Pro Bowl picks point to strength
RENTON — With one player selected as a starter for the Pro Bowl, and two others named as alternates, the Seattle Seahawks have one of the best defensive backfields in the league, right?
“Definitely,” said Seattle safety Earl Thomas, the team’s first Pro Bowl starter since 2008. “I don’t want to go with all that (rah-rah) stuff. But I feel like week in and week out, we put up numbers. And we hold offenses to reasonable numbers.
“And the two corners we’ve got are special. They’re big guys. They’re physical, and they also can run with you. Especially with Kam (Chancellor) back there, it’s going to be hard to find where you can go with the ball.”
Along with Thomas earning his first Pro Bowl appearance, cornerback Brandon Browner and strong safety Kam Chancellor were selected as first alternates in their first season starting in the league.
It’s heady stuff for a current starting secondary that had a combined two years of NFL experience at the start of the season.
But Seattle defensive backs coach Kris Richard sensed this group was special during training camp.
“I’m very humbled by the acknowledgement,” Richard said. “And it’s a testament to the guys’ hard work and their dedication. And it’s been emphasized from Day 1. They set high standards for themselves, and have competed well to live up to or surpass those standards.”
Seattle’s statistical turnaround on pass defense in one season was impressive. With one game remaining, Seattle has 21 interceptions. The Seahawks had 12 interceptions last season.
Seattle gave up 31 passing touchdowns in 2010, tied for third-worst in the league. The Seahawks have given up 17 passing touchdowns this season, seventh in the NFL.
And through 15 games, Seattle has allowed only 45 plays of 20 yards or more, tied with Baltimore for second in the league. Last year, the Seahawks gave up 76 plays of 20 yards or more, second-to-last in the league.
“We set the bar high this year,” Chancellor said. “And it’s just a matter of us coming back next year and raising it from there, and starting where we left off.”
Something that’s worked for the Seahawks is the team’s length on the perimeter, with the 6-foot-4 Browner and 6-3 rookie Richard Sherman playing cornerback, and 6-3, 232-pound Chancellor roaming the middle of the field as the team’s enforcer.
Arizona head coach Ken Whisenhunt says he’s took notice.
“Their ability to compete one-on-one, whether it’s press or man coverage allows you to do a number of different things defensively, which they’ve done a good job with,” Whisenhunt said. “It puts them on the island, but you can definitely see the way that those guys compete. A lot of times, what’s impressive is seeing guys that size compete the way they do.”
After four years in the CFL, Browner was focused on earning a roster spot when he arrived at training camp, with no illusions about making a Pro Bowl.
“I just wanted to make the team,” Browner said. “Now I’ve become a starter and all of those steps have been taken. So I’ve got something to build on, and something to live up to next year.
“I want to exceed what I did this year – from being an alternate I want to be a shoo-in starter. And I want to help this team win next year and get into the playoffs.”
Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch said he’s honored to be selected as a second alternate for the Pro Bowl, but felt even better about fullback Michael Robinson getting the nod as first alternate for the NFC squad.
“That’s (a) pretty good accomplishment – that I’ve got somebody in front of me who’s also getting recognized for what he’s doing,” Lynch said. “It’s just good to see him getting recognized for all of his hard work.”
Robinson, a Penn State product, has been the lead blocker most of the time while Lynch was gaining 1,118 yards this season. Robinson has a shot to play in the Pro Bowl, with Green Bay’s John Kuhn ahead of him.
Robinson would be the first Seattle fullback to make the trip to Hawaii since Mack Strong in 2006.
Robinson said that after his first season with Seattle, for the first time in his six-year NFL career he could specifically prepare for his role as a fullback heading into next season with Seattle.
Robinson bulked up, and got up to 230 pounds.
“When I left San Francisco last year after training camp I had no idea what was going on,” Robinson said. “They told me when I got here I was going to have to play fullback, and I definitely welcomed that role. But I didn’t know what I was going to be playing.
“This is really one of the first offseasons that I knew for a fact what my job was going to be and what my role was going to be. And I could get my body into the right physical shape to actually do it.”
Seahawks linebacker David Hawthorne and receiver Ben Obomanu did not practice Wednesday because of sore knees. The team practiced inside in sweats and no helmets. Cornerback Kennard Cox (hamstring), defensive tackle Clinton McDonald (concussion) and linebacker Malcolm Smith (concussion) returned to practice after missing last week’s game against San Francisco. Tarvaris Jackson (pectoral) fully participated in practice. … Offensive line coach Tom Cable addressed speculation that a college or pro head coaching job could be in his future. Cable was rumored to be a candidate for the UCLA job that went to former Seahawks coach Jim Mora. “I love what Pete’s doing, and him bringing me here has been really kind of a blessing. So I just worry about Sunday, and so I don’t know what will happen after that.”
Eric D. Williams: 253-597-8437 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/seahawks