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O’Neil: Seahawks’ priority in NFL Draft has been to toughen up on defense

The addition of safety Marquise Blair gives the Seahawks a hard-hitter in their secondary. (Getty)

Accurately predicting who the Seahawks are going to pick is next to impossible.

Figuring out what they are doing after the fact, though, is pretty darn straightforward, and it’s pretty clear that this year’s M.O. was to toughen up the defense.

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If that wasn’t clear Thursday when Seattle chose defensive end L.J. Collier – a heavy-handed power rusher – in the first round then it was downright obvious after the Seahawks selected Utah safety Marquise Blair in the second round and then Utes linebacker Cody Barton with the second of its two third-round picks.

“He’s violent,” general manager John Schneider said of Blair. “Very aggressive.”

Barton’s versatility and speed were praised by coach Pete Carroll, who said he’s capable of playing all three linebacker spots in Seattle’s defense.

There are a lot of ways to describe the Seahawks’ intentions in the draft, but subtle is not one of them. The Seahawks are intent on restoring the swagger to a defense that allowed more than 20 points per game in each of the past two seasons.

That kind of thing was unheard of around here. Seattle hadn’t given up that many points in any season since 2010. That’s when Pete Carroll was in his first season as coach, the Seahawks won the division at a record of 7-9 and were getting punked fairly regularly by teams like Oakland and Tampa Bay.

The Seahawks are going back to the roots of their success, which is to get a bunch of the toughest dudes that they can find, put them on one side of the ball and let them go to work on opposing offenses. It’s how Seattle first assembled the defense that allowed the fewest points in the league for four successive seasons starting in 2012, and it’s a recipe they’re looking to recapture.

Of course, trading away the top pass rusher isn’t usually the first step in toughening up a defense, but the Seahawks’ decision to trade Frank Clark was purely financial. His price got too steep for Seattle’s tastes. How much Clark’s absence ends up costing the Seahawks, though, will depend on what it makes of these draft picks.

And with three defensive players chosen among the first four picks, the Seahawks made their intentions clear for this defense.

The again, Seattle’s intentions in the draft are usually fairly obvious when viewed from the rearview mirror.

Last year, the Seahawks were determined to fix their running game or run out of draft picks trying. First, Seattle selected Rashaad Penny in the first round despite already having a back it liked a great deal in Chris Carson. Then, Seattle used a fourth-round pick on the best blocking tight end in the draft, Will Dissly, to help block out the memories of Jimmy Graham’s blocking.

This year, the Seahawks have focused on their defense, and with five picks among the final four rounds on Saturday, they’re not done yet.

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