Legion of Boom still earning top marks on Seahawks midseason grades

Playing a much tougher role in 2015, Richard Sherman has arguably been the team's MVP. But what about the rest of Seattle's secondary?

Fresh off the team's bye and halfway through the 2015 regular season, it is a logical time for midseason grades.

Each position is assigned a classic "A-F" grade as is each individual player. A's are rewarded for exemplary Pro Bowl-caliber play. B's are given for very good to good play - better than the league average. C's are given for average play and D's for significantly below average play. Failing grades are reserved for players who, frankly, shouldn't be on the roster. 

Completed Grades:

Quarterbacks | Running Backs | Fullbacks | Tight Ends | Wide Receivers | Offensive Line | Defensive Line | Linebackers

Defensive Backs:  Cornerbacks and safeties play very different roles in most defenses but with the Seahawks secondary collectively known as the Legion of Boom, grading both in one article seems appropriate.

Perhaps because he still hasn't recorded his first interception of the season, cornerback Richard Sherman has been knocked by some evaluators.

He won't be here.

In fact, given the extra responsibilities he's taken this season, I'd argue he's been as good in 2015 as ever and the Seahawks MVP of the first half.

At 6-3, 195 pounds, Sherman has the ideal length and speed Pete Carroll has always looked for outside at cornerback. The lanky defender has shown remarkable agility, instincts and competitiveness this season in following the opponents' top receivers all over the field, including drawing snaps at nickel corner - where size can be a detriment not an advantage. Besides his typical sticky coverage, Sherman has also proven just as reliable as an open-field tackler, using his long arms and underrated strength to lasso rival receivers and running backs.

On the opposite side, Cary Williams has performed reasonably well in his first season in Seattle's attack. He's certainly not as physical as former Seahawks standout Brandon Browner nor as poised with the ball in the air as Byron Maxwell, but like Sherman, Williams offers a rare combination of size (6-1, 190), fluidity and straight-line speed, which makes him quite effective in coverage. Williams has become a whipping boy of sorts for Seattle's fans but the reality is, anyone playing opposite an All-Pro like Sherman is going to be challenged often and Williams has fared well in this high-pressure environment.

Of course, a big reason why both Sherman and Williams have fared well is the support they receive from safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor.

Thomas' remarkable range has made it virtually impossible for opponents to beat Seattle on deep balls the past several years. His fluidity, acceleration and ball-skills make him arguably the top safety in the NFL, at least when it comes to coverage. He leads the Seahawks with three turnovers forced (two interceptions, one fumble) and has shown remarkable toughness coming back from offseason shoulder surgery.

Thomas flies towards the line of scrimmage in run support as aggressively as any safety in the league, relying on his closing speed and an explosive pop on contact to knock ball-carriers to the ground. He can allow himself to come in a little out of control, however, and has overrun a few plays this season, leaving cutback opportunities for savvy ball-carriers.

Cleaning up with forceful hits, of course, is precisely what Chancellor does best; making him such an integral part of Seattle's scheme.

Given that Chancellor was thrown right into the action once he returned from an early season holdout, it would have surprised no one if he'd been rusty. Chancellor has performed well, however, showing impressive conditioning as well as the physicality and knack for playmaking that has made him an All-Pro in the past. Like most defensive backs as thickly muscled as Chancellor, he is a bit stiff in coverage and this lack of ideal agility does make him susceptible to shiftier pass-catchers.

Quick slot receivers and backs have been a bugaboo for the Seahawks, in part because the club's top nickel corner - Jeremy Lane - has been out recovering from the broken arm and torn ACL suffered in the Super Bowl.

Seattle's most versatile defensive back - DeShawn Shead - has fared reasonably well when asked to line up against bigger slot receivers. He appeared most comfortable back at strong safety while Chancellor was out, leading to the surprising release of Dion Bailey, who'd won the "starting" role out of training camp. At 6-2, 220 pounds, Shead possesses the length Seattle prefers outside or at safety but is such a savvy, competitive defender that he's been able to help inside while more traditional nickel corners like Marcus Burley and Tye Smith have struggled with injuries and inexperience.

Burley enjoyed the best game of his young Seahawks career against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers in Week Two, recording seven tackles. The 5-11, 185 pounder has the quickness for nickel and dime duties but hasn't shown the heavy-hitting that helped Lane emerge as a quiet star in Seattle's scheme a year ago.

The anticipated return of Lane soon is one of the reasons why Carroll and the Seahawks are optimistic that the defense should get a boost in the second half of the year.

Reserve Kelcie McCray has developed into one of Seattle's more reliable special teams performers but he's had few opportunities to this point on defense.

Richard Sherman: A-

Cary Williams: C+

Earl Thomas: B+

Kam Chancellor: B+

DeShawn Shead: B-   

Marcus Burley: C+

Tye Smith: C

Kelcie McCray: C

Overall Positional Grade: B


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