Remember that off game when Stephen Curry hit only five 3s? Or that off Eminem song that peaked at No. 4? How about that off Star Wars flick that earned a mere $650 million?
Well, that’s how Richard Sherman feels about the Legion of Boom’s “off” year.
In 2015, the Seahawks gave up the fewest points in the NFL for the fourth straight season. They kept opponents to single digits five times – six if you include the 9-7 playoff win in Minnesota.
But for the first time since 2012, the Seahawks failed to lead the league in pass defense, finishing an abysmal second out of 32 teams.
Train wreck, right? Not quite.
“Most people would give their left arm to have our defense,” Sherman said. “But when you’re held to the standard that we are, being No. 1 in points allowed, No. 2 in total yards and No. 2 in passing yards allowed is an off year for us.”
Sherman is right that Seattle’s defense – particularly the secondary – is burdened by sky-scraping expectations. Its stats in 2015 are akin to a golfer shooting a 66 after two straight 61s and having everyone ask, “what’s wrong with him?”
But there were no doubt times last year in which the LOB looked vulnerable. There were games in which top-flight QBs carved the Hawks up like turkey meat.
And when you a play a game so often defined by one play, one point, or even one yard, downgrading from supreme to spectacular in a given area hurts.
With Sherman, Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor on the roster, Seattle’s back end is poised for another big year. The Hawks have the pieces to shred opponents to pieces, but the question is: How badly?
Will there be the fourth-quarter collapses similar to the ones that took place vs. the Rams, Bengals or Panthers? Will a linchpin of this team occasionally transform into a liability? Will the number of interceptions (the Seahawks had 28 in 2013 and 14 last year) spike to awe-inspiring levels?
These may be ridiculous questions to ask during voluntary workouts in June, but then again, things are different this spring than they were last.
Sherman isn’t recovering from elbow surgery. Thomas isn’t out with a shoulder injury. Jeremy Lane isn’t out with a broken arm. And Chancellor isn’t two months away from a dispiriting holdout (we don’t think).
There are certainly aspects to this team – such as the retirement of Marshawn Lynch, the uncertainty of Thomas Rawls, and the departures of Russell Okung, Brandon Mebane, Bruce Irvin and J.R. Sweezy – that would cast doubt on whether Seattle can improve from last year. But at the same time, a healthy, fully-prepared secondary should spark a major uptick in optimism among fans.
Even Sherman noted how he could have been a little better last year. His two interceptions were a career-low, and there were three or four potential picks that slipped through his fingers.
And while he doesn’t sound too concerned (he realizes quarterbacks are smart enough not to repeatedly test him), this was also a player who once tweeted “get ya picks up!” at Darrelle Revis during a Twitter feud two years ago.
“I don’t think anyone in the league has more (interceptions) than me since I came in,” Sherman reminded the media when asked if his interception total last year bothered him. “I know, at the end of the day, I’m going to get them.”
Having said that, Sherman was mainly lighthearted Wednesday. He joked about his kids, he sang at the podium – he even suggested that he was going to audition for “American Idol.” But you could still hear the same drive and desire to prove himself that has been with him since he entered the league.
He knows it’s a bit absurd for anyone to criticize the Hawks for finishing second in passing defense. But he also knows that his secondary is second to none.
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