Comparing “Sacksonville” to the greats: 2013 Seattle Seahawks

We keep hearing about how elite the “Sacksonville” defense is and how they can carry what is by all regards a fairly average offense deep into the playoffs, so I wanted to travel back into the annals of history and compare their personnel to some of the legendary NFL defenses of yesteryear.

This is the third of a four-part installment that I will be doing across the month of September, and this episode mirrors the 2013 Seattle Seahawks defense. Last week, we covered the 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and before that, we compared the 2000 Baltimore Ravens.

The Seahawks defense is a particularly fascinating comparison because it’s a very apples-to-apples personnel comparison to a similar single-high safety defensive scheme. The Jacksonville Jaguars defense has been changed slightly since the departure of Gus Bradley, but some elements remain analogous.

Below you’ll find 11 head-to-head match ups where I include each player’s statistics at the same point in their career to illustrate how our young players are tracking against some all-time greats.

LDE | Calais Campbell vs. Michael Bennett


Campbell: 56.0 sacks; 373 tackles; 8 forced fumbles; 8 fumbles recovered

Bennett: 54.0 sacks; 215 tackles; 11 forced fumbles; 5 fumbles recovered

The 2013 Seahawks depth chart technically had Red Bryant (remember him?) as the starting strong side defensive end, but Bennett had the majority of snaps, especially in nickel and passing downs and is a better overall comparison for Calais Campbell. Originally a draft pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers where he played for the first four seasons of his career, Bennett was a dominant player for the Seahawks, especially during the Super Bowl run when he had 8.5 sacks and forced three key fumbles in the postseason. Each player has been selected to three Pro Bowls, so it’s a close call, but Campbell has equal or better production in nine years with the Cardinals playing as a 3-4 defensive end rather than as a pure edge rusher, which is more impressive.

Advantage: Calais Campbell

NT | Marcell Dareus vs. Brandon Mebane


Dareus: 36.0 sacks; 223 tackles; 2 forced fumbles; 2 fumbles recovered

Mebane: 13.0 sacks; 203 tackles; 2 forced fumbles; 4 fumbles recovered

Mebane was entering his seventh season and was primarily a role player in the Seahawks defense tasked with occupying double teams and freeing up their linebackers behind them. A former first-team all pro, Dareus offers much more as a pass rusher and is an overall better player than Mebane. We are already seeing how dominant Dareus has been in the run game through two games this year, and he’s not even fully healthy.

Advantage: Marcell Dareus

DT | Malik Jackson vs. Tony McDaniel


Jackson: 29.0 sacks; 167 tackles; 6 forced fumbles; 3 fumbles recovered

McDaniel: 8.0 sacks; 88 tackles; 0 forced fumbles; 1 fumble recovered

The weak link in that Seahawks defensive line, McDaniel was the benefactor of many single match ups courtesy of the rest of the front four occupying multiple blocks and requiring extra protection. McDaniel only registered three tackles in the playoffs during their Super Bowl run — nowhere near the acclaim that Malik Jackson’s famous fumble recovery touchdown had against Carolina when he was with the Broncos. There shouldn’t be much debate about this match up.

Advantage: Malik Jackson

RDE | Yannick Ngakoue vs. Cliff Avril


Ngakoue: 20.0 sacks; 44 tackles; 10 forced fumbles; 4 fumbles recovered

Avril: 10.5 sacks; 43 tackles; 7 forced fumbles; 1 fumble recovered

Forced to recently retire due to a career-ending neck injury, Avril was a fabulous edge rusher who the Detroit Lions should never have let go. The ex-Boilermaker contributed eight sacks and six forced fumbles during the 2013 regular season and it was surprising to learn that he was only selected to one Pro Bowl in his ten year career. Avril and Ngakoue both have a knack for knocking the ball out of the quarterback’s hand and are fairly similar in their style of play, but Ngakoue is far ahead of Avril through a two season snap shot.

Advantage: Yannick Ngakoue

SLB | Leon Jacobs vs. Bruce Irvin


With the strong emphasis of lining up in nickel and the utilization of Ronnie Harrison as a brute back, Jacobs wasn’t even active last week. The Seahawks scheme relied heavily on the blitzing ability of their strong side linebacker, and Irvin tallied 36 tackles and two sacks in his second year after a strong eight sack rookie year in 2012.

Advantage: Bruce Irvin

MLB | Myles Jack vs. Bobby Wagner


Jack: 82 tackles; 2.5 sacks; 0 forced fumbles; 2 fumbles recovered; 0 interceptions

Wagner: 174 tackles; 7.0 sacks; 0 forced fumbles; 1 fumbles recovered; 5 interceptions

Often stylistically compared to Bobby Wagner, Jack wasn’t the starting middle linebacker since his rookie year like Wagner was. Despite Jack being behind Wagner’s two-year production arc, he is on the precipice of catapulting himself into Wagner’s stratosphere as an elite linebacker in the NFL. A 47th overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, there is a reason the three-time First Team All-Pro selection has survived the Seahawks defensive overhaul and his statistical production reinforces how special of a player he really is.

Advantage: Bobby Wagner

WLB | Telvin Smith vs. KJ Wright


Smith: 345 tackles; 6.5 sacks; 4 forced fumbles; 5 fumbles recovered; 7 interceptions

Wright: 253 tackles; 6.5 sacks; 5 forced fumbles, 3 fumbles recovered, 1 interception

The one thing that has consistently surprised me in doing these defensive comparisons is just how crazy Telvin Smith’s production has been through his first four seasons. I mean, last week he was neck and neck with Derrick Brooks, and this week he has almost 100 more tackles and six more interceptions than KJ Wright, who is widely considered a top-tier weak side linebacker. Both players have one Pro Bowl under their belt; the only difference is Telvin didn’t need to wait until his sixth season to earn it.

Advantage: Telvin Smith

CB | Jalen Ramsey vs. Richard Sherman


Ramsey: 6 interceptions; 31 pass break ups; 107 tackles

Sherman: 12 interceptions; 41 pass break ups; 100 tackles

This is the first time that Jalen Ramsey has lost his match up in this series, and even the most passionate King Ramsey serfs will have a tough time arguing with Sherman getting the nod here. As a 2011 fifth round pick out Stanford, Sherman came out of the gates hot, doubling Ramsey’s interceptions and breaking up ten more passes in his first two seasons. Life has come at Sherman fast recently, and he doesn’t look like the dominant player this year for the 49ers that he was after an Achilles injury, so it’s very possible (likely) that Ramsey ends up the better player when all is said and done, but for the purposes of this exercise, it’s Sherman.

Advantage: Richard Sherman

CB | A.J. Bouye vs. Brandon Browner


Bouye: 12 interceptions; 50 pass break ups; 169 tackles

Browner: 2 interceptions; 56 pass break ups; 193 tackles

More of a plodder and run support player, Browner was unquestionably the forgotten player in the original Legion of Boom. The 6’4” 220-pound cornerback didn’t debut in the NFL until he was 27 years old, and he was out of the league within five years. Despite getting thrown at and targeted frequently with Sherman shutting down the left half of the field, Browner only snagged two interceptions in 2011 for his entire career. Bouye is a much better talent who is only hitting his prime at the same time that Browner was out of the league already, so he gets the edge in the match up.

Advantage: A.J. Bouye

SS | Barry Church vs. Kam Chancellor


Church: 9 interceptions; 415 tackles; 1.5 sacks; 8 forced fumbles

Chancellor: 12 interceptions; 434 tackles; 2.0 sacks; 9 forced fumbles

On first look I figured this would be a slam dunk win for Kam Chancellor, but statistically speaking, this is a much closer battle than anticipated. Chancellor still gets the nod thanks to his four Pro Bowl selections, but the fact their production is so similar despite Church beginning his Cowboys career as a special teamer should be pretty encouraging to Jaguars fans, even with Ronnie Harrison waiting in the wings.

Advantage: Kam Chancellor

FS | Tashaun Gipson vs. Earl Thomas


Gipson: 19 interceptions; 243 tackles; 0 sacks; 1 forced fumble

Thomas: 21 interceptions; 383 tackles; 0 sacks; 10 forced fumbles

A six-time Pro Bowler and three-time First Team All-Pro selection, Earl Thomas is on track to becoming a first-ballot Hall of Famer in the mold of Ed Reed, so there is really no debate here. I will say, however, that Thomas only having two more interceptions than Gipson through their first six seasons is an interesting takeaway.

Advantage: Earl Thomas

Final Score: Jaguars win 6-5

Probably the most eerily similar comparison thus far, the Jaguars squeak by with a narrow victory in terms of head-to-head personnel match ups. As a team, however, they already have some ground to make through just two games in 2018 if they want to be considered in the same breadth as the Seahawks.

Statistically, the 2013 Seahawks were an absolutely dominant unit, allowing 4.4 yards per play and leading the league with 39 regular season takeaways. The passing defense allowed only 16 touchdowns all season and 172.0 average yards per game. Their 5.3% interception percentage in the passing game was the best in the league by 1.2% and they also allowed a league-low four rushing touchdowns on the season. It’s no wonder that they embarrassed the league’s best offense by a whopping 35-point margin in Super Bowl XLVII, good for the third-largest blowout in Super Bowl history.

Through two weeks, the Jaguars are allowing 215.0 passing yards per game 98.0 rushing yards per game, so they are a little behind from a numbers perspective from an all-time defense outlook. Most importantly, though, they’re undefeated and that’s all that matters.

Stay tuned for next week’s edition of the All Time Greats when we compare the Jaguars to the 2015 Denver Broncos.

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