RENTON, Wash. – The Seattle Seahawks thought they had solved their issues at safety two seasons ago.
That year, free-agent acquisitions Brian Russell and Deon Grant looked as though they would end the uncertainty as they became part of a defensive unit that allowed only 15 passing touchdowns all season – best in the league. But the defense as a whole regressed in 2008, and the pass defense was worst in the league.
“We didn’t play as well as we wanted to, but we’re working our tails off to make sure we get a lot of wins this year,” Russell said. “We think the talent in our room and the type of secondary we are relates more to what we did in 2007. We’re a better secondary, a better defense, a better team than what we showed last year.”
Part of the effort to improve includes opening up Russell’s position to competition, with Jordan Babineaux pushing Russell for playing time.
Babineaux has been a jack-of-all-trades for Seattle, playing both the safety and cornerback positions. Seattle brought in Ken Lucas in the offseason to add depth at cornerback, allowing Babineaux to focus solely on the safety position.
“We’re finally telling (Babineaux), ‘You got one position, go get it,’ rather than playing him all over the place,” general manager Tim Ruskell said prior to training camp. “That’s probably been a detriment to him.”
Babineaux is looking to take full advantage of the opportunity to stick at one position and earn a starting job.
“As a backup, one of the main goals is you always want to strive to be a starter – at least for me,” Babineaux said. “That’s been my approach I’ve had. I have a little experience starting at both safety and corner and now the coaches are giving me the green light to compete for the starting job.”
Babineaux has had a knack for showing up in crucial situations for the Seahawks. In 2005, he intercepted Drew Bledsoe to set up a winning field goal against the Dallas Cowboys. Then in the 2006 playoffs, Babineaux came up with a game-saving tackle of Tony Romo after a botched snap on a late field-goal attempt.
Now Babineaux will have to show he can play every down to unseat the incumbent.
“It’s been a challenge, certainly with the new defenses and the new adjustments that we have at each position,” Babineaux said. “I definitely have to put a little extra time into what I’m doing because as a player, one thing that you … hate is to be a guy that makes mistakes and I hate making mistakes.”
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