Bumpus: The unsung hero of the Seahawks’ defense this season

Jan 7, 2023, 2:33 PM
Seahawks Ryan Neal...
Ryan Neal of the Seattle Seahawks reacts to a stop against the New York Giants at Lumen Field on October 30, 2022. (Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images)
(Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images)

There have been plenty of heroes for the Seahawks this year on both sides of the ball.

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On offense, it’s easy to point to quarterback Geno Smith, who went from a longtime backup to a Pro Bowler this season.

On defense, linebackers Uchenna Nwosu and Darrell Taylor have both set career-highs in sacks.

And of course, Seattle’s rookie class has been the talk of the league this year, with six first-year players carving out major roles, including fifth-round pick Tariq Woolen, who was named to the Pro Bowl as he is tied for the NFL lead in interceptions.

But which player on defense has gone a bit under the radar this year? For former NFL receiver Michael Bumpus, the answer is simple.

“The unsung hero on defense goes to the greatest interview I do every time we sit down and talk to this guy, and that’s Ryan Neal, man,” Bumpus said during Thursday’s Bump and Stacy on Seattle Sports 710 AM.

Neal, 27, is in his fifth year in the NFL and his fourth with the Seahawks. The 2018 undrafted free agent has played more than ever this season as the Seahawks had a dire need at strong safety early in the season.

Perennial Pro Bowler Jamal Adams injured his leg in Week 1 and was lost for the season. Josh Jones then started at strong safety for three weeks but struggled. Neal then got his first start in Week 5 in New Orleans and hasn’t looked back. He’s played 73% of the Seahawks’ defensive snaps this year.

“Not only did he come in and fill in for Jamal Adams, he’s played through knee injuries, elbow injuries,” Bumpus said. “They’re asking this man to get in the box and play like he’s turned 250 pounds.”

And all in all, Neal has had a very good season, Bumpus said.

Neal has recorded 66 tackles, 45 solo tackles, one interception, two forced fumbles, eight passes defended and one sack in 14 games (10 starts) in 2022. He’s become someone who the Seahawks can rely upon in a big way.

“We hardly, if ever, say, ‘Man, what was Ryan Neal doing on that play?’ He’s usually where he’s supposed to be, he plays with a chip on his shoulder,” Bumpus said. “I love his attitude … Ryan Neal has been the unsung hero for this defense because he was replacing the highest-paid player on this team and has done a great job doing so.”

Neal hasn’t played in Seattle’s last two games due to a knee injury, and he is questionable to play on Sunday against the Rams in the Seahawks’ regular season finale. The Hawks need a win over the Rams and then a Green Bay Packers loss to the Detroit Lions on Sunday Night Football in order to secure a Wild Card spot.

Listen to the full second hour of Thursday’s Bump and Stacy at this link or in the player below.

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