Happiness filled the Seahawks’ locker room Thursday night as the team clinched the NFC West title with a win over the Los Angeles Rams.
At his locker stall, All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner smiled as he handed out compliments like candy. That is what happens when a team wins and is headed to the NFL playoffs.
But when asked about the colleague next to him, both on the field and in the clubhouse, Wagner’s lip tightened up.
He got serious.
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And he made a rightful declaration: K.J. Wright should go to the Pro Bowl in 2016.
“I definitely think it’s our best season together,” Wagner said. “He is playing amazing football. I love watching his film.”
On a defense full of stars, Wright often gets lost in the discussion of elite players not only on his team, but around the league.
But the former fourth-round pick out of Mississippi State knows it’s been a steady progression.
He also knows he is playing his best football right now. So does coach Pete Carroll, who continued to heap praise on his starting linebacker Friday.
“He does some stuff other guys cannot do,” Carroll said.
Last season, as a three-down linebacker, Wright was as sure-handed a tackler as there was in the league. He played 994 snaps and missed four tackles, according to Pro Football Focus.
But as good as he was stopping ball-carriers, Wright said he knew he had to be better in pass coverage.
So he and linebackers coach Michael Barrow took a long look on how he was defending tight ends and running backs in space.
“We looked at my technique,” Wright said. “I am 6-foot-4 and 250 pounds, and I have long arms, so (Barrow) thought, ‘Go up there and challenge them and don’t give them anything.’
“Guys had success when I gave them something and played off them. I had to start challenging these dudes.”
Wright, whose nickname is “Spiderman” because of his big frame, large hands and long limbs, has been as good a coverage defender as the Seahawks have had at any position this season.
And his 113 tackles are second to Dallas’ Sean Lee (130) for outside linebackers in the NFL. He also has a career-high three sacks.
Mention the Pro Bowl, and Wright’s face lights up.
“It would be a big deal, of course,” Wright said. “I definitely should be in there, man. As outside linebackers go, I am definitely in the top six (for Pro Bowl berths).
“At the end of the day, we will look up, see if I get in. If not, I’ve got to find ways to do more so they cannot ignore me.”