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Seahawks LB Bobby Wagner
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Heaps: Why Seahawks need to add a DT to get more out of Bobby Wagner

Jake Heaps explains why the DT position held Seahawks LB Bobby Wagner back in 2019. (Getty)

It’s a bit strange to think a player could have what some might call a “down year” while leading the NFL in tackles and earning their fifth First-Team All-Pro nod and sixth Pro Bowl appearance, but that’s what’s been seen as the case with Seahawks star linebacker Bobby Wagner.

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Wagner, 29, led the league with 159 tackles and also had three sacks, an interception, one forced fumble and a fumble recovery, but there’s a case to be made that he didn’t play up to his usual Defensive Player of the Year candidate standard in 2019.

The Seahawks’ defensive captain once again manned the middle of their defense as he has every year since his rookie season in 2012. But unlike seemingly every year he’s been with the team, the Seahawks had a poor defense in 2019. Not just below average, but one that ranked among the worst in the league in nearly every major statistical category.

Not only do Wagner and the linebacker group need to improve, but the defense as a whole does. If the Seahawks want to get more from Wagner in 2020, how can they do that? Former NFL quarterback Jake Heaps of 710 ESPN Seattle’s Tom, Jake and Stacy identified two ways he thinks that can happen.

“One, they have to sign another defensive tackle that’s going to be able to be effective in the run game,” he said. “To me, that has got to be the priority for this team.”

The Seahawks have their two starting defensive tackles set in Jarran Reed and Poona Ford, but after that it’s unclear. There’s been talk of 2019 first-round pick L.J. Collier, a defensive end, sliding inside, but that’s more for passing situations. Seattle also has 2019 sixth-round pick Demarcus Christmas on the roster, and it’s unclear what he can bring as he missed his entire rookie season with an injury.

In addition to Reed, Ford, Christmas, and to an extent Collier, only 2019 undrafted free agent signing Bryan Mone returns at defensive tackle. The Seahawks didn’t take a DT in April’s draft, but they did add two undrafted rookie free agents in Iowa’s Cedrick Lattimore and Southeast Missouri State’s Josh Avery. Seattle has also not signed a defensive tackle in free agency, but two veteran names to keep in mind are Damon “Snacks” Harrison and Timmy Jernigan.

While defensive tackles typically don’t fill up stat sheets, they create opportunities for their teammates, especially linebackers in the run game.

“If you’re talking about letting Bobby Wagner and (2020 first-round linebacker) Jordyn Brooks have an effect on this game, that means they’re running free and offensive linemen are not able to get to the second level so easily in their combination blocks,” Heaps said. “That’s why you didn’t see Bobby Wagner really make a whole bunch of tackles for loss or at the line of scrimmage – because combination blocks were getting to him way too easily and that is on the job of the interior defensive linemen in front of him.”

Aside from adding another defensive tackle, Heaps said the Seahawks need to get Wagner in the best position to be successful based on his skillset.

“I think it’s getting back to what he does best: blitzing the quarterback at times and also playing more aggressively in coverage in his cover-3/cover-1 match principles and I think that’s where Bobby Wagner flourishes,” Heaps said. “… If you can get Bobby Wagner in that realm and doing what he does at a higher level than anybody else, I think it’ll greatly help the Seahawks’ defense.”

You can listen Heaps’ full explanation from Tom, Jake and Stacy at this link or in the player below.

Follow 710 ESPN Seattle’s Jake Heaps on Twitter.

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