First thing that comes to mind when you think of the high-flying, red-hot Seattle Seahawks is their defense. Mean, tough and gritty individuals who on top of all that are smarter than you could ever imagine. They get stops, make plays and create turnovers. They have changed the culture of Seattle football and instilled the mindset of a championship caliber team. Household names such as Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Bobby Wagner and Kam Chancellor headline the teams’ stout defense and have created borderline mythical expectations in our heads for how far they alone can carry the team. Offensively you think of Russell Wilson, one of the fastest rising stars in the league and you think of the violent energy brought forth by someone who can apparently go into ‘Beast Mode.’
Nevertheless, that same defense in spurts has given up points, lost games and that offense has been tripped up occasionally and looked unconventionally vulnerable.
Enter scene – Seahawks punter Jon Ryan: the unsung hero of the Seattle Seahawks.
The defense boasts stats such as +20 in takeaways, first in the league in yards allowed and points scored can all overshadow a much more subtle threat and one that is often taken for granted. While the defense basks in the limelight, Jon Ryan will be happy to take a backseat to the fan fair as long as he continues to help the team win. Not to mention as long as he continues to put together one of the best seasons ever for a Seahawk punter.
You will hear analysts and football color commentators speak of it only for a moment but it is in fact one of the pillars of the foundation that has made this team so extraordinary this year.
Up until week 17 Jon Ryan and the punt team had only allowed 28 return yards all season.
I will now pause to let you take in that insane statistic that I have just revealed to you.
Only 28 return yards all season!?
Now yes the defense has more opportunities to make mistakes and give up yards but let’s just consider the importance of field position for that defense to make big stops and the momentum retained in the Seahawks favor through not allowing big returns.
Anyone who has followed Pete Carroll through his coaching career will agree how much he emphasized the importance of playing the field position game. Not to mention, now that it is the playoffs and the competition increases just how much of a factor Jon Ryan’s punts will become. It can clearly be seen how important the punting game is to the team’s success in controlling the field when you look at how many punts Ryan has put inside the 20 yard line. With 28 of his 74 punts this year landing in the opposing team’s 20 yard line it gives him a little less than 40% chance he can pin the team deep every time he kicks it. That is plenty of control in making it very hard travel the long field against the Seahawks defense.
Field position puts the pressure on the opponent’s offense and allows the defense to take more risks and thus find more reward. It has paid off for them all season as they have been able to really take over the ball game and not allow any momentum swings. Once the opposing team stops the Seahawks offense, the Seahawks defense is then immediately put in a great position to stop the other team from capitalizing. That is the unseen impacts of the Jon Ryan punt that as meshed into the dominance of the defense.
To compact the retention of momentum, Jon Ryan and the punting unit are yet to give up a touchdown on punt returns. With 74 punts this season, 0 have yielded any points.
I will now pause again as you revel in this fact.
That is an astounding statistic that has been overlooked this entire season.
You may be out there right now saying you knew of Jon Ryan and his capabilities and that Taylor is no genius for simply making an argument for Ryan’s greatness. That is where I must interject; undoubtedly Jon Ryan has been overlooked because he was not even selected to the Pro-Bowl or the All-Pro Team for his work this season.
Instead from within our own division, St. Louis Rams punter Johnny Hekker was named to these all-star teams. If that doesn’t take the wind out of your sails I don’t know what will. While still one of the best punters in the league, he kicked 5 more punts than Ryan with 9 less inside the 20 yard line. He also allowed only five less yards of return and the biggest kicker (no pun intended) of all is that his team did not make the playoffs and finished last in the division. Jon Ryan on the other hand played a rather intricate part in the success and continuing dominance of the Seahawks in all three phases of the game. He is truly a game changer. Individually, Hekker was exceptional but as a successful piece of the team aspect of the game he wasn’t. All you need to do is look at the Ram’s record – which in the end is how you are truly measured.
That is snub worthy if I do say so myself friends.
Why didn’t he make the All-Pro team or the Pro Bowl? I can’t really say, I know Seattle sports is hidden away in the farthest most corner of the country. Often overlooked and underrated as it is very far from most major media hubs or ESPN cameras, but slowly its being put on the map, especially with the run the Seahawks are having this year. I wish I had a straight answer for why not. Hekker clearly wasn’t any better and you would think on a winning team Ryan would get more press so I believe you can chalk that one up to a number of different, opinionated reasons alone.
As for this weekend, when the mighty Seahawks match up against the familiar foe in the New Orleans Saints keep an eye out for the punting unit and its stellar skills of retention and dominance. Although I’m sure the idea of being All-Pro is an amazing feat in itself for Jon Ryan, one thing that could overshadow all of it would be a trip to the Super Bowl. No doubt that would suffice in making any kind of snub talk obsolete don’t you think?