2011-2012: Making the grade
This is part one in our season long off-season series of reviewing the Seahawks in 2011/12.
Just like the Seattle Seahawks turnaround this season, this article is better late than never. After ending a season, a die-hard fan usually goes into seclusion to mope and whine about their team watching the Super Bowl from home. Did I do that?
The season is officially over now and it’s time to look back.
The defense saw some changes as the season progressed, but one thing remains the same: their intensity.
If the Seahawks proved anything this year, it was that opponents were going to have to beat their stout defense in order to win games.
With the offense as volatile as it was over the course of the 17 weeks, the defense played steadily and put Seattle on the map as a hard-hitting force to be reckoned with. Even opponents like Larry Fitzgerald of the Cardinals made mention of how aggressive and strong the defense is.
With all that being said, I am going to give me end of the season grades to this stingy Seattle defense.
Who makes the grade? And who fails?
Chris Clemons (B)
Chris Clemons had a pretty decent year, recording 11 sacks of the team’s 33 total sacks in his 2011 campaign. Although he got those 11 sacks, he wasn’t at the same level as last season.
I don’t know what it was, but it seemed like he wasn’t as hungry for it this year as he was last year.
He also recorded 13 tackles for loss and 3 forced fumbles.
Red Bryant (A-)
Red Bryant was his dominant self this season and improved on an impressive 2011. He stuck to his strengths and blocked the run on every opportunity given to him.
On top of that, he had 4 kick blocks and 2 interceptions, returning 1 for the touchdown.
He won the team’s Ed Block Courage Award and was one of the leaders on this young squad.
Raheem Brock (C-)
Raheem Brock did not come close to the season he had last year and was just flat disappointing this year. He managed a whopping 3 sacks this season.
Alan Branch (B-)
Alan Branch was one of the key acquisitions for the Seahawks this last offseason. And he paid off big. His stats were not inflated by any means, but his leadership and solidity on this line helped improve the squad as a whole.
He had 3 sacks and a forced fumble to go with 21 tackles and 13 assists.
Brandon Mebane (B-)
Like Branch, Brandon Mebane was a rock on this defensive line. His numbers weren’t highly impressive, but his contributions were solid and had leader qualities about them.
Mebane had 40 tackles and 16 assists this season.
Anthony Hargrove (B-)
Anthony Hargrove was another big pickup for the Seahawks last offseason. He brought experience from a Super Bowl winning team and played his game on this Seahawks defensive line.
Hargrove was rarely called upon in the big plays, but he did his part. Given who he was competing with and playing alongside, he did well given the circumstances.
Hargrove had 13 tackles, 5 assists and 3 sacks this season.
Leroy Hill (B-)
Leroy Hill had a pretty solid year for the Seahawks. The veteran linebacker brought experience to this young secondary and stepped up when called upon. Hill wasn’t the fastest guy out there, but he hit like a truck and made some key stops.
Hill had 68 tackles, 22 assists, 1 forced fumble, and 4 sacks.
David Hawthorne (B+)
David Hawthorne was absolutely lights out this season. Finishing second on the team in tackles, Heater hit people like his job truly depended on it.
The man played angry this year and showed the Seahawks linebackers what it was to play physically at the linebacker position. He was a good mentor to KJ Wright.
Hawthorne had 72 tackles, 43 assists, and 3 interceptions for 111 yards and a touchdown.
K.J. Wright (B)
KJ Wright had an impressive rookie campaign. Like most of the young guys on this team, Wright stepped up and played when called upon, taking over for an inept Aaron Curry.
His youth showed, but he played big when it counted most.
Wright had 50 tackles, 15 assists, a forced fumble and 2 sacks.
Aaron Curry (F)
I had to mention this guy unfortunately because he played more than just a couple games for the Seahawks before they unloaded him to the Raiders. He lost his job to a rookie while he failed to cover people, cover zones and tackle. Basically, he didn’t know how to do his job.
Brandon Browner (A-)
Brandon Browner was an enigma this year for the Seahawks. He was a rookie at age 27 after his long road to the NFL. A lot of people complained about his penalties (including me at the beginning) but his physical play was worth a couple penalties. Browner stepped in arguably the best on this team, ranking high in the league in a lot of defensive specialty categories.
Browner’s Pro Bowl selection was well deserved and highly impressive given the Seahawks volatile situation.
Browners final stats: 51 tackles, 3 assists, 22 passes defended (#1 in NFL), 6 interceptions (#2 in NFL) for 220 yards (#2 in NFL) and 2 touchdowns (Tied #1 in NFL).
Richard Sherman (B+)
Richard Sherman, like many of the Seahawks rookies, stepped up in a big way. In a perfect world, he would’ve completed the group of defensive Seahawks to make the Pro Bowl, but he is not far from getting there himself.
Sherman caused fits for receivers, often frustrating them off the line and sticking with them downfield.
His cockiness could have gotten him in trouble, but in the end, it made him known in the league.
Sherman had 47 tackles, 8 assists, 4 interceptions (Tied #12 in NFL) for 45 yards and 17 passes defended (Tied #10 in NFL).
Kennard Cox (D)
Cox was mainly a special teams guy, but when he did have chances on defense, he wasn’t spectacular to say the least. If he gets another chance next year, I would be shocked. No stats needed. This guy wasn’t good.
Kam Chancellor (A-)
Kam Chancellor was piece #2 in arguably the best safety duo in all of football in 2011. His huge size and physicality literally stopped players in their tracks.
He was known for his size and complete dominance and physical presence. He was one of 3 Seahawks defensive secondary player to make the Pro Bowl.
Chancellor had 75 tackles, 22 assists, 2 forced fumbles, 12 passes defended, and 4 interceptions (Tied #12 in NFL) for 27 yards.
Earl Thomas (A)
Earl Thomas was paired with Kam Chancellor in stopping opposing NFL offenses. Thomas was the ballhawk, seemingly in on almost every defensive play and always in proximity of the football. His speed allowed him to play sideline to sideline but he had enough strength to pop defenders and cause some serious problems.
One of the Seahawks Pro Bowlers, Thomas is getting better each season. Next year should be scary.
Thomas had 69 tackles, 28 assists, 6 passes defended, 1 forced fumble, 2 fumble recoveries, and 2 interceptions for 19 yards.
Atari Bigby (C+)
Atari Bigby’s biggest contribution to this team was his leadership. He did step up on occasion, even taking over a linebacker spot due to spotty play from the platoon players.
He helped on special teams as well.
Jeron Johnson (C)
Jeron Johnson is one of the many young Seahawks this season. He didn’t get much play time due to the big shoes in front of him, but he did his best to step up when he had the chance.
When he does get his chance to play, expect another Kam Chancellor-type of player out there.
If you wonder why I gave such high grades to a lot of these players, considers this…
On a 7-9 team that finished 3rd in their own division, this team sent 3 defensive players to the Pro Bowl and was ranked 9th in the NFL when all was said and done.
This team may not have found their offensive identity, but their defense kept them in games and was no excuse in the majority of the losses this season.
The defense came up big in wins against teams like the Giants, Ravens, Eagles while the defense did their part in losses to the Browns, 49ers and Cardinals to finish out the season.
This team’s identity has become its defense, a scary thought for a team with so many young, offensive weapons that were unhealthy in 2011.