If there is one Seahawk certainty heading into the opener, it’s this: The front seven is the strength of the team. From pass-rushing to run-stopping, this is the most skilled septet in the NFL.
RENTON — Had a quick question for Michael Bennett about the Seahawks’ front seven.
“Is it that we’re underrated?” the defensive lineman asked.
Well, yeah…a little bit, right?
“A lot,” he said. “We’re a lot underrated.”
Brandon Mebane had similar thoughts regarding Seattle’s defensive front.
“We don’t get no love,” the defensive tackle said with a grin. “It’s all good.”
It’s hard to imagine that the front seven on a team that ranked third in NFL run defense last year could be overlooked. It’s difficult to think that 63.6 percent of what has been the league’s stingiest D for the past two seasons could be a mere afterthought. But when that same group has been sharing the field with the Legion of Boom, it’s easier to see why linemen and linebackers would take a back seat to the back end.
It doesn’t, however, make it right.
If there is one Seahawk certainty heading into the season opener, it’s this: The front seven is the strength of the team. Sorry, but with Kam Chancellor out, Seattle’s secondary is playing second fiddle.
From pass-rushing to run-stopping to ball-hawking, this is the most skilled septet in the NFL. And maybe (bold-statement warning), just maybe, the best front seven the Hawks have ever had.
“Well, it’s a little early to say that,” warned linebacker Bobby Wagner. “We definitely need to get some games under our belt first, but it’s exciting.”
Oh, fine, Bobby. Go ahead and be rational about this. But not even he can deny the possibilities that exist on paper.
For one — there’s health. At least for now there is.
Mebane was a Pro Bowl snub in 2013 who looked Pro Bowl-bound last year before a hamstring injury ended his season. Fellow defensive tackle Jordan Hill had 5.5 sacks over a six-game stretch before knee and calf injuries ended his.
The Seahawks still earned wins despite these losses thanks to Bennett and the four Pro Bowlers who lined up behind him. But to have this pair back is to have two 300-pound cherries atop a sky-high sundae.
For two — there’s depth. At least for now there is.
When some of the strongest, swiftest athletes in the world are paid to collide a few dozen times in a three-hour span, pain happens. In addition to the 13 combined games Mebane and Hill sat out last season, Wagner missed five, linebacker Bruce Irvin missed one, and defensive end Cliff Avril missed the second half of the Super Bowl.
But now the Hawks add former Browns D-lineman Ahtyba Rubin, who, yes, had a down year last season, but had 53 tackles in 2013 and 82 in 2011. They also add rookie pass-rusher Frank Clark, who this preseason, treated blockers like they were pregame high-school football banners.
So the Seahawks have the health, they have the depth, and with Clark, they have the youth. What all this means for their opponents?
That they’re about to feel some wrath.
Bennett, who plays tackle and end, has more quarterback hits over the past two years than all but three players in the league: J.J. Watt, Carlos Dunlap and Robert Quinn. The next “-gate” story involving the NFL should center around why this man has yet to make a Pro Bowl.
Wagner, a Pro Bowler who has tallied at least 100 tackles in each of the past three seasons, was named one of the top 50 players in the league by ESPN’s Grantland. There’s a reason Seattle signed him to a four-year, $43 million contract this offseason that included $22 million guaranteed.
Fittingly, linebacker K.J. Wright has not been mentioned yet, because he may be the most underrated player of this overlooked group. Wright can defend the run and the pass with equal ability, and has played all three linebacking positions in the 4-3 throughout his career.
The dependable Avril and the serviceable Irvin both should contribute throughout the season.
In other words — get ready. The strength of the Seahawks is about to flex some muscle and crush some bones.
This isn’t just the front seven anymore. These days, those seven are front and center.