats. 1000+ yds, 14 touchdowns, etc etc etc. Doug Baldwin is a quintessential Seahawk in the Pete Carroll coaching era.
Undrafted. Disrespected. LOVES the game of football. Leads by example. Up for any challenge. Driven to be the best he can be at his craft.
Baldwin is a cornerstone of this franchise thanks to all of the intangibles listed above, but also because he separates from DB’s like few others can and has developed the kind of QB/WR trust with Russell Wilson that only comes with years of shared life experiences. Doug Baldwin is possibly the strongest willed person that has ever put on a Seahawk uniform and that’s why the team made it a priority to re-sign him to a lucrative third contract with the organization.
6. Cliff Avril (10)– A consummate pro; plays at a consistently high level for a long period of time. Cliff Avril is a pro’s pro. In 2015, his 8th year in the league, Avril posted career highs in solo tackles (31) , total tackles (47) and passes defended (7) while notching the most sacks in his three years as a Seahawk (9). A class act off the field and a quiet destroyer of offenses on it, Avril is primed for another exquisite performance in 2016.
7. Tyler Lockett (18)– A threat to score from literally anywhere on the field, Lockett did just that as a rookie, notching touchdowns via kickoff return, punt return and six more as a traditional receiver to supplement his 51 catches for 664 yards. Some guys see running lanes opening and closing as if they happen in slow motion, and Lockett is one of them.
Using elite quickness and speed to get to and through holes that his exceptional field vision identifies, Lockett is primed to inflict even more damage on opponents as his relationship with quarterback Russell Wilson develops with additional reps and more opportunities to turn opposing corners inside out. Lockett runs the full route tree to near perfection and is on a fast track to a HUGE contract a couple years from now.
8. K.J. Wright (9)– Wright managed to wrestle the title of best linebacker on this Seahawks away from Bobby Wagner last season, because he was more consistent in his play. Wright led the team in tackles (116) by two over Bobby, while notching four TFL’s, four forced fumbles and a sack to go with his usual stellar play in pass coverage. When opponents try to trick the Seahawks with late developing screen passes, see who is the first to sniff it out and wreck the play. It’s K.J. Wright every time. Maybe the most eye-popping stat is that Wright only missed four tackles all last season.
Wright, with a nearly empty trophy case, may be unheralded nationally but the PNW appreciates his efforts as the glue-guy on this excellent defense with another pre-season top ten ranking on the roster.
9. Bobby Wagner (6)– Though he was named to the Pro Bowl in 2015, an argument can be made that it was Bobby Wagner’s least effective season with Seahawks. He still made 114 tackles, recovered a team-high three fumbles and scored two of the three defensive touchdowns last year, which just goes to show the lofty expectations Wagner has created in his brief but impressive career.
The lack of plays made behind the LOS last year were likely an aberration and the expectation is for Wagner to re-establish his place among the elite defensive players in the NFL in 2016.
10. Thomas Rawls (40)– Yet another undrafted free agent acquisition by PC/JS, Thomas Rawls burst onto the scene in relief of Marshawn Lynch last season and provided the Seahawks offense with the closest thing to Lynch’s physical dominance that another running back could possibly offer. Rawls considers going out of bounds a sin and would rather take people head-on, as some defenders unfortunately experienced in 2015. A season-ending major ankle injury prevented a 1,000+ yd season but if Rawls gets and remains healthy, expect lofty stats and award-worthy production in 2016 from this humble but hungry back.
Next: Eleven to Twenty: The Wounded and the Up-and-Comers