By Eric Ronnebeck
Linebackers did not disappoint in 2015 as the position continued to be a point of pride for the Seahawks. Over the last few years they’ve earned a reputation as tackling machines, helping shore up the run defense while providing pass rush and help in coverage. Although the pass coverage from the linebackers looked spotty at times to sometimes awful, that may be more a fault of the overall defensive scheme. Asking an outside linebacker to cover someone like Greg Olson, one of the best tight ends in the game, seems like a tall order at best, a bad scheme at worst. Let’s take a look at the individual players at the linebacker position as we get on to grading.
I want to start with Bruce Irvin to give praise for what a great year he had. Irvin has been used primarily as a pass rusher since being drafted in 2012 but this year he turned himself into more of a well rounded player. He didn’t have career high numbers in any statistical category but this year he became a solid rushing defender. Instead of overplaying and missing tackles he took a more patient approach and ended plays before they could become first downs. Pending the outcome of free agency, we don’t know if Irvin will be a Seahawk in 2016 but he’s a proven asset for this defense.
What Earl Thomas is to the Secondary, Bobby Wagner is to the linebackers. He’s the general on the field, the run stuffer, and the guy opposing offenses have to account for in the middle of the field. Although Wagner only got to the quarterback once in 2015, he had seven passes defended and 2 forced fumbles to go along with his 114 tackles. He made second team All Pro and only missed one game in 2015. The numbers that Bobby Wagner puts up year after year are consistent with middle linebackers who have been stalwarts at their position for seven plus years. Bobby Wagner just finished his fourth season and he’s 25.
Looking at KJ Wright’s career numbers you’ll notice that he continues to improve year after year. KJ had a career high in tackles this season with 116 to go along with four forced fumbles. He’s a versatile player who can move around the field and in 2015 he showed maturity with his path to the ball carrier as well as his on-field awareness. I haven’t always been a big KJ Wright fan but that changed in 2015.
Mike Morgan continued to show improvement in 2015 not only rotating in for limited playing time but also in place of injured starters. Morgan is a free agent but I expect the Seahawks to re-sign him. He shouldn’t be an expensive signing, he knows the system, and could very well start in it.
Kevin Pierre-Louis played decently in 2015 in only his second season. He’s shown good speed and is taking better paths to the ball, something that’s served him well on special teams. As he continues to improve his tackling as well as coverage skills, he could move from depth to starter in a couple of years.
Another linebacker who’s more known for his special teams play, Brock Coyle looked better on the field in 2015 although his stats don’t reflect that opinion. He provides depth for the Seahawks in the defensive middle. He won’t be replacing Bobby Wagner but he can play the position well enough to fill in when needed.
The linebackers for the Seattle Seahawks were more than solid in 2015. With most every player at the linebacker position under contract for the 2016 season (Irvin and Morgan, the exceptions) expect the Seahawk’s to add depth without overhauling the position.