The Seattle Seahawks proved their defensive backfield, affectionately nicknamed the Legion of Boom, was enough to get by the Denver Broncos’ high-octane offense to win the Super Bowl.
So it’s no wonder every rival contender is following the blueprint.
The New Orleans Saints, San Francisco 49ers, and New York Jets have all made specific moves in free agency and through the draft to bolster their secondaries in the same fashion as Seattle’s.
The Niners traded up in the first round to nab Northern Illinois safety Jimmie Ward, an aggressive, versatile defender, to add to an already physical defense. It’s the second year in a row the team drafted a safety. Last year, the pick was Eric Reid out of LSU, so it’s clear a stout secondary has been a goal.
Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News sees the decision to draft Ward as another step the 49ers took to mimic their division rivals.
Going back to the first round, that explains the drafting of Northern Illinois safety Jimmie Ward, who might be able to tackle Lynch, intercept Russell Wilson and cover Jermaine Kearse on fourth down in the NFC Championship Game.
The 49ers have built themselves to be physical and rough and now Seattle has built itself to be a little more physical and a little rougher.
The Saints also drafted a safety, Kenny Vaccaro, last year. The team landed top safety Jairus Byrd and veteran Champ Bailey in the offseason, then drafted cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste last night. Jean-Baptiste is 6-foot-3 and physically is comparable to the size of Richard Sherman.
In New Orleans there has been an emphasis to build the secondary by adding tall, physical pieces. As Larry Holder of the Times-Picayune outlined, Sherman’s and the Seahawks’ success made selecting Jean Baptiste a no-brainer.
The success of Sherman, the boisterous, ballhawking cornerback, has compelled every NFL team to find a clone. Throughout the draft process, Jean-Baptiste has heard the comparisons to Sherman, who converted from receiver at Stanford. They share similar size and athleticism.
No one can say for sure if Jean-Baptiste will immediately become the final peg in the Saints’ quest to form a secondary that rivals their counterparts in the Pacific Northwest. Payton said Jean-Baptiste, who has played cornerback only for a couple of years, still had room to grow.
Nonetheless, going big in the secondary is a strategy worth pursuing. After all, the Seahawks just won the Super Bowl on the back of their secondary. The Saints have no qualms about copying that blueprint. They’d be foolish not to.
The Jets had needs at cornerback and wide receiver entering Thursday night, but instead elected to draft arguably the best safety in the 2014 class, Calvin Pryor.
The selection turned a few heads, considering the team’s needs, but then again this is a Rex Ryan team — expect the unexpected.
Pryor has drawn comparisons to Seattle safety Kam Chancellor, who was drafted when Jets GM John Idzik was a part of the organization. Chancellor is considered the team’s “sledgehammer” — and has earned quite a reputation since delivering a big-time blow to Broncos wideout Demaryius Thomas in the Super Bowl.
As ESPN New York’s Rich Cimini explained, the Jets certainly have not forgotten about it.
Commenting on Pryor, Rex Ryan mentioned the Seahawks’ stud safety tandem, Chancellor and Earl Thomas, specifically noting Chancellor’s tone-setting tackle from the Super Bowl. Ryan is an old-school defensive coach, and he still gets amped by rock ‘em, sock ‘em football — an element that was missing last season in his secondary.
“You can see how those plays and those hits can impact a game,” Ryan said. “All you have to do is look at the Super Bowl, the play of Chancellor back there and Earl Thomas. It’s how we want to play defense. … Big hits win games. They’ll flip the momentum of a game faster than anything, in my opinion.”
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the defending Super Bowl champions have created the blueprint for other teams eyeing to be in that same spot a year from now.
In fact, it should have been expected.