Seahawks training camp position preview: Linebackers
The Seahawks kick off training camp on July 25 and there’s plenty to sort out in the weeks leading up to the August 31 roster cutdown deadline. Today’s position preview focuses on the linebackers.
Middle linebacker Bobby Wagner enters the season not just as Seattle’s top player on defense, but also as one of the best players in the league. He’s one of just two players to have been voted to a Pro Bowl and named a First-Team All-Pro in each of the last three seasons (with the other being Rams’ defensive tackle Aaron Donald). Wagner is also entering the final year of his deal and is representing himself in contract negotiations with Seattle. He’s expected to be at camp despite not yet having a new deal, but it’s not yet known how much he’ll be participating. In OTAs and minicamp, Wagner was present and encouraging young players on the sideline, but opted to stay of the field for risk of injury.
Outside linebacker K.J. Wright, who signed a third contract with Seattle this offseason, will also make a return. After appearing in all but five games from 2011-17, Wright was sidelined by a knee injury for most of the 2018 season. However, he’ll enter 2019 healthy and with the ability to lessen the load thanks to also recently re-signed outside linebacker Mychal Kendricks.
Cody Barton and Ben Burr-Kirven are new additions in 2019, both from this year’s NFL Draft. The Seahawks selected Barton in the third round out of Utah, and Burr-Kirven in the fifth round.
Wide receiver DK Metcalf stole the show in OTAs and minicamp, but fellow rookie Barton also earned high praise, be it a bit more under-the-radar. Barton will have a chance to make a bigger impression when the pads come on and preseason games kick off.
He’ll be pushing to make the roster in a crowded linebacker room, but second-year pro Shaquem Griffin can make his case with a breakout performance in the preseason — particularly if he can help out as a pass rusher, an area that has weakened with the loss of Frank Clark via trade this offseason and, more recently, Jarran Reed to a suspension.
Wagner and Wright are the last pieces of Seattle’s Super Bowl XLVIII-winning defense. Years later, they remain among its most impactful players — but can they do enough to make up for deficiencies at other positions? Outside of Wagner’s contract situation, this will be the biggest storyline.
As opposed to past years, which saw the secondary as a hallmark of this defense, this Seahawks team will lean on the strength of its linebacking corps. To be honest, that was the case last season and Wagner met the challenge. He finished the season with 138 tackles and earned Pro Football Focus‘ highest grade for any linebacker (91.8). With Mychal Kendricks and a healthy K.J. Wright, Seattle will have one of the strongest linebacker groups.
The full group
Bobby Wagner (age: 29; 6-0/242)
K.J. Wright (age: 30; 6-4/246)
Barkevious Mingo (age: 28; 6-5/235)
Mychal Kendricks (age: 28; 5-11/240)
Shaquem Griffin (age: 24; 6-0/227)
Emmanuel Ellerbee (age: 22; 6-1/235)
Justin Currie (age: 25; 6-2/230)
Austin Calitro (age: 25; 6-0/240)
Ben Burr-Kirven (age: 21; 6-0/230)
Cody Barton (age: 22; 6-2/237)