Seattle’s linebackers might be the one group for the Seahawks to see the least amount of turnover entering 2018. Stalwarts Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright are set to return for another year. Together, they have combined to be one of the best linebacking duos in the NFL since 2012. The only question marks come at Seattle’s third-linebacker spot and the reserves. The Seahawks have brought in several journeyman veterans and a high-profile rookie to compete for snaps. No matter who ends up winning that battle, the linebacking group will be one of the strengths for the Seahawks in 2018.
Lets review the depth chart and project how it will look come week one:
#54 Bobby Wagner, 6-0, 245 pounds:
An absolute rock in the middle for Seattle, Bobby posted his sixth-straight season with at least 100 total tackles in 2017. He added 1.5 sacks and two interceptions on the way to being named a First-Team All-Pro for the second year in a row. Was also named to his fourth career Pro Bowl. Without a doubt, Wagner was the glue that held together the defense throughout all the drama and injuries of a disappointing 2017.
A seventh-year pro, Wagner will be counted on to mentor a growing list of young players in the linebacker room. “We have so many young players who are trying to find out how to do it the Seahawk way,” Seahawks’ Defensive Coordinator Ken Norton said in May. “There are no better people than Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright to really show what being a Seahawk is really like. They’ve been here for a while now and they’ve really seen the highs and the lows and what it means to be a Seahawk, day after day and play after play.”
#50 K.J. Wright, 6-4, 246 pounds:
In what was viewed by some as a “down year” for the veteran linebacker, Wright still had over 100 total tackles, six passes defensed, and returned an interception for a touchdown in 2017. Wright was the 18th-ranked linebacker in the NFL by Pro Football Focus, earning an 82.1 overall grade. The unsung hero of the defense, K.J. has averaged over 100 total tackles per season in his seven years with the Seahawks.
Wright is set to enter unrestricted free agency at the end of this season. With his 30th birthday coming before the season starts, this could be his last chance at a big payday. Expect big things from Wright this year. Will be a three-down player once again.
#51 Barkevious Mingo, 6-5, 241 pounds:
Drafted sixth overall by the Cleveland Browns in 2013 as a defensive end, Mingo has shifted back and forth between linebacker and end throughout his career. Projected to be a pass-rushing specialist out of college, Barkevious has instead become a versatile jack-of-all-trades. Used primarily as an early-down, strong-side linebacker, Mingo posted 47 tackles with the Indianapolis Colts last season. Able to slide down to defensive end on passing downs, he also chipped in with two sacks in 2017. Forced three fumbles as well. Mingo has shown flashes of pass-rushing skill (nine career sacks), but has yet to get to the quarterback on a consistent basis.
Signed a two-year, $6.8 million contract with the Seahawks in March and will be expected to open the year as the starter at the strong-side linebacker position. With great size, he will be counted on to be a factor in stopping the run. Though primarily viewed as a pass-rusher in his career, he has held his own when covering opposing receivers. According to PFF, Mingo posted a 77.8 grade on 132 coverage snaps in 2017. As Seattle primarily lines up in a 4-2-5 nickel defense, Barkevious will see most of his time at defensive end, but will get snaps at linebacker on early / run-downs. A smart player who typically wins via hustle versus technique. Could be the hybrid linebacker/end Seattle has missed since Bruce Irvin departed in 2016.
— Samuel Gold (@SamuelRGold) March 16, 2018
The Top Backups:
#49 Shaquem Griffin, 6-2, 223 pounds:
A fan favorite leading up to last April’s NFL Draft, the Seahawks selected the one-handed Shaquem in the fifth-round with the 141st overall pick. Will join his twin brother Shaquill, a starting cornerback, in Seattle. With blazing speed (a 4.38-40 at the combine), Griffin can be a dynamic pass-rusher. Graded at 80.6 last year at UCF by PFF, Shaquem posted 20 tackles for a loss and 11.5 sacks for the Golden Knights in 2017.
Following the draft, Seahawks’ Head Coach Pete Carroll told SiriusXM Radio what they plan to do with Griffin; “We’re going play him as a weak side linebacker to start out and see what happens from there.” Carroll said. “He does have that crossover makeup because he is SO fast. We’re going to put him in position to run and hit.”
Though there were pre-draft questions about his ability to hold up against the run due to his size, Shaquem alleviated those concerns with an incredible showing at the NFL Combine.
— NFL (@NFL) March 3, 2018
Expected to backup K.J. Wright on the weak-side, the Seahawks will be creative with using Shaquille. Will be used as a run-and-chase ‘backer on early downs, and can line up anywhere to rush the passer. Should see plenty of snaps on defense as a rookie and could be a special-teams dynamo.
#57 D.J. Alexander 6-2, 233 pounds:
An elite special teams player, Alexander made the Pro Bowl in 2017 after posting 12 combined tackles on the kick coverage teams. Now in his second year with the Seahawks after coming over in a trade with Kansas City, Alexander provides depth on the inside. Purely a special-teamer, D.J. is not expected to see many snaps with the defense. Was unable to participate in 2018 OTAs and minicamp due to a shoulder injury. Could be a surprise cut if Carroll is happy with the progress of the Seahawks’ rookie linebackers.
#43 Emmanuel Beal, 6-0, 223 pounds:
An undrafted free-agent out of Oklahoma, the rookie inside linebacker could be another steal by the Seahawks. A junior-college transfer, in two seasons with the Sooners Beal totaled 101 tackles, 2.5 sacks and 10 tackles for loss. At OU’s Pro Day, Beal displayed unexpected athleticism, running a 4.58-second 40-yard dash with a 35-inch vertical jump. Projects to be a productive special-teams player and rotational linebacker. With the lack of depth at middle linebacker behind Bobby Wagner, Beal should make the 53-man roster.
Players on the bubble:
#46 Josh Perry, 6-4, 255 pounds:
Signed as an unrestricted free-agent on June 11th. Perry was a fourth-round pick in 2016 by the San Diego Chargers out of Ohio State. As a rookie, appeared in 15 games (one start), totaling 22 tackles and a forced fumble. He was with the Colts last season and spent most of the year on Indianapolis’ practice squad. Was active for two games in 2017 and did not record a tackle. An outside linebacker, Perry’s best shot at making the Seahawks is via special-teams.
#48 Warren Long, 5-11, 212 pounds:
A former running back in college with the Northwestern Wildcats, Long signed with Seattle as an undrafted free-agent in May. After switching to linebacker as a senior, played in 12 games in 2017, totaling 21 tackles and two forced fumbles. At Northwestern’s pro day, he ran a 4.50 40-yard dash and recorded a 38.5-inch vertical. With intriguing athleticism but little experience, is a practice-squad candidate.
#47 Tanner Carew 6-1, 245 pounds:
Carew, though officially listed as a linebacker, was the Oregon Ducks long-snapper for four years. Another rookie undrafted free-agent, Carew will battle with incumbent Tyler Ott for long-snapping duties.
#52 Jake Pugh, 6-4, 246 pounds:
One of 15 undrafted players signed by Seattle in May, Pugh spent four years at Florida State. Played in 36 games for the Seminoles and finished his collegiate career with 108 tackles and 7.5 sacks. Ran a 4.65 second 40-yard dash and posted a 38.5 inch vertical jump at the NFL Combine. A hybrid pass-rusher in the mold of Barkevious Mingo and Marcus Smith, Pugh is a long-shot to make the roster.
#58 Austin Calitro, 6-0, 240 pounds:
A second year player, Calitro briefly spent some time on the Seahawk’s practice squad in 2017. An undrafted free-agent, Austin also spent time with the New York Jets, San Francisco 49ers, and the Cleveland Browns. A short, stocky middle linebacker out of Villanova, Calitro has good speed, having posted a 4.67-40 at his 2016 Pro Day. Seems likely to spend another year on the practice squad.