- Richard Sherman's out for the season. Kam Chancellor's possibly out for the season. Earl Thomas is back, but his level of effectiveness is unknown. Is this it for the famed Seahawks' secondary?
We could be seeing the end of the Legion of Boom, one of the great defenses in modern NFL history.
For the first time in his seven-year NFL career, 29-year-old Pro Bowl cornerback Richard Sherman (ruptured Achilles’ tendon) will miss a pro football game when Atlanta travels to Seattle on Monday night. It seems increasingly likely that 29-year-old Pro Bowl strong safety Kam Chancellor (neck stinger) will miss the game as well, and possibly more than just this game—Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network reported Saturday that Chancellor is “likely” out for the season. And after missing the last two games with a hamstring injury, 28-year-old Pro Bowl free safety Earl Thomas, who has missed nine games in the last two seasons with injuries, will play on Monday, but it’s unknown how effective he can be, given his recent injury.
Thomas and Chancellor, both drafted in 2010, and Sherman, drafted in ’11, have been the keystones to one of the best NFL secondaries of all times. And now, with the three men turning 29, 30 and 30 next spring, it’s safe to wonder if this great defense, and this all-time secondary, is in the twilight.
“We’re getting thin,” Thomas admitted Friday after Seattle’s practice. “You can’t control it. It’s a violent game.”
Since 2012, Seattle has been first, first, first, first, third and—this year so far—third in the NFL in scoring defense, a nearly unprecedented run of greatness in the salary-cap era. For five straight seasons, from 2011 to ’15, Thomas and Sherman were the anchors; they played every game in the secondary. But age is not friendly to physical defenders.
This game against the Falcons is particularly important to the Seahawks—a division game, against a lethal passing team that has played well in recent big road games. Thomas will be vital in directing a neophyte group against Matt Ryan and his weapons.
“The one thing I’m really going to miss is lining up against Julio Jones,” Sherman said last week, mulling his future as he faced Achilles surgery. He had the surgery in midweek in Green Bay. “I love playing Julio. I love playing the best. But I honestly think we’ll be okay. I’ve enjoyed working with [backups] Justin Coleman and Neiko Thorpe. They’re ready.”
Shaquill Griffin, a solid and unafraid rookie who earned the starting job in Week 5, will start at right corner against the Falcons. Coleman, acquired in a cutdown weekend deal with New England 10 weeks ago, could start for Sherman. Former Bucs safety Bradley McDougald, who started for Thomas at free safety the last two weeks, will likely sub for Chancellor on Monday night—and maybe for the rest of the year.
With Atlanta, last year’s leading offense in football, coming to Seattle this weekend, and two more prolific passing games—Philadelphia and the Rams—due to come to Seattle in weeks 13 and 15, Sherman had better be right in thinking the depleted secondary will be okay. The back end will have to be good if the 6–3 Seahawks are going to make a run for the NFC playoffs.