The Seattle Seahawks enter 2019 with a defense that is unrecognizable to the average fan. Over the past two years, they have parted ways with Pro Bowlers Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Michael Bennet, Sheldon Richardson, Frank Clark and Kam Chancellor. That takes away a lot of the name recognition. It can be easy to write the new guys off. But this unit is much the same as it was last year, and they were stout enough. The young players have more experience playing together now and Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright are still on the team.
Bobby Wagner gets Defensive Player of the Year
Wagner is the best player on this defense, and according to Pro Football Focus, he has played better than any linebacker has in the last two years. He is instinctual and studies the game extensively. His speed is second to none as a linebacker, and he can be as powerful as they come.
Opponents can’t gameplan around him. He can take an interception 100 yards for a touchdown, or he can get a strip sack. Wagner can do it all.
Winning DPoY will take a season better than anything he has produced in his career. He will probably need at least six or seven sacks, five interceptions, two forced fumbles and 170 tackles to be considered for the award. But he needs big plays in big moments more than anything. The people who vote for this award are just people. They can be persuaded by big plays, like Wagner’s pick-6 against the San Francisco 49ers last year.
If he can make enough big plays next year I could see him winning DPoY. He is finally getting the respect he deserves in the national media, and it might be enough to get him some votes.
The Seahawks force 20 interceptions
This is a big goal for Seattle. It would be the most for a Seahawks team since 2013 when Seattle came down with 28 interceptions and won the Super Bowl. In 2019 they will count on presumed starters Shaquill Griffin, Tre Flowers, Bradley McDougald and Tedric Thompson to provide the bulk of these picks.
Even though they only have 12 career interceptions between them, I think they will have a breakout year this year. Griffin should pace the bunch with at least 7 interceptions, as he is coming into his own and has great speed and skill. Not all of this will be on the defensive backs though. The pass rush plays a huge part in interception game. Because the more pressure you can put on a quarterback, the less time he has to read a defense and make a good decision.
So, this will also hinge on a successful pass rush and rely on a team that dealt away its best pass rusher this offseason.
Speaking of pass rush…
Shaquem Griffin gets 5 sacks
He was not used as a pass rusher at all in 2018 by Seattle. But this year is going to be different.
Griffin was a very productive pass rusher for UCF in his college career. He got 18.5 sacks in his last two years as a Golden Knight. Then he ran a sub-4.4 40-yard dash at the scouting combine and showed his speed too.
I think Seattle has let him build up his strength this year and let him learn behind some guys. He should come into 2019 a much-improved player, and I think Seattle should try and use his unique speed and instincts to pressure opposing QBs.
Griffin can be a mismatch for any offensive lineman or running back who tries to block him.