Dave Boling’s column on Leroy Hill this morning at the News Tribune, as well as an interview I did with the veteran linebacker for a story last week on the beginning of the OTA practices, prompted a thought about the ever-changing composition of the Seahawks’ defense.
After starting 16 games on the weak side last season for the NFL’s ninth-ranked defense, Hill has made 77 starts since being selected in the third round of the 2005 NFL Draft. Or, almost as many as the rest of the back seven combined – 85, a total spiked by Pro Bowl free safety Earl Thomas, who has started all 32 regular-season games in his first two seasons. Four others made all their starts last season – linebacker K.J. Wright (12), cornerbacks Brandon Browner (16) and Richard Sherman (10) and strong safety Kam Chancellor (15). Rookie Bobby Wagner, who has been working with the No. 1 defense at middle linebacker, was a second-round pick in the April draft.
There’s more mileage on the D-line, especially with tackle Brandon Mebane and his 69 career starts. But the other three are recent starters – end Red Bryant, with 23 of his 24 career starts coming in the past two seasons; tackle Alan Branch, with 15 of his 18 starts coming last season in his first year with the Seahawks; and end Chris Clemons, with 32 of his 35 starts coming the past two seasons with the Seahawks.
As Hill told Boling, “We’ve got a young team and the theme is to compete, and they’re ready to compete. Bobby is playing and he’s picking it up and running with it, and we’re helping him out along the way.”
Leroy Hill: From once-maligned to mentor. Talk about a great story.