CARSON, CA (News4usonline) – The Seattle Seahawks defense is trying to come up with another identity outside of the legendary Legion of Boom defense that once put fear into offenses across the National Football League.
That era has come and gone. Now, the Seahawks, minus Legion of Boom standouts Richard Sherman, Michael Bennett, and Kam Chancellor, are trying to re-establish their defensive identity. With middle linebacker Bobby Wagner hunkered down as the unit’s leader, Seattle’s defense could be as menacing as it once was.
Everyone knows that quarterback Russell Wilson is the key to the Seattle’s offensive engine. What some may not know is that on the other side of the ball, Seattle has a player that is just as equal as Wilson when it comes to impact on a football game.
Wagner is that guy for Seattle. Southern California football fans got a chance to see both Wilson and Wagner do their thing when the Los Angeles Chargers entertained the Seahawks at the Dignity Health Sports Park on Saturday, Aug. 24.
Wilson did what Russell Wilson does, darting in and out of harm’s way of the Chargers’ defense, while Wagner was busy clogging up the middle of the field as he usually does. In the first half of the Week 3 contest, Wilson’s feet and right arm made things happen for the Seahawks’ offense, powering Seattle to a 16-3 halftime lead en route to a 23-15 road win.
“We made some plays on third downs with the legs,” Wilson said after the game. “Scampering out and getting some big first downs and everything. I felt good running. Some of the scramble drills and what we’re trying to do. Not what we’re trying to do, but what happens naturally. I think we had some big runs there.
“We have to be able to do that,” Wilson added. “That’s a big part of our offense obviously. When the play breaks down, making something great happen. We’ve always been great at that. We want to excel and really get our receivers moving with me too, as well. They did a really good job of that tonight.”
The bigger story, though, is how the Seattle defense (outside of backup quarterback Geno Smith) performed. With Philip Rivers resting, the Seahawks defense, led by Wagner, tightened the screws on the Chargers offense, giving up just three first downs in the first half.
Seattle head coach Pete Carroll has a new defensive posse that has replaced the Legion of Boom, and he seems to be pretty stoked about it. Wagner, of course, is at the core of the Seahawks’ new defensive alignment.
“It was exciting for me to see [LB] Bobby [Wagner] and [LB] KJ [Wright] and [LB] Mychal Kendricks on the field at the same time,” Carroll said. “Mychal made a couple of beautiful plays and I can’t tell you a bunch about it, but just to have those guys out there running the show is really important to us. I think it’s going to be a real strength to our club. That was kind of their debut and they’ll be ready for the opener.”
Like his defensive buddies, Wagner is ready. The five-time Pro Bowler seems to always be ready, especially when it comes to stopping people in their tracks. Wagner has made tackling an art form and something to be admired.
When it comes to Wagner’s game, there is much to be appreciated. First and foremost, Wagner has been the cornerstone of Seattle’s defense for the past seven seasons. Wagner had a front-row seat to Seattle’s Legion of Boom’s defense that gave up the least amount of points in the league in the middle of their heyday (2012-2015).
By and large, Wagner was the glue to what Seattle did on defense then. He still is. That starts with No. 54 running from sideline to sideline tracking down wide receivers and running backs to make a tackle. He’s been pretty good of excelling at that task, racking up 100 or more tackles every year since he’s been in the league.
Last year, Wagner led all middle linebackers in tackles with 138 and was fourth in that category in the NFL. In 2016, the former Utah State star recorded 167 tackles. With a career 984 tackles, Wagner, should he stay healthy, will climb past 1,000-tackle plateau. That’s some real badass stuff.
But in stacking up all those numbers, you have to be out on the field and play at a high level. By and large, Wagner has done just that, missing only eight games in his seven seasons. Wagner’s durability and his consistency in production have paid off handsomely for the four-time first-team All-Pro.
Seattle rewarded their defensive star with a multi-million contract extension in July, ahead of the regular season. It has been reported that Wagner signed a three-year, $54 million extension with just over $40 million guaranteed. Now with that potential distraction over and done with, Carroll, Wilson and Wagner and rest of the Seahawks can work on the business of trying to get back to another Super Bowl.
The first steps into making that happen are playing great defense and running the football well, which Carroll thought his team did against the Chargers.
“This game worked out really well for us,” Carroll said. “We had some objectives that we wanted to attend to. We’re just happy that we were able to get that done and we ran the ball through. We ran for twenty-something in the first half, which is just what we had hoped. We wanted to be more efficient and clean up the game and I thought, for the most part, it was that.”