INDIANAPOLIS — Will the reigning Super Bowl-champion Seattle Seahawks' vaunted "Legion of Boom" secondary inspire a "Legion of Baby Boomers" selected in the NFL draft?
No doubt teams will try to draft off Seattle's championship template. Everyone is looking up to an aggressive, ball-hawking Seahawks secondary headlined by shutdown cornerback Richard Sherman and playmaking safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor.
"Growing up, I can say Deion Sanders is the one that stood out most," Auburn cornerback Chris Davis said of the Hall of Fame cornerback. "But right now, it's (the Tampa Bay Buccaneers') Darrelle Revis and Richard Sherman. I think Richard Sherman is one of the best corners in the game. And we've all seen it. We've all witnessed it."
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In a copycat league, general managers can't just go to Kinkos and copy Seattle's defensive model, expecting similar success.
Good luck with finding those coveted bigger cornerbacks and safeties who fit Seattle's press-coverage style.
"They don't exist," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "Big, fast guys are the fewest people around. Everybody would like to get longer, taller guys that run 4.4, but there are just not very many humans like that in the world. It's rare when you find them. Then you have to develop them."
Remember, it took Carroll and general manager John Schneider four years to build their Super Bowl winner.
It wasn't just strokes of good fortune in hitting on fifth-round finds 6-3, 235-pound Chancellor in 2010 and 6-3, 195 pound Sherman in 2011. But Carroll and his staff provided a streamlined scheme to allow their rangy athletes to shine in the ultra-competitive environment Carroll fosters.
"What people will try to do is try to use the simplicity of what Seattle does with their Cover-3 scheme, where they play a really simple single-high-safety coverage," former Seahawks scout and current NFL Network draft analyst Bucky Brooks said. "That allows them to play fast. That's what Pete does. That scheme simplicity allows coaches to develop guys on the field because they are not bombarded with overthinking."
Carroll and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn's stifling unit surrendered a league-low 14.4 points a game, forced 39 regular-season takeaways and harassed Peyton Manning and his high-powered Denver Broncos into four turnovers in a 43-8 Super Bowl XLVIII throttling.
"The Seattle model worked well this year," Arizona Cardinals general manager Steve Keim told USA TODAY Sports. "The goal is to get there. You admire a few things: John Schneider has done a fantastic job of drafting well. And they were able to add pass rushers Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett in below-market, savvy free agent deals. So they were able to put together a great group, and they fit that team extremely well."
Former NFL defensive back Solomon Wilcots says the team best poised to emulate Seattle's model is coach Gus Bradley's Jacksonville Jaguars. The former Seahawks defensive coordinator is a Carroll disciple who worships at the same church of fast, physical, turnover-forcing tackling.
"There's a perfect example of how Pete and Seattle are going to affect the draft," said Wilcots, a CBS and SiriusXM NFL Radio analyst. "Gus Bradley has the template. He can run that same single-high-safety defense. Gus and his staff just coached at the Senior Bowl. This is as deep a draft as we've seen in 10 years, and Gus has a head start of knowing which kids could fit Seattle's model."
In a passing league, the Seahawks' Super Bowl demolition of Manning's record-setting Broncos offense represented a sea change from New Age to old school.
"I love Peyton, but what he does is too much responsibility for one guy to shoulder," Wilcots says. "Pete and the Seahawks showed that things have shifted back — great defense does win championships."