Most Intriguing Seahawks: No. 18, S Bradley McDougald
During each show until the start of training camp, “Brock and Salk” is counting down the 20 most intriguing players on the Seahawks’ roster. The countdown continued with safety Bradley McDougald. The segment on McDougald is embedded above. My thoughts are below.
The Seahawks rated McDougald, 26, as one of the best players in free agency this year, so they considered it an absolute steal when they signed him to a one-year deal worth a reported $1.8 million, with $750,000 guaranteed. That signing accomplished two things above all else for the Seahawks: 1) It gives them insurance at free safety in the form of an experienced veteran, something they did not have – and sorely missed, as it turned out – last year when Steven Terrell had to step in following Earl Thomas’ season-ending leg injury; 2) It gives Seattle a chance to gauge McDougald’s viability as a potential long-term replacement for either Thomas or strong safety Kam Chancellor, who are both getting closer to 30 and are on the back ends of their contracts. As for this season, comments from the organization suggest that McDougald could find his way onto the field even when he isn’t stepping in for one of the starting safeties. Intriguing, isn’t he?
By the numbers
77.8 and 100.3. Opponents’ passer ratings against Seattle’s defense with and without Thomas in 2016, respectively. That number might best illustrate the degree to which that unit struggled once Thomas went down. According to ESPN Stats & Information via Sheil Kapadia, Seattle played 657 snaps with Thomas and 480 without him in 2016 (that takes into account the five-plus quarters he missed with a hamstring injury before he broke his leg). Without Thomas, the Seahawks allowed 7.77 yards per attempt and recorded only one interception compared to 7.01 YPA and 10 interceptions with him. This is a big reason why McDougald and his experience appealed to the Seahawks. He’s started 31 games over the past two seasons and 36 in all since entering the league as an undrafted free agent from Kansas in 2013.
9. Games Chancellor has missed because of injury over the last three years (that total doesn’t include the two games he missed while holding out in 2015). Chancellor, 29, hasn’t played a full season since 2013 and is coming off two more surgeries this offseason, procedures to clean up bone spurs in each ankle. He’s also entering the final year of his contract. Thomas, meanwhile, is 28 and will count $10.4 million against the cap in each of the final two years of his deal. If McDougald shows this season that he fits well in Seattle’s defense, he could be a younger, cheaper alternative at one of the safety spots.
70. Roughly the percentage of defensive snaps that Seattle was in nickel last season. That’s significant because nickel situations could be where McDougald finds his way onto the field in 2017, perhaps as a third safety.
Generally speaking, the Seahawks are known for sticking to what they do defensively as opposed to devising significantly different schemes each week based on the opponent. However, their experiment with Brandon Browner last offseason showed that they’re willing to carve out a specialized role in their secondary. The role Seattle had in mind for Browner involved covering tight ends and/or bigger slot receivers as a third safety. The thinking was that Browner’s size could match up better against some of those players than would a smaller nickelback. Seattle could have something similar in mind for McDougald, who’s listed at 6 feet 1 and 209 pounds.
Also notable: McDougald figures to factor heavily on special teams, where the Seahawks have some snaps to replace. Brandon Williams, Kelcie McCray and Brock Coyle were among the top five in special-teams snaps for Seattle last year. None of them are still with the team. DeShawn Shead, a special-teams co-captain in 2016, won’t be ready for the start of the season.
Seahawks defensive coordinator Kris Richard on whether McDougald will have a role as more than a backup to Thomas and Chancellor in 2017: “Absolutely. There’s no doubt about it. We’ve got some things in mind for Bradley. Obviously he is learning both free safety and strong safety, and in the event that something happens to either Kam or Earl, we’re looking for him to be the first safety going into the football game. He has done a fantastic job for us. We’re very happy to have him here.”