Seahawks DC Ken Norton Jr describes what makes ‘obsessive’ Bobby Wagner so great

Jan 10, 2019, 1:14 PM | Updated: 1:15 pm
Ken Norton Jr. is entering his second season as defensive coordinator with the Seahawks. (Getty)...
Ken Norton Jr. is entering his second season as defensive coordinator with the Seahawks. (Getty)

Long before Ken Norton Jr. was Seahawks defensive coordinator, he was a standout linebacker in the NFL. So you’d be hard-pressed to find somebody better to explain what makes Seattle’s All-Pro LB Bobby Wagner such an exceptional player.

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Norton joined Brock and Salk on Thursday morning in a 1-2 combination of interviews along with offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer (story here), and he shared some interesting insight on Wagner and running mate K.J. Wright after returning to the Seahawks in 2018.

“Those two are very special, come close to my heart,” said Norton, who served as Seahawks linebackers coach from 2010-14 and rejoined the team this season following a three-year stint as Oakland’s defensive coordinator.

The growth of the 28-year-old Wagner, one of three Seahawks heading to the Pro Bowl later this month, particularly stood out to Norton this season.

“Watching his obsession, he’s just obsessed with being 100 in everything he does,” Norton said, “whether it’s taking care of his body, whether it’s eating in the morning, whether it’s watching the film, whether it’s being first in the building or last in the building, or making all the tackles. This kid, he’s become obsessive in everything he does, and it’s obsessive in the right directions. He’s so organized. Now he’s been able to develop his ability to lead and bring others with him, to make others around him better. I’m thinking, ‘Oh my goodness, is there anything you can’t do?’ He just goes on and on. It’s just really fun to watch him.”

Wagner has long had a strong reputation as one of the NFL’s best at his position, but there is proof that Wright, who is about to enter free agency, has earned similar respect.

“K.J.’s just been amazing. It’s a testament to the respect that he has, that he was voted alternate to the Pro Bowl – he didn’t even play much,” Norton said, referencing that Wright was slowed by knee injuries in 2018 and played just five games in the regular season. “I’m thinking, ‘K.J., that’s a testament to all the work you’ve (done).’”

The Seahawks also have a younger duo on the defensive line that had Norton describing them in a similar way to what he said about Wagner and Wright: defensive end Frank Clark and defensive tackle Jarran Reed.

“They work their tails off,” Norton said of the pair. “They are pushing it 24 hours a day. … There’s no time of day that they aren’t trying to get better.”

Below are a few more notable things to come out of Norton’s interview, which you can hear in the played embedded in this post or download in podcast form at this link.

How important is it to get Clark back next year?

“Well, you have to rush the passer,” Norton said with a laugh in response to Mike Salk’s question. “You have to get him (the quarterback) off the spot, and I think (Clark) is just as important on the defense as a quarterback is on the offense.”

No limits to coaching

In describing the various places he coaches Wagner, Norton provided a look at how wide-ranging his job can be.

“Bobby and I spend so much time together – off the field, on the field, in the meeting room, in the training room, in the hot tub,” Norton said. “… You understand your players and you try to find different places to coach them; you can’t always coach them in the meeting room, you gotta coach them in different places and every player’s different.”

Did Seattle’s D match up against offenses more than before?

“We can match up. That’s one thing I like to do – I see what they have, see what they do best, and then we get our best guys to match up with their best guys. You never want to get in a situation where they have a guy and they motion him out against a slow linebacker or slow defensive end. … I think our defensive football IQ is really growing.”

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