Assessing the Seahawks defensive backfield post-suspensions

Change is on the Horizon

Assuming you’ve either left your house or have a Twitter account, news has reached you that Walter Thurmond and Brandon Browner are facing suspensions for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.

With this two-pronged blow – one of many – to the Seattle Seahawks reputation, Thurmond will be forced to miss the next four games and Browner could be looking at losing a calendar year’s worth of football.

It does not appear as though Thurmond will be appealing his suspension and is expected to return to the Seahawks lineup in time for their week 17 match with the St.Louis Rams; Browner is already appealing his suspension and if he’s victorious can return in four weeks as well.

Based on all the available information, it would appear as though both suspensions are for the use of marijuana. For Thurmond, the four-game suspension is indicative of either two or three failed tests and Browner’s year long ban is the result of his being in the third stage of the NFL‘s very complicated substance abuse disciplinary program.

His first such occurrence, according to Hawkblogger Brian Nemhauser, was a result of Browner voluntary entering the program coming out of college.

Much like anything disciplinary in the NFL, the situation surrounding Browner is incredibly convoluted and leaves many, myself included, just a little confused.


Partners in crime?

What is clear however, is that the best case scenario for the Seattle Seahawks is that Browner wins his appeal and the Seahawks get him back at the same time as Thurmond.

Addressing Their Absence

The loss of Thurmond and Browner tests the depth of Seattle’s secondary in ways they’ve not experienced in… just less than one calendar year.

That is to say that this isn’t unknown territory for the Seahawks, which leaves me partially upset but more-so optimistic about how they will handle the situation.

For those less versed in the last year of Seahawks football, a combination of injuries and a suspension to Brandon Browner last season tested the depth of the Seahawks secondary and they barely missed a beat.

Now that being said, I’m not trying to downplay the severity of losing a starting corner on the outside and more importantly the only corner in Seattle’s stable who’s capable of playing the slot. Just not ready to write off the Seahawks next four games as a losses.

In their places, I expect Dan Quinn to put Byron Maxwell on the outside and Jeremy Lane in the vacated nickel spot.

A combination of Maxwell’s ability on the edge and inability to keep up with slot receivers already had him lining up on the outside when the Seahawks went to their nickel package and were missing Browner – even when Thurmond was healthy they would move him to the nickel to accommodate Maxwell.

Assuming the Seahawks are unable to bring in a free agent to play the nickel, I expect the Seahawks to have Maxwell lining up there with Lane on the outside for three cornerback sets.

While Lane’s speed is a great asset for dealing with some of the smaller receivers that line up in the slot, he lacks the agility and ability to cover ground from sideline to sideline and was exposed for it last season.

Moving further down the depth chart, the Seahawks have activated DeShawn Shead off their practice squad. Tharold Simon, a fifth-round pick in the last draft, is also expected to get more looks in practice and could potentially see the odd snap on Monday against the New Orleans Saints.

Neither will see much in the way of playing time, but I’m most intrigued by what DeShawn Shead brings to the table.

He has the ability to play either corner or safety, which if nothing else adds scheme versatility. Shead also has the physical attributes commonly associated with nickel corners and could potentially see playing time in that package down the road.

The same can not be said of Simon, who is the quintessential Seahawks cornerback: big, mean and best suited to playing outside the numbers.



Is Winfield coming back to Seattle?

No sooner than the Seahawks received the news that they were losing Thurmond and Browner did they go out and sign Perrish Cox, formerly of the San Francisco 49ers.

And no sooner than they had signed Perrish Cox, they waived him. A peculiar move, to say the least, but perhaps also an omen of things to come.

This move could communicate a variety of things, but the eternal optimist in me wants to believe they let Cox go because they felt Browner had a solid case in his appeal or that they are on the verge of signing Antoine Winfield out of retirement – I really hope it’s both.

It’s being reported by nearly everyone that the Seahawks and Winfield are in serious contract negotiations, and there was even a report earlier this week that they had all but finalized a deal.

All reports indicate Winfield would be willing to come out of retirement to join the Seahawks, but he is also apparently content with family life.

The Seahawks have also worked out Marcus Trufant, which honestly scares the hell out of me.

And looking beyond those two, there’s no reason why they couldn’t re-sign Perrish Cox.

Options aplenty, to this ever-prevalent substance problem.

Seattle could be so lucky.


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About J.D. Burke

Living in beautiful Vancouver, B.C. the majority of his life, father introduced him to hockey at an early age and made sure his team was the Canucks. Eventually found himself loving the Seahawks. Masochistic much? Loves beer, novels, music, writing, long walks on the beach & sushi. "Be more like J.D." Connect with him today!
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