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.
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.