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When Pete Carroll took over as the head coach for the Seattle Seahawks in 2010, the Pacific Northwest football team lacked any semblance of identity. With their second first-round pick in the 2010 draft, the Seahawks selected free safety Earl Thomas from the University of Texas. Thomas flashed as a high intensity player who flew around the field like a hawk. Seattle also drafted its strong safety of the future in Kam Chancellor in 2010, though many of the fans did not recognize the importance of the fifth round pick at the time. Veteran Lawyer Milloy was still the starting strong safety, allowing Chancellor to sit and learn from one of the National Football League’s best. In 2011, Seattle pieced together their vision of a formidable defensive secondary. Seattle signed a giant and unique cornerback in Brandon Browner while also adding rookie cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Byron Maxwell with day three draft picks. It looked like a rag-tag group, but it would soon develop an historic legacy.
In 2011, Seattle was looking to create a tough defensive identity. With hard hitters like Chancellor, Browner and Thomas in the secondary, the defensive backs settled on the moniker “Legion of Boom.” It was not simply a nickname. It was an attitude and a culture. Over the next few years, Seahawks fans were blessed by unrestricted ferocity and leveling hits on the football field. And not only did the unit fly around forcing fumbles because of big hits, it played so proficiently in the pass defense that opposing gameplans largely refused to throw the football downfield for fear of interceptions. The Legion of Boom’s vaunted Cover-3 defense coupled with the secondary’s ability to come up and fill in the short passing game made it a defense with few holes. Carroll, a defensive back guru, was able to watch a legendary secondary flourish as Chancellor became a well-rounded daunting enforcer, Sherman became the type of cornerback that opposing quarterbacks would not throw the ball toward, and Thomas became known as the best centerfield safety in all of football. The secondary was so historically strong that analysts were unsure whom to credit. They would say that Sherman was only good because Thomas was there to help him overtop. But then they would say that Earl Thomas was only good because Chancellor was there to be his enforcer underneath. And Chancellor was only good because of the coverage skills of Thomas and Sherman. The logic was circular and it went on forever, but the reality is that Thomas, Sherman, and Chancellor were (and still are) exceptional football players.
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But as the years have passed, the Legion of Boom is getting older. Browner was already aged at its inception, and has since retired. But Sherman, Thomas and Chancellor were all young budding stars when the coalition formed six years ago. Now Thomas has contemplated retirement and Chancellor has dealt with numerous injuries inherent to being an enforcer. All three are now 27 years of age or older and are approaching that point where they will begin to exit their prime. They may be three or four years away, or they may be one to two years away. It is hard to tell. The point is that the Legion of Boom is aging and in the next few years, it will be but a shadow of its former self. Even if the core stays together into their 30s, their play will be diminished.
Stars age and they fade. It’s a natural procession of the career of a football player. While the aging of the founding members takes an emotional toll, it doesn’t have to be a death sentence to the famed Legion of Boom. There is a potential for the rise of new stars. The issue, however, is that Seattle does not appear to have any potential rising stars in its secondary. Pete Carroll and John Schneider have missed on a number of defensive secondary draft picks following the 2011 draft. Jeremy Lane showed great promise, but injury issues have held him back from reaching his potential. But other than him, the front office has missed on Winston Guy, Tharold Simon, Eric Pinkins, Tye Smith, and Ryan Murphy. They have also failed to bring in any outside free agents that have been anything more than serviceable. In fact, the defensive secondary should command as much concern regarding draft success in recent years as the highly debated offensive line has. Thomas, Chancellor and Sherman are not immortal and Seattle needs to find promising young players to groom in the next couple years.
Perhaps it is the right time, though. Many consider the 2017 NFL Draft to be one of the deepest defensive secondary drafts in recent memory. With players like Budda Baker, Kevin King and Sidney Jones IV (just to name a few Huskies that helped to coin Washington’s “Death Row” defense) the Seahawks have a tremendous opportunity to draft immense talents that would fit right into their defensive secondary identity. If Seattle does not address acquiring talented youth in the secondary, it will certainly face issues down the road. But until that fateful day that the Seahawks no longer employ Thomas, Chancellor and Sherman, enjoy the show and hope that the Seahawks replenish the well.