The 2018 version of the Seahawks’ secondary will look much different than the iterations of the past in Seattle. Only two members of the Super Bowl winning Legion Of Boom remain, with stalwarts Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor now gone. The Seahawks also parted ways with holdovers DeShawn Shead and Jeremy Lane at the cornerback position.
Now, as the cornerback spot enters the year in major flux, second-year pro Shaquill Griffin finds himself having to fill the shoes of the future Hall-of-Famer Sherman. Hoping to recapture some of the success of old, Seattle brought back former LOB-member Byron Maxwell to mentor a young corps of defensive backs. The top three cornerback spots seem to be locked up, but there is a talented, albeit inexperienced, group of players waiting in the wings
#26 Shaquill Griffin, CB, 6-0, 198 pounds:
The success of Seattle’s cornerbacks will rise and fall with the performance of Griffin in 2018. A 2017 third-round pick out of UCF, Shaquill played in 15 games with 11 starts for the Seahawks as a rookie. Griffin lived up to his reputation as a strong tackler in the run game, posting 59 total tackles. A little hot-and-cold in pass coverage early on while playing mostly on the right side of the secondary, Shaquill settled into a groove as the season wore on. He totaled one interception and 15 passes defensed while limiting opposing quarterbacks to a 75.2 passer rating.
This season Griffin will slide over to the left cornerback spot, the most important side with the majority of the league’s quarterbacks being right-handed, in place of Sherman. There is no doubt he has the physical traits to succeed, as he posted a 4.38-40 and 38.2-inch vertical at the combine. A long, rangy corner, Griffin must continue to build on his rookie season if Seattle has any chance at success.
#41 Byron Maxwell, CB, 6-1, 198 pounds:
A Super Bowl XLVIII winner with Seattle, Maxwell was reunited with the Seahawks last November after Sherman went down to injury. Byron turned out to be a pleasant surprise in his return to Seatle, as the street free-agent performed well following his October release from the Miami Dolphins. Filling in at Sherman’s left cornerback spot, Maxwell started six games for Seattle and finished with 38 tackles, seven passes defensed and one interception.
Now 30 years old, Maxwell returns to the Emerald City on a one-year contract. Drafted by the Seahawks in 2011, Byron was a key member of the Legion of Boom through 2014. Sent to Philadelphia in a 2015 trade, Maxwell spent one year with the Eagles before being traded again, this time to the Dolphins. Miami would wind up releasing him midway through the 2017 season due to poor performance. Now in his third stint in Seattle, Byron is expected to flip back to his natural position on the right side. He will bring a physical presence to the secondary, but will have to fend off a couple of youngsters for a starting role.
#28 Justin Coleman, CB, 5-11, 190 pounds:
A former undrafted free-agent, Justin Coleman was acquired by Seattle for a seventh-round pick in a 2017 preseason trade with from the New England Patriots. Coleman instantly earned a significant role in the Seahawks’ secondary as the third-year pro would turn out to be a revelation on the inside for Seattle. PFF credits Coleman with holding opposing quarterbacks to a 73.7 passer rating when he lined up against slot receivers. In 16 games (five starts) with the ‘Hawks, Justin played over 59 percent of defensive snaps and totaled 32 tackles, two interceptions (both returned for TDs) and nine passes defensed.
Justin Coleman was one of the toughest cornerbacks to find success against in the NFL in 2017. pic.twitter.com/Gx4T8879AH
— PFF (@PFF) May 22, 2018
This year, Coleman returns to the Seahawks after signing a one-year Restricted Free Agent tender worth $2.914 million. Expected to reclaim his role as Seattle’s nickelback and will shadow opposing slot receivers.
The Top Backups:
#23 Neiko Thorpe, CB, 6-2, 210 pounds:
A veteran journeyman, 2018 will be Thorpe’s sixth season in the NFL and third with Seattle. A former collegiate safety at Auburn University, Thorpe is regarded as a premier special-teams player. Neiko led the 2017 Seahawks with 320 snaps on the kick-coverage teams and recorded ten special-teams tackles. Not much of a factor on plays from scrimmage, Thorpe logged only 22 snaps with Seattle’s defense. Is set to return to his role as a special-teams ace.
#37 Tre Flowers, CB, 6-3, 203 pounds:
A fifth-round pick in the 2018 draft, Flowers is yet another former safety Seattle will try to convert to cornerback. Playing at Oklahoma State University, Tre amassed 209 tackles, four interceptions and 25 passes defensed in four seasons. With great size (6-3, 35″ arms) and speed (ran a 4.45-40), Seattle views Flowers as having all the required tools to play corner. Seahawks’ Head Coach Pete Carroll has already come away impressed by Tre’s performance through the spring.
“He’s [Tre] got all of the tools that you’re looking for. He’s real long. He’s feet are really quick and light and he’s got terrific speed. And he’s already shown all of the abilities to make the plays by playing safety for all of those years, the tackles, the hits and the plays on the ball and all of that.” Carroll told Greg Bell of the Tacoma News Tribune in May. “He showed like he really understood right off the bat. So it was a very good demonstration of what the future could hold. I was really pleased with that.”
Having not played cornerback since his high school days in San Antonio, this looks like it will be a redshirt season for the rookie. In a mold similar to Byron Maxwell, Flowers will be counted on to be the long-term replacement at right cornerback.
On The Bubble:
#39 Dontae Johnson, CB, 6-2, 200 pounds:
Another big corner, Johnson comes to the Seahawks after playing four years with the 49ers. At 26 years old Dontae brings good size and plenty of starting experience, having started all 16 games for San Francisco in 2017. Though he did struggle last year (PFF’s 118th-ranked corner in ’17), Johnson provides Seattle with a low-risk option after signing a one-year deal worth just $1.3 million. Has some versatility to play both in the slot and outside. If recovered from off-season foot surgery, will challenge for the number three job.
#24 Mike Tyson CB, 6-1, 207 pounds:
A safety at the University of Cincinnati, Tyson was a sixth-round draft pick in 2017 by the Seahawks. Converted to cornerback, Mike played in only one preseason game and was not on Seattle’s active roster until the final three weeks of the regular season. He did not record a snap with the defense and was not a factor on special-teams. 2017 was essentially a redshirt year while he learned his new position. A bit of a project, Tyson has a chance at sticking due to his versatility. Saw time at both corner and safety during minicamp. Likely to spend most of this year on the practice squad once again.
#21 DeAndre Elliott, CB, 6-1, 189 pounds:
Elliott is another tall, developmental cornerback Seattle has brought in to compete for a roster spot. Signing with the Seahawks in 2016 as an undrafted free-agent, the former Colorado State Ram appeared in 13 games and recorded eight tackles for Seattle as a rookie. Entering 2017, he was challenging for a role on defense, but broke his ankle during the preseason and wound up missing the year on injured reserve. A raw prospect, unlikely to make the active roster.
#36 Akeem King, CB, 6-1, 215 pounds:
A former seventh-round draft pick by the Atlanta Falcons in 2015, Akeem missed all of 2016 due to a foot injury and was later waived by the Falcons in 2017. The Seahawks added him to their practice squad shortly thereafter before releasing him in January of this year. He was brought back to Seattle in March on a non-guaranteed contract and is expected to be a depth player through training camp. With 4.41 speed and good size, King, a former receiver at San Jose St., has some upside but is unlikely to make the active roster.