Bobby Wagner reacted as though he was hoping the question would come.
With all the changes on the Seattle Seahawks defense – the leaders Rakeem Nunez-Roches Jersey , the voices, the veterans no longer around – will there be a new focus on a group of linebackers that at times has seemed underappreciated?
”It has always been about the guy in the middle,” Wagner said emphatically. ”So for me, it’s not no different because that’s how I look at it, but from the outside maybe it is different because those guys are gone and you guys are looking for someone who is going to be that leader. Y’all ain’t got to look. You’re looking at the guy right here. I will be that guy and we’re going to be fine.”
And with that, any question about who the leading voice is on Seattle’s defense was quickly answered.
For most of the past half-decade Marcus Williams Jersey , Seattle’s highly regarded defense was defined by the secondary with the catchy nickname and the flashy personalities. From there, attention often shifted to the defensive line and the type of chaos Michael Bennett and others created on – and sometimes off – the field.
Then there was Wagner and fellow linebacker K.J. Wright. They have been regarded as two of the best in the league at their positions and sometimes have received that level of recognition. But they were often relegated to a secondary role on their own team in terms of recognition even with Wagner being voted first-team All-Pro three times and Wright being a Pro Bowl selection.
”The attention has gone elsewhere, I guess,” Wright said. ”Nothing will change. We’ll still be the bad-ass linebackers on this team. We’ll still lead the way. Stuff will still be run in order. We’ll still make plays and it’ll be fun out there.”
Seattle’s offseason defensive overhaul saw Bennett, Richard Sherman and Sheldon Richardson find new homes; Cliff Avril and Kam Chancellor step away from the game due to neck injuries, and Earl Thomas hold out in search of a new contract. There are changes everywhere across Seattle’s defensive alignment Marquez Valdes-Scantling Jersey , with the exception of the linebackers.
Wagner has been calling Seattle’s defense from the moment he arrived in the NFL and became a starter as a rookie. His partner the entire time has been Wright. With the departures, those voices they’ve used together for the past six seasons will be even louder.
”Yeah, they had the name, they got a lot of the attention and now the attention may shift to the linebackers,” Wagner said. ”But we pride ourselves on being the guys that lead this team and that has been my mindset since I stepped in. I had coach Norton teach me the way.”
Ken Norton Jr. has returned to Seattle to be the defensive coordinator. He was a mentor for Wagner and Wright as the linebackers coach when both arrived in the NFL. Now he’s returned with an even bigger imprint on what Seattle does defensively.
”He’s the linebackers guy and he put that responsibility more on us. He calls on me in the meeting room to answer most of the questions, calls on Bobby to answer the questions because he knows that we’re all on the same page Seth Roberts Jersey ,” Wright said. ”He knows that we’re the guys that can share our leadership abilities, share our knowledge of the game. He’s putting that on us.”
There may also be some schematic tweaks that give Wagner and Wright more freedom defensively. Wright said he believes the adjustments will make Seattle more fundamentally sound defensively and the linebackers could be the benefactors.
”I think this defense is hungry,” Wright said. ”We have a lot to prove. Myself, the secondary with all the guys leaving, the (defensive) line with the guys leaving. It’s going to be fun because you’ve got guys who want to come and show who they are.”
The Vikings gave safety George Iloka a uniform with No. 28 for his first day of practice with the team, but it sounds like anyone who might want a replica Iloka jersey of their own should wait until the start of the regular season to purchase one.
The team’s choice to give Iloka that number garnered some attention on Wednesday because it’s the first time the Vikings have issued it to anyone since running back Adrian Peterson left the team. That led to a question to Iloka about the number and he said he expects to turn it in for another one once cuts are made that free up other numbers.
“The roster’s full right now Wayne Gallman Jersey ,” Iloka said, via Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press. “They just rushed me from the plane to practice I think that was the only number available… After everything settles down most likely I’ll switch it to a different number”
Iloka wore No. 43 with the Bengals. Linebacker Reshard Cliett is currently wearing that number and coach Mike Zimmer’s feelings about the need to increase depth at linebacker may be a good sign for Iloka’s old digits coming free.
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