When you play for the defending champs, notoriety usually comes with the territory. This is the NFL though and every team, no matter what happens in one season, still has to deal with free-agency, retirement, injury, and simple turnover going into the next season.
UBIC – Defense
Byron Maxwell, CB (#41) Here’s where the "too much" kicks in. While he is a member of the Legion of Boom, Maxwell is less well known that Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas, and the corner that usually lines up on the opposite side of the field from him, Richard Sherman. He is also the only member of the LoB to not get a huge contract over the past two off-seasons.
The stats from last year give a glimpse as to why he is not as well known or as well paid as the other 3 members of the Seahawks defensive secondary. Maxwell recorded 14 passes defended last year (good for second on the team) while splitting time with Brandon Browner and Walter Thurmond. Among the 3 players listed as Seattle’s starting Right CB’s for the 2013 season, there were 31 passes defended compared to the 18 posted by the starting Left CB that started all 16 games. This leads you to believe that even last year, QB’s in the NFL were less willing to test Sherman than they were to take their chances on the other side of the field.
This trend reached a ridiculous extreme last week at the unwilling arm of Aaron Rodgers. PR assured us that Sherman would not be completely bored this week, but added "you’ve got to be smart about it". He did offer up the observation that "the guy on the other side is no slouch either". The Seahawks certainly hope that Maxwell is far above "no slouch" level on Sunday. Look for the Bolts to test Maxwell; the Packers did to the tune of two passes defended and an INT to go along with a modest 4 tackles.
Marcus Burley, CB (#28) The Seahawks played a lot of nickel in their opening week game. Jeremy Lane went into this season as the 3rd CB on the roster, but he went out against the Packers and was placed onto IR earlier this week. This leaves the nickel CB position pretty much in the hands of Burley. With Tharold Simon out for this week as well, the Seattle defense has somewhat of a depth issue at CB and a big question mark with their slot corner. Burley only joined the team at the end of August, with the ‘hawks giving Indy next year’s 6th round pick for Burley. He had one assisted tackle in last week’s game. If the Bolts can find a credible threat in the slot (yes, I am looking at you, Eddie), this may be the weakest link to try on an impressive defense.
UBIC – Offense
Justin Britt, RT (#68) You knew my love for linemen had to come out at some point. Why not here, with a rookie taking over as starting Right Tackle on the defending SB champs? Seattle got decent service out of Breno Giancomini last year and rookie Michael Bowie. Still, this position was one that the Seattle front office believed was in need of an upgrade (or at least competition) going into 2014. Giancomini was permitted to walk (he is now a Jet) and Britt was selected by the Seahawks in the 2nd round of the draft this year. Thinking in the front office was that Britt and Bowie would compete for the starting job in training camp.
Bowie lost that competition. He lost the competition so badly that he wound up in Cleveland at the end of August after getting cut outright by the Seahawks on August 26. This left Britt as the starting right tackle on the Seahawks o-line. While every team needs protection from the blindside of its QB, with Russell Wilson as a team’s signal caller, getting good protection on Wilson’s preferred roll-out side is pretty important, too. Wilson does a lot of his damage while he is on the move and for a right handed QB, the roll-out to the right is the natural side to go, while preserving some basic mechanics in throwing the football. Wilson’s roll to the right tendency is not as pronounced as it was during his rookie season, but it is still there, especially when he is under duress.
In Britt, the 64th overall pick in the last draft, the Seahawks showed the sort of shrewd draft acumen that has produced a roster loaded with guys that flourish just by doing the job that the Seahawks ask them to do. Britt was a Left Tackle throughout high school and most of his college career. He is a former wrestler (State Champion and 45-0 in his senior year) and strong man, able to clean 400 pounds. Scouts have raved about his excellent work ethic. He has NFL Tackle size, weighing 325 pounds at 6’6" tall.
In his first game as a pro, he drew Julius Peppers as his primary match-up. Peppers did not record a sack and was limited to 3 tackles. It certainly looked to me that Britt did what his team asked him to do. Britt does not have the forward quickness to get to the second level in blocks, but the ‘hawks will not ask him to do that. He will be expected to wall off Reyes and the right edge for Seattle’s running game, something he did quite well in their opener against Peppers. He also kept Wilson’s front side clean more often than not on pass plays.
Pete Carroll hopes that Britt continues doing his job throughout this week’s game. The Bolts may try to test him with a few surprises on that side, but the scouting reports in college mentioned that Britt has good blitz recognition and body control to adjust to defensive movement. I was surprised that the Packers did not stunt with Clay Mathews and Peppers together to overload the right side in obvious pass situations during the opener.
Ricardo Lockette, WR (#83) With Percy Harvin and Doug Baldwin the most recognizable names among the Seahawks receivers, Lockette put in a good game against the Packers in Week 1. He caught two balls for 38 yards, including a 33 yard TD reception. Expect to see a lot of him on Sunday. Baldwin is more of a possession type receiver, and Harvin does most of his work out of the slot (or backfield), which leaves Lockette as the guy that will be running deep routes to stretch an opponents secondary.
The Seahawks did draft Kevin Norwood out of Alabama in the 4th round last May, but he had bone spurs in his foot removed in August, so Lockette will probably remain the primary option behind Harvin, Baldwin, and Zach Miller. That was still good enough to finish 3rd in receiving yards for the team in their first week game against the Packers.