Yes, there is always plenty of chatter about our perennial Super Bowl hopefuls. But I also find that there is always some angle to Seahawks coverage that just doesn’t seem to get enough airplay. This column is dedicated to that “elephant in the locker room.”
I think we can all agree that Seattle lost a Hall of Fame-caliber free safety when Earl Thomas signed with Baltimore. And by “all,” I mean just about anyone who follows the NFL, not just Seahawk fans.
And those who follow what goes on in the rest of the league–not just Seattle–can also appreciate that the breakup of The Legion of Boom doesn’t mean that Chancellor, Thomas, and Sherman have ridden into the sunset. Only Chancellor has “retired”; the Ravens are still a candidate for the AFC title, and Richard Sherman is leading (and I do mean leading) a ferocious defense for the still-undefeated (and convincing) San Francisco 49ers.
But… do we really miss Earl Thomas in Seattle?
From a defensive statistics standpoint, the answer is absolutely, “Yes.” Through six games so far, Seattle is giving up 360 yards per game, nearly 270 of those through the air. And those numbers would be much worse if Seattle’s offense weren’t pretty regularly dominating the time-of-possession battle.
By comparison, when the Legion was in full swing, Seattle’s D was giving up just 270 yards per game, with barely 200 through the air. So, yes: stats tell the truth. We miss the LoB.
From a personnel standpoint, we clearly miss Earl as well. The defensive weak point of this team is the play of the safeties. My own assessment of Thompson, Hill, McDougald, and Blair pretty much coincides with how they “grade out” by professionals: they are competent, but they are not world-class.
But this is the elephant in the locker-room, folks: Seattle’s relative weakness at safety highlights–or should, any way–how well Seattle’s corners are playing. You may be saying “What?!?” right about now, thinking that Griffin and Flowers have done nothing to make you forget Sherman, Browner, Lane, or Maxwell.
But think about this: Until last year, Seattle’s corners always had Chancellor and Thomas playing behind them. How would Sherman and Browner have fared with McDougald and Thompson back there?
Or better yet: get out a little more, and watch teams other than Seattle play. You’ll see their corners get beat deep pretty regularly. That just hasn’t happened with Seattle this year, despite the fact that Flowers and Griffin are having to cover for the relative weakness at safety.
How many times did you hear Cooper Kupp’s name get called out when Seattle played the Rams? Thomas is number two in receiving this year, as you would expect, in New Orleans; but in Seattle’s lone loss (a game, btw, Seattle absolutely controlled except for three terrible plays), Thomas virtually disappeared. When tight ends and running backs are leading our opponents’ passing stats, that means our corners are playing disciplined football in a tight scheme designed to funnel the football to the middle of the field.
All of this points to two things: our cornerbacks (and defensive scheme) are actually better than you (and, apparently, most sports analysts) think; and, yes, this D would be really scary with Earl and Kam running around out there, too.
I don’t miss Earl, really. Not at all. I don’t miss his loony locker-room gabble, and I don’t miss his attitude. I don’t miss Earl’s and Richard’s angry sideline spats with coaches and each other. I don’t miss petulant holdouts and passive-aggressive pettily jealous jabs at Russell Wilson.
I don’t miss the middle finger. Pete Carroll and Seattle fans have never deserved that kind of disloyalty.
The long-term health of this ball club is better off without a free safety with a free tongue and a few screws loose.
See ya, Earl. Wish you well. It’ll be fun to see you play at the Clink tomorrow, but I’ll be glad you’re not on our team.