Here is the Home Page for this series of posts.
We’re getting down to the wire here! There are pretty easy arguments to make that any of the top three guys could be #1 on this list. Here’s my case for Bradley McDougald.
The Seahawks started off pretty hot from a defensive backfield perspective in 2018, which of course coincided with the team having a healthy Earl Thomas to go along with a healthy McDougald. But, then Earl was lost for the year (and his Seahawks career), and while McDougald played in all the games, he was clearly banged up towards the end of the season. He had 2 INTs and 5 passes defensed in the first month of the season, then only 1 INT and 4 PDs the rest of the way.
After that Arizona game, so much more went on McDougald’s shoulders, and while he was certainly up to the task, the drop-off from Earl to T2 or Hill ended up being a lot. The pass defense severely went in the tank (doesn’t help that we played the Rams twice without Earl), and while McDougald was the best of a bad position group, he wasn’t enough to lift everyone else up.
Well, for 2019, the Seahawks will have Earl Thomas for zero games. Thompson and Hill both return, and both will fight for one of the starting safety spots, but neither inspire much (if any) confidence. Beyond them, Ugo Amadi and Marquise Blair were selected in this year’s draft, but Amadi figures to get more playing time in the nickel spot, while Blair (who was already an injury worry due to his slight frame and hard-hitting style) is starting Training Camp on the PUP list. That doesn’t mean he can’t come off of it at any time before the regular season, but it would be foolish to expect him to be healthy for all 16 games.
So, once again, McDougald is going to be The Man in the secondary. The Seahawks need him to not just play in all the games, but they need him at the top of his game. When he’s going good, it almost makes you forget that the L.O.B. is no more. But, when he’s not right, you don’t really notice him at all (and that’s not a good thing, because that means he’s not really making any impact plays).
For a while now, the Seahawks’ defense has had a turnover problem. Specifically: generating interceptions. Before, when the L.O.B. was ruling the NFL, that was because teams were afraid of throwing deep on us; they settled for the dink & dunk because those are safer passes. Now that the
L.O.B. Seahawks’ secondary is mediocre, teams are hitting on deep passes a lot more because our guys just aren’t good enough to make plays on those balls in the air. The defense in general makes its hay in forcing fumbles, but that’s a tough one to hang your hat on, because fumble luck is so screwy.
While it’s still vitally important for our starting cornerbacks to make a leap in their development, this pass defense is going to hinge on the play of its safeties (particularly when you factor in the uncertainty around the pass rush). Breaking up passes and generating turnovers will be the mark of how well the safeties perform, at least in my mind. Considering there’s just as much uncertainty around the rest of the secondary as a whole, having a healthy and productive McDougald will make all the difference in the world.
If he goes down, it could get ugly.