Which Seahawks could be among NFL’s top 100?

Sep 6, 2011, 3:56 PM | Updated: 5:43 pm
Free safety Earl Thomas and defensive end Red Bryant could represent the Seahawks on the next list of the NFL's top 100 players. (Jane Gershovich/710Sports.com)
(Jane Gershovich/710Sports.com)

On a television network that shall not be named, the top 100 players in the NFL for the 2011 season were unveiled. The list is compiled based mostly on votes by NFL players. To my immediate shock and outrage, the Seahawks were put in the same category as the lowly Buffalo Bills – not one Seahawk or Bill is on the list.

After I searched the files in my brain I uttered out loud, “Oh, yeah … I guess not.” But I would argue that safety Earl Thomas should be at least in the vicinity of that list. Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry, who was drafted nine spots ahead of Thomas (he was the No. 5 pick in 2010 draft), made the list at No. 92.

His stats from last year are as follows: 92 tackles, four interceptions (one for a 54-yard TD) and two sacks.

Thomas’ stats: 76 tackles, five interceptions and one forced fumble.

I guess you can see why the Seahawks were shunned, but it gets me thinking who might make the list next year. I’m thinking Pro Bowl tight end Zach Miller, wide receiver Sidney Rice, left tackle Russell Okung (if he can stay healthy, of course) and running back Marshawn Lynch on offense.

My sleeper pick on the offensive side of the ball is Leon Washington. With the new kickoff rules limiting his contribution on special teams, Leon will have plenty to prove at running back and he certainly did so in the preseason.

On defense, it looks to me like Marcus Trufant is back to his 2007 Pro Bowl form if there’s room for a nine-year cornerback. The aforementioned Earl Thomas is certainly a candidate but big Red Bryant is a player who can garner the kind of respect from other players in order to make that list. He’s as physical as can be and surprisingly athletic. He’s the type of player that offensive coordinators around the league will have to recognize as they draw up their games plans against the Hawks.

My sleeper pick on defense: Leroy Hill. I have seen Leroy make some of the most amazing plays I’ve ever seen a linebacker make. He’s agile enough to cover any running back in the league, a back-breaker at the point of attack and the best open field tackler I’ve ever seen. In the open field, you’re lucky just to get a guy on the ground but Leroy has a knack for coming right down the middle of the guy with the ball. Hill’s comeback will be contingent on him staying healthy and that’s a big “if” – but I’m convinced that he has his head screwed on right this year.

Please list your candidates in the comments section below.

AFC predictions:

Here’s who I like based on last year’s performance and this year’s draft and free-agent acquisitions:

The New York Jets – I know that most people can’t stand head coach Rex Ryan. I too am really trying hard to expel that whole foot fetish thing out of my memory permanently (delete, AND empty recycle bin). Yet there’s something about Rex that makes me think I’d love to play for him. He gets the most out of his players and has a way of getting them to buy in the way I bought in with Joe Mac Sellers back at Wooster High School (1981 Nevada state champs!).

Recently, quarterback Mark Sanchez and defensive captain Bart Scott offered to restructure their contracts to make room for super free agent Nnamdi Asomugha. The Asomugha signing didn’t happen but you gotta like their attitude. That’s the kind of unselfishness that comes from the top down. They were third in total defense and rushed for nearly 150 yards per game in 2010. Ground and pound, baby!

New England Patriots &ndash Yes, Tom Brady is a pretty boy but man can he play quarterback. Those that coach him have been blown away by his field vision. I hear tales of him coming to the bench and describing to coaches not only what each receiver did on every play, but also the depth of every linebacker and how far off the hashes the safeties were.

And in that perfect field vision will be Chad Ochocinco, a player who I’ve always thought could be a Hall of Famer as soon as he quits acting like a jackass! There’s no room for that on Bill Belichick’s watch. Watch out for Wes Welker too, a precise route runner who is underestimated by all who try to defend him.

Oh, and these guys accumulated an eye-popping plus-28 in turnover ratio (giveaways vs. takeaways). They went seven games in a row without a turnover on offense (five fumbles and five interceptions for the entire season). You do the rest of the math – that means they caused 38 turnovers on defense.

San Diego Chargers – Here’s a tough team to figure out. They led the entire NFL in total offense and scored more points than anyone in the league. They must have a terrible defense, you say? They led the entire NFL in yards per game on defense too. They allowed five less yards per game than the Pittsburgh Steelers and finished the season 9-7, which means two things: They missed the playoffs and would’ve dominated the NFC West. One of the culprits was a turnover ratio of minus-9 (translation: The Patriots had their hands on the football 37 more times than the Bolts.)

Philip Rivers tore it up and with the return of wide out Vincent Jackson and tight end extraordinaire Antonio Gates, he’ll have plenty of targets. They improved on defense by signing veteran linebacker Takeo Spikes from the 49ers and improved their defensive line through the draft by selecting Corey Liuget from Illinois with the 18th overall pick.

My sleeper team: The Houston Texans – With Peyton Manning’s neck problems haunting the Colts, I think it’s time for a new AFC South champion. Texans running back Arian Foster tweeting out his hamstring MRI to the world might be the single dumbest act in the history of the league. Whether Foster is ready for the season or not, I like their offensive weapons. Quarterback Matt Schaub finished fourth in the NFL with 4,370 yards and Andre Johnson may be the most complete receiver in the league.

Their defense is stocked with players like DeMeco Ryans, Brian Cushing and Mario Williams. They drafted Wisconsin defensive end J.J. Watt and signed Bengals cornerback Jonathan Joseph, but their biggest offseason acquisition was defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. Wade didn’t quite cut it as the head coach in Dallas but I know first hand that he is one heck of a defensive coach. I think you’ll see the Texans near the top of the list on defense this year mostly because of Wade.

I’ll unveil my NFC teams in the next entry. Why should you care? I picked the Packers to win the Super Bowl while broadcasting the Seahawks-49ers game with Arlo White on the BBC last September! I also picked UConn to win the Final Four last year in college basketball.

Bragging? Of course I’m bragging – wouldn’t you?! Never mind that I hadn’t won a college basketball Final Four pool since 1983 (N.C. State!) and I don’t remember the last time I correctly picked a Super Bowl Champion. But I’m ridin’ the wave baby!

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Which Seahawks could be among NFL’s top 100?