The New England Patriots are set to take on the Seattle Seahawks tomorrow in what should be a good Week 6 matchup between a great Pats offense and a stifling Seahawks defense. Let’s take a look at five players to watch for on the Seahawks defense, but let it be known that the ‘Hawks are stocked with good players on D from top to bottom.
1. DE Bruce Irvin
Although he didn’t do this in nearly the same manner, defensive rookies Bruce Irvin and Tavon Wilson have proven some draft experts wrong thus far with their play this season as both were viewed as reaches by their respective teams. While both players still need to iron things out, Irvin has been a revelation so far this season and has been one of the best pass rushers in the league this year.He’s added five sacks and seven QB hits this year.
Irvin has pressured the quarterback 13 times this season, and he is right there with the New England Patriots rookie DE standout Chandler Jones for the Defensive Rookie of the Year. Irvin has been the better pass rusher, but Jones has been better against the run.
2. CB Richard Sherman
Possibly one of the most underrated cornerbacks in the league, Richard Sherman is in the midst of a great year and provides the Seahawks with a top duo of big, second-year CBs who are shutting it down this season. The other man in the tandem, Brandon Browner, steadily improved last season and has actually outplayed Sherman a little bit this season.
Still, I view Sherman as the best CB on this team due to his consistency and ability to shut down top receivers. He thoroughly frustrated Steve Smith last week, to the point where the Carolina Panthers veteran wideout acted like he didn’t care about making the play anymore and tried to play the physical game with Sherman. A breakout as a rookie, Sherman continues to show that he is one of the top corners in the NFC West and has defended seven passes this year.
3. Bobby Wagner
I just want to hit on the efforts of another rookie standout for Seattle, and that is linebacker Bobby Wagner who has two sacks this year and has been making an impact as a pass rusher and a run-stuffer. He’s already emerged as a solid linebacker in this league and has been the best linebacker on the Seahawks this year in a solid trio that also includes K.J. Wright and Leroy Hill.
Wagner has five tackles for loss and three QB hits, and he has 19 tackles and 19 “successful plays” overall. He’s an underrated rookie that Pats fans need to keep an eye on in this game.
4. CB Marcus Trufant
Marcus Trufant is not the shutdown corner he used to be, but he has turned himself into one of the better nickel corners in the league and is enjoying a very successful 2012 season thus far. He’s still covering well at the age of 31 and will have to be at his best in order to give top slot receiver Wes Welker all he can handle. Welk has been lighting up defenses in his past three games, and he’s been one of the best ten receivers in the NFL this season. He has caught 88.2% of everything thrown at him in the past three games.
The Seahawks veteran DB has been absolutely shutdown in the slot so far this season, but he is definitely going to have his toughest challenge yet when aligned against Welker.
5. Kam Chancellor
There are quite a few safeties in the NFL known for their hard-hitting ability, like Patrick Chung, but there might not be a harder hitter than Kam Chancellor, who is a downright scary opponent in the middle of the field. A great run-stopping safety, Chancellor has already racked up 26 tackles this season and has also added three passes defended.
The 24-year-old is coming off of a season in which he emerged as one of the best safeties in the league, and he has gradually become a better coverage player and is clearly one of the best safeties operating in the box. Chancellor gets tested by QBs quite often, but the strong safety’s incredible tackling ability leads to low YAC numbers. He’s coming off of a good game against Carolina and has been one of the best safeties this year.
You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter @SorianoJoe.