Will the Seahawks Defense Return to 2013 Dominance?

SEATTLE, WA - JANUARY 07: Earl Thomas (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
SEATTLE, WA - JANUARY 07: Earl Thomas (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images) /

Seahawks Training Camp starts at the end of the month, and the 2017 campaign is just around the corner. Will the defense return to Super Bowl dominance this season?

The Seahawks have made the playoffs and won at least one postseason game for five straight seasons for many reasons. One of those reasons has been their defense. Last season, free safety Earl Thomas broke his leg in a 40-7 blowout of the Panthers at home, and the Seahawks suddenly became a league-average defense.

For a team that has devoted the resources and time to the defensive side of the ball, a league-average defense is unacceptable.

The Seahawks won’t have the same healthy starting lineup in 2017 they rolled with much of the season in 2016. With new blood coming coming to Training Camp in the form of rookies like Shaquill Griffin and veteran safety Bradley McDougald, General Manager John Schneider evidently took a step back and decided to reload an area of strength for the Seahawks. But will the defense approach the level of the Super Bowl-winning squad of 2013? It’s possible.

My argument is simple. Much of the defensive core that obliterated the Broncos in Super Bowl 48 is still around. The Legion of Boom is still intact with Thomas, Richard Sherman, and Kam Chancellor. Bobby Wagner, Michael Bennett, K.J. Wright, and others remember how that defense worked and what made it one of the best defensive units ever in the NFL.

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And strictly by league rankings in points and yards, the 2016 defense overall wasn’t far from the 2013 defense. Sure, the 2013 Seahawks squashed everyone in their path and no other team was that close to their number-one rankings in opponents’ points scored, total yards allowed, and turnovers. But, last season, even without Thomas for four regular season games, the Seahawks defense ranked third in points allowed and fifth in yards allowed.

The biggest difference between last year’s defense and the 2013 defense was turnovers. The 2013 Seahawks caused 39 turnovers. In 2016, that figure fell to only 19, 22nd in the league.

Part of that discrepancy could be the league adjusting to the aggressive Seahawks defensive style and the Thomas injury, but another big reason is luck. Turnovers are difficult to predict, even for the league’s most elite defensive units. With one of the easier schedules in the league this season, the defense could feast on several quarterbacks who have never faced the LOB before, such as the normally-sure-handed Marcus Mariota and the turnover-prone Blake Bortles.

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It’s unlikely that the Seahawks (or any team) will approach the same turnover havoc the 2013 team caused, but if they force even just a handful more turnovers this season, they can win a few more games, get that number-one or -two seed in the NFC, and play another Conference Championship game in Seattle.