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Clayton: Seahawks’ depth coming through as they enter final stretch

Sheldon Richardson's addition to the Seahawks' defensive line has paid off for Seattle. (AP)

The Seahawks’ 24-13 victory over the San Francisco 49ers wasn’t pretty, but it was significant.

Even though the 49ers are a 1-10 team that played a rookie quarterback who was going to struggle to even get a touchdown drive, the Seahawks were able to test the depth of their defense. And minus Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor, the Seahawks still limited the 49ers to 280 yards of total offense.

What we learned from win over 49ers | What we’re trying to figure out

What you are seeing is the present and the future of this team’s Super Bowl run. Fortunately for the team, general manager John Schneider built depth.

Let’s weave in some of the depth additions in reviewing the win over the 49ers.

Help in the secondary. The offseason signing of Bradley McDougald as a backup safety now looks huge. He came to the team from Tampa Bay with 36 starts in 56 NFL games. Over the past three games he’s filled in for both Earl Thomas and Chancellor. During those three games, opposing quarterbacks netted only 214 yards passing. When Thomas missed the final four games of the 2016 season, quarterbacks averaged 284 yards per game against the Seahawks’ defense. Experience helps. The trade deadline turned into a huge break for the pass defense, as Seattle got back Jeremy Lane after he failed his physical with Houston. That brought back 65 games of experience and 21 starts. Then after Sherman went down, the Seahawks brought back Byron Maxwell, who had 76 career games and 45 starts. Including McDougald, the Seahawks have 102 starts available in addition to the three recent draft choices that have in the secondary and one on the practice squad. They also added Justin Coleman just before the season, who is the slot corner and has 20 games of experience and one prior start.

Better at linebacker and special teams. Michael Wilhoite was signed to be the strongside outside linebacker before the season. Though he has battled through some leg problems, Wilhoite has played well. He came to the team with 65 games played and 36 starts. Terence Garvin has also been a solid backup outside linebacker and great special teams player, while D.J. Alexander has been great on special teams since coming over from Kansas City in a trade.

Three aces along the defensive line. The Sheldon Richardson trade with the Jets that cost Jermaine Kearse has been huge. Richardson has been dominating at times at the line of scrimmage. Against the 49ers on Sunday, he was exceptional at stopping Carlos Hyde and the San Francisco running game. He added 58 games played, including 55 starts. At minimal cost, the Seahawks added two defensive ends, Marcus Smith and Dion Jordan, who were former first-round picks. They offer enough that the Seahawks let Dwight Freeney go after four games with the team.

Experience along the offensive line. Schneider and Pete Carroll realized their offensive line was too young last year. Left guard Luke Joeckel had 39 starts in Jacksonville, Oday Aboushi had experience of 26 games and 18 starts, and Matt Tobin had played 42 games with 21 starts before getting to Seattle. But no one can minimize the value of picking up left tackle Duane Brown on the day of the trade deadline. He had 133 games (all starts) in Houston, and over the three weeks since he has joined the Seahawks, Pro Football Focus has ranked the Seahawks as the eighth-best blocking unit in the league. They were the third-worst before the trade.

A little more experience on offense. Putting Austin Davis on the active roster over Trevone Boykin gave Carroll a backup quarterback with 10 starts under his belt. Mike Davis looks promising at a halfback with 24 games played and one start. But the Eddie Lacy signing hasn’t worked out so far. He came here with 48 starts but has only 68 carries and an average of 2.6 yard per attempt.

Want more John Clayton? Listen on-demand to his weekday and Saturday shows as well as his “Cold Hard Facts” and “Clayton’s Morning Drive” segments on 710 ESPN Seattle. Also, check out the latest episode of his “Schooled” podcast and look for his columns twice a week on 710Sports.com.

John Clayton on 710 ESPN Seattle
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