BY Art Thiel 07:30PM 04/29/2017

Thiel: Seahawks’ Legion gets reinforcements

The biggest achievement of this draft for the Seahawks was the hiring of some of the eventual successors to the Legion of Boom, whose cracks showed in 2016’s late-season fade.

As manic as it plays, the Legion of Boom has acquired some hard miles. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

Legion of Boom: The Sequel.

At least that’s the working title of the Seahawks treatment as of the last weekend in April. Whether the film makes the big screen by September, or later, is why the NFL has training camps.

Think about it.

FS Earl Thomas, 28 in a week, is coming back from his first major injury.

SS Kam Chancellor, 29, is in the final season of his contract after a career delivering punishment to others — and himself.

CB Richard Sherman, 29, “didn’t come back to us,” said coach Pete Carroll in March, referring to his star’s continuing intransigence that nearly got him traded.

The original Legionnaires haven’t lost it. Yet.

But cliff’s edge became visible last season on Dec. 11. That’s when the Seahawks lost 38-10 in Green Bay. The same place they’re opening the 2017 season.

Yes, Thomas was out with a broken leg. Still . . . the Seahawks had not lost a game by more than 10 points nearly since Fred Flintstone dined on brontosaurus ribs. Then Packers QB Aaron Rodgers obliterated them. They had no pass rush, no ability to shut down receivers.

More than anything, the Legion needs younger, better troops. That’s why six of the first eight picks in the NFL draft went to defense, including four backs. But the first player taken was a defensive lineman, Malik McDowell, a 20-year-old Calais Campbell play-alike (6-foot-6, 295 pounds).

If McDowell beats the scouting rap of occasional laziness, he and last season’s second-round pick, Jarran Reed, will be the plugs in the D-line that stop the run game and force Rodgers to stay in the pocket and perhaps get pummeled in September.

Recall the words of a shaken Pete Carroll at Lambeau Field after the Seahawks’ worst defeat of the Russell Wilson era.

“It was a different feeling for all of us,” he said. “We don’t remember those days. We’re really disappointed in rushing the passer, because he was back there all night long. Aaron did what he does so well, he moved beautifully and found guys and made it look easy.

“That was very frustrating to just watch him to have so much ease and throwing and completing balls on us. This is such a rare occurrence for our team. We’ve been playing for a lot of years and have not seen a game like this.

“It was a miserable night.”

Questions around the aging Legionnaires will only grow, especially if Rodgers carves them up again in less than five months

Replacement is inevitable. For the first time, the Seahawks took that task seriously.

A cornerback and three safeties, but really four of a kind, were taken in the draft — long-armed, quick-footed speedsters unafraid of contact. Schneider tried to sandbag the urgency.

“It was  really a defensive back-heavy draft,” he said Sunday after the 11-player haul. “It’s just the way the board came off. We didn’t want to be jumping players (to fill needs). That’s when you get in trouble.”

He may have been dismissive of the replacement agenda, but was not dismissive of his first pick of the third day, fourth-rounder Tedric Thompson of Colorado. Pro Football Focus ranked the All-Pac-12 second-team safety as the nation’s leading pass defender. Given that the Seahawks’ takeaway numbers have declined in each of the past four seasons, Thompson (6-0, 204) was a paradigm of talent to need.

 “Phenomenal ball skills — I think he led the country in passes defensed,” Schneider said. “Great feet. Coverage skills. Competitor. He’s got really good range, really good short-area quickness. He’s a really interesting guy; kind of a well-rounded dude.”

Thompson will join third-rounders Shaquill Griffin (6-0, 194) of Central Florida and Delano Hill (6-1, 216) of Michigan, and sixth-rounder Mike Tyson (6-2, 204 and no relation to the former champ) of Cincinnati as a taller, swift Legion apprentice class.

“I think it will be really fun to see how these guys fit in,” said Carroll, savoring the chance to go all Dumbledore on his favorite part of the team. ” They’re all real competitive guys, they’ve been all been great players in their programs.

“It’s a very competitive room. We would not take guys that we thought weren’t going to be able to handle that. We think that they’re going to add to it. Also, our older guys have done a great job of mentoring. We’re going to count on that as well.”

Griffin already has been told he’s wanted as a press cornerback, where there is a temporary vacancy while veteran Deshawn Shead recovers from knee surgery.

Hill, Thompson and Tyson will work between the two safety positions, where there is a new veteran backup to Chancellor — Bradley McDougald (6-1, 209), a five-year veteran from Tampa Bay who has the coaches giggling over their good fortune in signing him during free agency.

The abrupt collection of talent was a direct response to the falloff of the entire defense after Thomas was injured. Since so much of the Seahawks low-blitz strategy was built on Thomas’s unique ability as a single-high safety to cover both sides of the field, things went awry quickly because backup Steve Terrell was not close to equivalent. Nor was Kelcie McCray adequate behind Chancellor. Both are unsigned free agents.

Of course, Dan Quinn knew all about these things. He’s the former Seahawks defensive coordinator who, as head coach of the Falcons, designed an evisceration of his old defense for Atlanta QB Matt Ryan in the 36-20 playoff ouster of Seattle that could have been so much worse had not Quinn taken pity on his old club.

That game someday may be looked upon as the beginning of the end for the first Legion of Boom. This weekend could be seen as the beginning of the sequel.


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YourThoughts

  • Steed

    This looks like a great draft to me, for the LOB and both lines too. I think they got some guys who are going to be playing a lot.

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    • John M

      Yes, they all look like outstanding competitors. With the FA’s they should assemble a far more consistent team on both sides. Though I really like Shead and the way he’s worked to get where he is, his very best work seems to be as a nickle back, which more and more is becoming a standard set. Preseason will be interesting . . .

      • art thiel

        I think the Seahawks invested wisely on D. McDowell has a great upside, but Cable and teammates have to help light his fire. Lots of scouts graded him down for laziness.

        • Ken S.

          Lets hope that playing for money will get McDowell to perform all-out each and every play. The possibility of losing that big paycheck has been a great incentive for many otherwise lazy players.

          • art thiel

            Always the most unpredictable characteristic: How much does a guy care?

          • wabubba67

            Do the Seahawks employ a team psychiatrist when interviewing players? Determining whether a player is generally intrinsically or extrinsically motivated is invaluable to long term success when drafting. Would be an interesting read if you were able to interview that person, Art!

          • tor5

            I agree that’s a really interesting question. Does a player love the game and take pride in his work? I doubt you could find any great players that didn’t feel that way. It also seems like good coaches can have some impact on intrinsic motivation. Surely Pete believes that.

  • Gerald Turner

    The high number of quality defensive Replacements in one draft is something I don’t think I’ve seen before.

    • art thiel

      Those three games in which they gave up 30+ pts left a scar. Yes, Thomas’s injury was critical, but lots of defenders weren’t effective.

      • wabubba67

        I agree. With that said, I am somewhat surprised that they didn’t grab Foster when they had a chance to do so at #31. We need an OLB and would have made a great eventual replacement at MLB someday as Wagner ages and/or begins to cost too much.

        Everytime Foster thumps one of our guys in a 49er uniform, I’ll think about what could have been.

        • art thiel

          A lot of off-field stuff with him. He also admits to having learning difficulties. Great athlete, but I think Carroll had more urgent priorities than LB.

          • wabubba67

            I agree…to an extent. I’ve heard off his off field issues and understand the need for DBs first. I just thought that the value was too great. He may not be that sharp in the film room, but the OLB spot in Pete’s system isn’t all that complicated (Bruce Irvin did it)…and I just remember how devastating the 49er defense once was with Willis/Bowman. Could have had the same thing here with Wagner/Foster/Wagner.

            I understand why we traded back again (it’s a smart move), but part of me wonders what might have been with Foster.

      • Gerald Turner

        Who was that defensive back they had playing opposite Sherman he had a strange Talent of having the ball bounced off the back of his head every time of course if he just turned around and looked he would get the ininterception.

  • 1coolguy

    Bummer it didn’t work out that one of the Dawgs db’s were not selected by the Hawks. Not only were they an impressive group, it is always good for the Hawks to maintain a link to the Dawgs for all of us UW fans. Following Kearse and Williams has been something a lot of UW fans do, hoping they will do well.

    • art thiel

      Schneider said that they know UW kids well because it’s the shortest scouting trip they have. But he also cautioned that sometimes they know them so well, scouts get over critical. Have to guard against talking themselves out of a guy.

      • 1coolguy

        Good and interesting point. Speaking of, Heaps over Keith Price? Huh? Price had a ten fold better college career than Heaps and they don’t bring him to camp? Heaps? Really?

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  • Bayview Herb

    My major disappointment was Kupp/Eastern. He will be a superstar in th NFL. At best,Seattle drafts him. Second best, an eastern team in the AFC gets him. The absolute worst, the Rams in our own division got him.

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