RENTON, WA — The Seahawks have been known for their defense over the course of the last decade. Ever since Pete Carroll assumed head coaching duties, the unit has been the focus of the team. The "Legion of Boom" helped lead the franchise to its first Super Bowl victory and featured several All-Pro players.
The most notable of the group, however, was linebacker Bobby Wagner.
This offseason, Wagner became the final piece of the famed L.O.B. to leave Seattle, signing with the rival Rams and leaving a Hall of Fame-sized hole in the Seahawks' defense. The departure of Wagner means that someone else will be calling defensive plays for the Seahawks for the first time in a decade. And now, the locker room and culture are different.
“Oh no, it’s crazy. I can’t lie about that. Older guy that we all looked up to and everything,” said pass rusher Darrell Taylor. “We knew about him even before we got here, so it’s crazy. But it’s the NFL and we know how it goes, and we’re looking forward to taking steps forward and to make our defense better.”
Not only is Wagner gone, but so is his longtime running mate K.J. Wright, who signed with the Raiders last season and is currently a free agent.
“It’s funny, my OGs, they know I’ve got nothing but love for them,” said safety Ryan Neal. “Change is the thing that’s always inevitable. You miss them a lot, but at the end of the day, it’s a new season. It’s a new team and you’ve got to find that new identity and new leaders (have) got to emerge.”
That new leader is linebacker Jordyn Brooks.
A surprise first-round selection from Texas Tech two years ago, Brooks showed incremental improvement year after year. He saw his Pro Football Focus grade rise across the board substantially, including 10.8 points in overall grade and 13.6 in coverage, which will be substantially more important to the shift in defensive philosophy.
From a leadership perspective, Brooks has already started stepping up during the offseason, something that Neal made note of.
“I like it because it puts it on his shoulders and puts pressure on him to be better. And he’s done a great job during these OTAs of getting guys together off the field, like, ‘Hey, let’s all hang out. Let’s watch film after practice.’”
Neal also spoke on the adjustment Brooks is going through and related it to former Seahawks great Kam Chancellor.
“Kam Chancellor was a mild-mannered man guy. I’ve asked plenty of people around this building, ‘How was Kam when he came in?’ He didn't say a word. But when it was time for him to be that guy, ‘Oh I got to talk now.’ And he became who he was.”
Stepping into a leadership position isn’t always the easiest to step into. Not only do you have the extra responsibilities of calling the plays for the defense, but the need to step up vocally.
“So Jordyn, I think he’s going to be just fine with it. Something he’ll grow right into,” said Neal. “And like I said, it’s going to be organic. You don’t have to force it. You do it the way you do it. Whether it’s vocal, whether it’s by how you play, you can lead in any type of way you want to. It’s just, he has to find his space with it. And I think he’ll find it really soon.”
During the adjustment period to the Vic Fangio-style defense that both defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt and associate head coach Sean Desai are bringing with them, the defense can enjoy a true reset with Brooks at the helm. Plus, with the pressure relatively off for at least this season, Brooks will be afforded the time to grow into the role.