Seattle Seahawks

What's different about the Seahawks '18 off-season?

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What's different about the Seahawks '18 off-season?

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You can feel it, right? Is it the end of an era? The answer is “yes.” And “no.” There are still some foundational elements still in place on the Seattle Seahawks’ 2018 offseason roster: Russell Wilson, Bobby Wagner, Doug Baldwin…. The rest? Well, change is coming. Good and maybe not-so-good.

Let’s stipulate right now that the usual, top-down changes from management will take place: Rosters will turn over through executive feats of executiveness. Rosters will further churn due to player decisions to move on or possibly retire (forced or unforced). Others are just going to wash out of the league.

Not being defensive

And then there’s the 2018 Seahawks.

From the above categories, the Seahawks will almost certainly say goodbye to cornerback Richard Shermansafety Kam Chancellor, defensive end Cliff Avril and, according to Michael Bennett, defensive end Michael Bennett. Subtract four top-level starters from the Seahawks (or anyone’s defense in the NFL) and you have a serious makeover underway.

Add in a possible fifth defection in safety Earl Thomas, who openly petitioned the Dallas Cowboys to “come get me” if they can, and you have full on tumult. Thomas has one year remaining on his five-year, $44.725M deal at $8.5M. In the NFL, this means “time to negotiate a long-term deal or time to deal the player,” particularly if said player is agitating to join another team and/or threatening (or is it “musing” about) retirement. Bet on the latter circumstance.

It’s offseason makeover time in Seattle. And that’s just the defense. It’s also just the known departees. There will be more.

And before we flip over to the offense, do you think the Seahawks might be in the market for a new kicker, as well? I’ll step out on that shaky limb and say, “Yup.” I hate to kick a man when he’s down, so in an act of benevolence I’ll hire Blair Walsh to kick himself.

No offense, but …

On the offensive side of the ball, you can count on one hand the sure-fire keepers: Wilson, Baldwin, uh …, hmmm. Tyler Lockett (one year left on his rookie deal)? Paul Richardson finally emerged … just in time to be a free agent. Ditto for much-hyped tight end Jimmy Graham, who put up his best season as a Seahawk just in time to get paid on the free agent market. Speculation is rampant that he will be elsewhere next season, as the Seahawks deal with the inevitable, but unenviable position of grappling with a highly-paid (at the top) roster of aging / oft-injured veterans who may be exiting and thus accelerating dead money onto the salary cap.

On the offensive line, most of the remaining starters look OK right now simply because they don’t have a game to play on Sunday and thus cannot put Russell Wilson in clear and present danger. There are some draft pedigrees to admire among this group. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and all that. (This is how I imagine John Schneider and Pete Carroll pump themselves up in the mirror before heading off to their roster meetings.)

And then they remember 2017.

Justin Britt looks good primarily because he’s not any of Rees Odhiambo, Ethan Pocic, Luke Joeckel, Germain Ifedi or Oday Aboushi. Duane Brown was a mid-season improvement over his predecessors, but is rapidly aging out (32) of the left tackle position. There are few, if any, sure-fire answers on the offensive line for 2018 and beyond. Put the over/under at three new offensive starters on opening day. I’ll take the over.

The running backs group are henceforth known as the Itty Bitty Impact Committee. Not only is it painful to be a Seahawks running back, it’s painful to watch the Seahawks running backs continuously get dinged up by opponents greeting them in the backfield, play after play. None of the current crop of Eddie Lacy, C.J. Prosise, Thomas Rawls, Chris Carson and Tre Madden could stay healthy or effective. Supposed saviors Lacy and Rawls were often healthy scratches on 2017 game days.

The season concluded with the stalwart Mike Davis (brought up from the practice squad mid-season) and the occasionally electrifying J.D. McKissic manning the position in a supporting role to the Seahawks’ true leading rusher: Russell Wilson.

The Seahawks may have something in McKissic. However, it would be cruel to try to make the former receiver an every-down rushing threat at 5’ 10” and 195 lbs. Davis proved capable at times and can get some hard yards. Lord knows the yards are often hard in the Seahawks’ backfield. But he proved to be not immune to getting dinged as any human would in that environment.

There is no Superman in the running backs room, nor in the offensive line rooms in Seattle (OK — Renton). Much work remains to be done this offseason. A running back will surely be drafted high in April. Peace be upon him.

Who?

But who’s going to do all the reshuffling in Seattle? For the first time, rumors abound that 66-year-old head coach Pete Carroll might be ready to hang up his clipboard. Given the major sea change underway on both sides of the ball … could you blame him? But he says he isn’t going anywhere. Take that for what you may. He may be sincere or not, but he does have to say it regardless of whether he means it or not.

But wait, there’s more. Even general manager John Schneider is no lock to return — thanks, in part, to the current vacancy for the much-coveted general manager position in Green Bay, Schneider’s home state. Schneider used to have an out clause in his contract that allowed him to move back to Green Bay should the GM position become open. He gave that clause away in his most recent contract, but let’s face it: This is his one and only shot to get his dream job.

Think discussions aren’t being held on this topic? It’s the offseason in Seattle. Everyone’s being discussed.

Apart from Wilson, Wagner, Baldwin and a handful of others, who might we still recognize wearing college navy, action green and wolf grey on the Seahawks sideline in week one of 2018? This one offseason is not like the others.

The Seattle Seahawks might have a QB controversy on their hands - at backup

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The Seattle Seahawks might have a QB controversy on their hands - at backup

Seattle, according to Seahawks.com, has taken a flyer on quarterback Geno Smith, signing him to compete with Paxton Lynch for the honor of backing up Russell Wilson.

Smith, a former second-round pick to the New York Jets in 2013, spent last season with the Los Angeles Chargers attempting four passes all season. Smith has a career passer rating of 72.7 formulated in part by 29 career touchdown passes to go along with 36 interceptions.   

While Lynch, a first-round pick to Denver in 2017, is the younger of the two, Smith is by far more experienced. He has appeared in 40 career games with 31 starts while Lynch has appeared in five games with four starts while throwing five touchdown passes and four interceptions. 

The addition of Smith gives Seattle someone with far more experience to fall back on just in case Lynch doesn't show much progression. On paper, Lynch, 25, might more more desirable than Smith, 28, because of his youth and better passing skills. But if Lynch doesn't progress, Smith would at least give Seattle a veteran to lean on with loads of game experience. 

Of course, neither man will likely ever see the field. Wilson, entering his eight season, has never missed a start. 

The last time another quarterback threw a pass for Seattle it came in 2016 and off of the fingers of Trevone Boykin, who appeared in five games and completed 13 of 18 passes that season. Tarvaris Jackson attempted six passes with five completions in 2015 and the year before appeared in one game completing his lone pass attempt. Jackson completed 10 of 13 passes in three games during the 2013 season. Matt Flynn completed five of nine passes in three games during Wilson's rookie season. 

At some point, however, Wilson's luck is likely going to run out. Not one of the 26 quarterbacks inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame during the modern era went through his career without missing games. Wilson, a virtual lock to one day be enshrined in Canton, Ohio, is on pace to become the first.

It must be pointed out that Green Bay legend Brett Favre set the record for consecutive starts by a quarterback at 238 from 1992 all the way into 2002. That incredible run came to end late in 2002 when Favre, who ended his career with Minnesota, missed a few starts with a shoulder injury at the age of 41.

Could Wilson be another Favre? Maybe. But if Wilson were to go down this season, Seattle would probably turn to Smith or Lynch. 

Seahawks sign four more drafted rookies

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Seahawks sign four more drafted rookies

Seattle has signed four rookies to contracts, according to Seahawks.com. 

Wide receiver Gary Jennings (fourth round, West Virginia),  running back Travis Homer (sixth round, Miami), defensive tackle Damarcus Christmas (sixth round, Florida State) and wide receiver John Ursua (seventh round, Hawaii), all signed contracts, bringing the total signed to eight.

Already signed are safety Marquise Blair (second round, Utah), Phil Haynes (fourth round, Wake Forrest), safety Ugo Amadi (fourth round, Oregon), linebacker Ben Burr-Kirven (fifth round, Washingto),

Seattle is still working on deals with first-round pick, defensive end L.J. Collier, second-round wide receiver DK Metcalf and third-round linebacker Cody Barton out of Utah.

Seattle has also been busy in other areas, signing free agent defensive tackle Al Woods, fullback and special teams ace, Nick Bellore, cornerback Jamar Taylor and guard Marcus Martin

Taylor, a second-round pick to Miami in 2013, has played with the Dolphins, Cleveland, Arizona and Denver while appearing in 78 games with 41 starts. He could provide solid, veteran depth behind starters Shaquill Griffin and Tre Flowers. 

Bellore has spent eight seasons in the NFL, the last two with the Detroit Lions. He should have an instant impact on special teams. 

Martin, a third-round pick by San Francisco in 2014, appeared in 26 games with the 49ers while making 24 starts. He spent time with Cleveland in 2017 and Dallas last season but was unable to earn playing time with the Browns and later suffered a toe injury that kept him off the field with the Cowboys. 

Seattle's first session of OTAs start on Monday. 

Seattle Seahawks beef up interior with addition DT Al Woods

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Seattle Seahawks beef up interior with addition DT Al Woods

The Seattle Seahawks continued their late spending spree by signing a familiar face in veteran defensive tackle Al Woods to beef up the interior of the defensive line, it has been reported. 

Woods, 31, entered the league in 2010 and spent the 2011 season with Seattle. 

The 6-foot-4, 340-pound Woods will give Seattle added depth inside as a professional run stuffer in a rather thing group of defensive tackles led by Jarran Reed, who had 10 1/2 sacks last season. The other contenders for playing time are sixth-round pick Demarcus Christmas out of Florida State and free promising 2018 rookie, Poona Ford. 

Woods has had an interesting nine-year career in the NFL that has included stops with six teams. New Orleans drafted Woods in the fourth round of the 2010 draft only to release him before the season began. A few days later Pittsburgh signed Woods to its practice squad. That November Tampa Bay signed Woods away from the Steelers and he appeared in nine games. Tampa Bay cut him prior to the start of the 2011 season leading to Seattle scooping up Woods. He appeared in two games before being released in November. The Steelers claimed him off waivers and he appeared in 12 games in 2012 and 16 in 2013. Woods signed with Tennessee the following offseason and spent three seasons with the Titans before landing in Indianapolis in 2017 where he spent the past two years appearing in 30 games while making 24 starts. 

Doug Baldwin: A wide receiver and a gentleman

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Doug Baldwin: A wide receiver and a gentleman

Last August I took my then 11-year-old son, Payton, on a trip to Seattle to see the Seattle Mariners take on the Houston Astros.

Along the way, we made a quick stop in Renton, Wash., where I attended a Seattle Seahawks fall camp practice in order to get some reporting done. The practice was open so my son was able to watch a bit of his favorite NFL team practice, which was held inside because the air quality had been poor due to severe fires in the area. 

Payton, as expected, was mesmerized by the size of the indoor practice facility at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center, and by the site of the Seahawks actually practicing right in front of him. 

After the practice had ended, Payton, wearing a Seahawks cap, took a seat on a bench backed up against a wall while I joined the media contingent in conducting interviews with players and coaches. After about 20 minutes, and while waiting for a chance to talk one-on-one with wide receiver Jaron Brown, I ventured over to check on Payton, who had been playing on his phone. 

Payton had a strange look of shock on his face that at first alarmed me.

"What happened?" I asked.

"Uh, yeah," he said with a dead stare. "What?" I repeated. 

Payton, with a grin: "Uh, Doug Baldwin just talked to me,"

The story went that Baldwin noticed Payton sitting alone, walked over, extended his hand and said, "hello, I'm Doug Baldwin." My son shook his hand and replied, "I know."

They then shared some small talk for a few minutes before Baldwin headed toward the locker room. Payton was on cloud nine the rest of the day even after the Mariners had lost to the Astros. 

This story is low on the list of good deeds Baldwin does in life. He is extremely socially conscious and puts himself out there for many causes. One of his main passions is criminal justice reform. This isn't simply a story of a busy athlete battling injuries who had just ended a practice and took a couple of minutes of his time to chat up a young fan he saw sitting alone on a bench. It's a story of Baldwin being who he is; a gentleman. 

On Wednesday, the Seattle Seahawks announced that they've released Baldwin, 30, and safety Kam Chancellor, 31, after both failed physicals. That erases two more icons from the Super Bowl teams leaving just quarterback Russell Wilson and linebackers Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright as the only remaining players from both Super Bowl teams (2013-2014). Center Justin Britt started as a rookie in 2014. Defensive end Cassius Marsh was a rookie special teams player in 2014, left after a couple of years and returned this offseason. That's it.

Chancellor's playing career pretty much ended with a neck injury in 2017 but he remained on the roster because the Seahawks were still paying him on a three-year extension he signed earlier that year. Releasing Chancellor now created a $10.2 million dead cap hit for 2019 but his salary was essentially already a dead cap hit because he couldn't perform. The move also freed up about $2.5 million in cap room. 

The news of Baldwin's release is more jarring, although not completely unexpected. Baldwin, who will count as about a $6.3 million dead cap hit this season but also give Seattle about $6.8 million in cap relief, battled shoulder and knee injuries last season, missed three games and didn't score his first touchdown until a Thursday night win at home over Green Bay that put the Seahawks at 5-5. During the offseason, he underwent multiple surgeries, including one for a hernia. Reports following the latter were that Baldwin's career could be over. The Seahawks drafted three wide receivers in last month's draft seemingly in preparation for bad news regarding Baldwin. 

Seattle yesterday signed former Detroit defensive end Ezekiel Ansah to a one-year deal worth about $9 million with incentives to replace Frank Clark, traded to Kansas City for draft picks. Essentially, releasing Baldwin and Chancellor freed up money to sign Ansah. 

What has to be frustrating for both Baldwin and the Seahawks is that from a talent standpoint, he could still ball. He scored five touchdowns over the teams final seven games while missing one. His seven receptions for 126 yards and a score helped lead the team to a Monday Night win over Kansas City that pretty much cemented a playoff berth. 

He remained quick, explosive in and out of his cuts and that knack for twisting and contorting his body to make receptions on tough throws remained intact. 

However, his body ultimately failed him. 

Following the win over Kansas City, Baldwin said that he had been going through a season of "hell" just to be able to perform at all. It appears that hell has intensified over the offseason. It's a shame. In addition to the entertainment of watching Baldwin play, listening to him speak was also a joy. So wise, intelligent, thoughtful and accountable Baldwin is.

While attending numerous Baldwin press conferences, I felt like I was listening to a future politician. Not in the sense that he was spin doctoring like most do, but that he presented his points of view so well that I wanted to see him doing the same in public office.  

He will certainly be missed in that regard. 

On the field, Seattle will find a way to move forward without Baldwin, who leaves the team third all time in receptions (493), third in yards (6,563) and second in receiving touchdowns (49). Doing so will almost certainly must add a veteran receiver. Right now the starters would be the electric Tyler Lockett and the still unproven David Moore, a promising seventh-round pick from 2017. The third guy is capable veteran Jaron Brown. Behind them will be three rookies led by D.K. Metcalf (Mississippi), Gary Jennings (fourth round, West Virginia) and John Ursua (7th round, Hawaii). 

Even if Metcalf, a 6-foot-3, 228-pound athletic marvel, is polished up enough to be more than just an ornament in the offense this season, the Seahawks still need a savvy, veteran route runner and playmaker like Baldwin in the lineup. And one won't be easy to find at this stage in the game. 

Twitter reacts to news the Seattle Seahawks have terminated contracts for Kam Chancellor, Doug Baldwin

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Twitter reacts to news the Seattle Seahawks have terminated contracts for Kam Chancellor, Doug Baldwin

The Seattle Seahawks parted ways with wide receiver Doug Baldwin and safety Kam Chancellor on Thursday after both players failed physical designations.

The news of Chancellor’s release does not come as a surprise, but it does close the door on the legendary Legion of Boom era. The Pro Bowl safety hasn't played in a game since November 2017 due to a severe neck injury and missed all of the 2018 season on the reserve/physically unable to perform list.

Baldwin’s failed physical, however, does bring upon questions about the 30-year-old wideout’s potential injury-related retirement. If it is indeed Baldwin's last hurrah, he’ll finish his career with 6,563 yards and 49 touchdowns in 123 career games. He has a Super Bowl ring and two Pro Bowl selections in his eight-year run, as well as the admiration of this generation of Seahawks fans. He'll surely be missed. 

Here’s a look at how people reacted to the news on Twitter:

 

BREAKING: The Seattle Seahawks have terminated the contracts of Kam Chancellor, Doug Baldwin

BREAKING: The Seattle Seahawks have terminated the contracts of Kam Chancellor, Doug Baldwin

Another page turns in the Seattle Seahawks franchise players book.

Reported by the Seahawks on Thursday afternoon, Seattle has parted ways with safety Kam Chancellor and wide receiver Doug Baldwin.

 

“The Seahawks have made the difficult decision to terminate/failed physical Doug Baldwin and Kam Chancellor,” Seahawks general manager John Schneider said. “These are two of the most iconic players in franchise history and both were instrumental in establishing our championship culture, great examples of competitiveness and leadership on the field and in the community. These legendary players will always be a part of our Seahawks family.”

This was expected for the hard-hitting, high-flying safety that is Kam “Bam Bam” Chancellor, who spent all of 2018 out due to a neck injury sustained in 2017. He is the last member of the iconic Legion of Boom to officially end his time in Seattle. 

As for Baldwin, this news comes at somewhat of no surprise. It has been a long time since the standout, 2011 undrafted rookie out of Stanford, to be 100% healthy.

According to Seahawks.com reporter John Boyle, “Over the course of eight seasons, Baldwin set the franchise record for touchdown catches in a season with 14 in 2015, and matched the team record for receptions in a season with 94 in 2016. A two-time Pro-Bowler, Baldwin’s 49 career receiving touchdowns are second only to Hall of Famer Steve Largent in franchise history, and his 493 catches and receiving 6,563 yards rank third behind Largent and Brian Blades.”

Seattle drafted 6’3”, 228-pound WR D.K. Metcalf with the 64th pick (second round) in the 2019 NFL Draft. The question at that time was would the Seahawks potentially be drafting Baldwin’s replacement? Other receivers drafted were Gary Jennings (West Virginia) and John Ursua (Hawaii).

More analysis to come from our Seahawks Insider Aaron Fentress. 

Seattle Seahawks get creative with the signing of DE Ezekiel Ansah

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Seattle Seahawks get creative with the signing of DE Ezekiel Ansah

The Seattle Seahawks must find a way to replace 13 sacks in the lineup and the constant quarterback pressure applied by a player capable of producing those numbers. 

The clear way to replace a Frank Clark - traded to Kansas City prior to the NFL Draft - is to sign another Frank Clark. The other way is to piece together a collection of players capable of replicating what Clark brought to the table. 

Enter Ezekiel Ansah, who could prove to be a major piece to that puzzle but could also end up being another Frank Clark. In fact, he was Frank Clark before Frank Clark was a Frank Clark. 

Seattle reportedly has signed Ansah - still recovering from shoulder surgery - to a one-year deal that could prove to be the kind of move that defines how to survive losing a $100-million player that a team can't afford to keep (K.C. gave Clark a five-year, $105 million deal).

Ansah, the No. 5-overall pick out of BYU in 2013, spent six years in Detroit where he amassed 48 sacks. He came out of the gates strong with 15 1/2 sacks over his first two seasons before racking up 14 1/2 in 2015 earning a Pro Bowl nod. Clark entered the league that year with three sacks for the Seahawks. 

Ansah appeared to be set for stardom when early in 2016 he injured his ankle and missed the next three games. He never fully recovered and finished the season with just two sacks. He bounced back the following year with 12 sacks leading to Detroit placing the franchise tag on him last summer requiring the Lions to pay him $17.5 million.

Again, an injury slowed down Ansah. During the team's 48-17 Week 1 loss at home to the New York Jets, Ansah severely injured his right shoulder and would miss the next six games. He then played in six games before going down and out for good with an injury to the same shoulder. The Lions placed him on injured reserve with three games remaining. 

The fact that Ansah appeared in just seven games (two starts) and still produced four sacks is telling. The man can still play. When healthy. 

According to reports, Ansah could miss the first few weeks of the 2019 season. No problem. Heal up. Return healthy. Then be the guy that you were while healthy in Detroit. That's what Seattle is hoping occurs, and if so, the Seahawks wouldn't miss Clark at all. 

Plus, Seattle would then be in a position to keep Ansah, and maybe for far less moey than Clark received from Kansas City. 

The Seahawks have other avenues to explore for generating pressure on opposing quarterbacks with and without Ansah in the lineup. First, and maybe foremost, is rookie L.J. Collier, selected in the first round out of TCU.  However, he shouldn't be expected to deliver instantly as a rookie. Not saying he won't, just saying it shouldn't be expected. Collier produced six last season and 14 1/2 for his career at TCU.

Another offseason move that shouldn't be ignored is the re-acquisition of defensive end Cassius Marsh, who broke into the league with Seattle in 2014 and has since played for Tampa Bay, New England and most recently San Francisco. 

Marsh had 5 1/2 sacks last year with the 49ers. The ability of Seattle coach Pete Carroll and defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. to scheme pressure could lead to Marsh delivering similar numbers as a third-down pass rush specialist.

When Seattle gets Collier, Ansah, Marsh and defensive tackle Jarran Reed (10 1/2 sacks last year) on the field together, that group will prove quite formidable.  And let's not forget Rasheem Green, a third-round pick out of USC last year. He could compete for playing time, as well. 

As stated in a previous post, in an ideal world Seattle would be able to financially afford to keep its drafted talent when it becomes elite. Keeping Clark at $21 million per season after already signing quarterback Russell Wilson for $35 million per would have destroyed the team's cap space.

Keeping the franchise quarterback happy will require some deft moves moving forward in oder to remain a playoff team. Signing a guy like Ansah is an example of such a move. 

Report: Seattle Seahawks, DE Ziggy Ansah agree to one-year deal

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Report: Seattle Seahawks, DE Ziggy Ansah agree to one-year deal

With Frank Clark now a member of the Kansas City Chiefs, the Seattle Seahawks were in dire need of some pass-rushing help.

On Wednesday, they struck a deal with the best unsigned edge rusher on the market. According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, the Seahawks have signed free agent defensive end Ziggy Ansah to a one-year deal.

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider made it clear following the draft last month that Seattle would continue to pursue defensive lineman and pass rushers following the trade of Clark.

“There is work that we’re engaged in this stage of filling up the roster,” Carroll told reporters. “And we’re very involved in what is coming up next. We’re not done. We have work to do. We’re excited about what’s coming and you guys will see, in time.”

Ansah, a fifth overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, spent six seasons with the Detroit Lions, but was limited to seven games in 2018 due to a shoulder injury. Last season, he recorded 11 tackles and four sacks. The 30-year-old has 48 sacks in his NFL tenure with a high of 14 coming in 2015.

More to come from our Seahawks Insider Aaron Fentress.

Marquise Blair bashes his way from Wooster to the Seattle Seahawks

Marquise Blair bashes his way from Wooster to the Seattle Seahawks

RENTON, Wash. - Seattle rookie safety Marquise Blair simply doesn't have much to say. Not to the media. Not to his teammates. Not to his coaches. Not to pretty much anybody. It's nothing personal. He's simply a man of few words. 

"That's just me," Blair said with a smile while standing before about 25 media members following the first day of Seattle's rookie minicamp at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center.

That reality will certainly be a departure from the defensive backs that roamed Seattle's secondary during the recent glory years when the boisterous Legion of Boom operated at full force. But, like that group, Blair certainly enjoys bringing the boom if not also the noise after the fact. He is a true hitter in every sense of the word. He thirsts for contact, so much so that all of his coaches along the way from Wooster High School through Dodge City Community College and at Utah marveled at his ability to deliver blows that helped wreck opposing offenses. 

“The first thing that stands out is his smile,” Utah defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley said when asked of what he will remember most about Blair's days at Utah. “The next thing would be how that smile was so deceiving because he will kill you dead on the field.”

Now he brings that tenacity to a team that could use a little attitude on the back end after the loss of Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas over the past couple of years.

What the Seahawks are getting in Blair is a hungry player that came from humble beginnings and ended up a second-round pick in the NFL. 

"It changed my life," Blair said of being selected. "I'm happy to be here."

How he arrived here was somewhat unconventional. 

--- A career that almost never was

Blair had to be convinced to play football as a 175-pound sophomore in 2012 at Wooster High in Wooster, Ohio, population 27,000. He didn't enjoy his freshman season and saw himself more as a basketball player. First-year Wooster football coach Doug Haas didn't give up on Blair, and with the help of his mother, Tonya Boykins, convinced him to join the team once school began. By that point, Blair had already missed three weeks of practices. Haas wasn't about to allow Blair to see varsity game action right away. Haas made Blair play junior varsity for three weeks to match the three weeks of practices he had missed. 

Because learning the safety position in just a week proved troublesome, Blair played his first junior varsity game at standup defensive end. 

"He had seven sacks and recovered an onside kick," Haas said. "He was just a terror. My J.V. staff came back and said, 'well, that's the last we'll see of him.'"

A couple of weeks later, Blair moved up to varsity and played cornerback where his man-to-man skills shined. Haas recalled a play when the opposing team ran a reverse to the wide side of the field directly at Blair, all alone in open space. 

"He cuts this kid down in the backfield," Haas said. "And I go, 'okay, this guy is pretty special. He's going to be playing on Saturdays.'"

The following season, Blair moved to safety. The defense struggled early on before Blair texted Haas asking to move to linebacker in order to be closer to the action. The team ran a 4-2-5 defense that used a hybrid safety/linebacker position. Blair flourished in that spot and the team's season turned around. Blair, however, still though basketball might be his best sport. But Haas informed him that there wasn't much of a demand for a 6-foot-2, left-handed guard with a weak jump shot. However, fast, physical safeties that loved contact were always in demand. That description certainly fit Blair. 

"I've never seen anybody as physical as he is in terms of just the ability to have blatant disregard for your body and just explode into people," Haas said, "and then straighten up your helmet, pop up, get right back and get the play call and move on. That's what so separated him from everybody else."

Blair's toughness could be traced to having grown with five siblings, including four brothers, two that were older. 

"We always played backyard football so I feel that's where that really came from," Blair said. 

The older brothers would rough up Blair from time to time. 

"A little bit. Not no more, though," Blair said with a smile. 

NFL Films also influenced Blair's mindset on the field. 

"When I was little I'd watch highlights," he said. "Hard-hitting highlights."

On most plays, there is going to be some hard-hitting contact so Blair's philosophy is simple. 

"I'd just rather it be you (who gets hit hard) than me," he said. 

Interest in Blair as a potential college football player took shape soon after his junior season when he received his first scholarship offer in early 2014. Rated as a three-star recruit by 247sports.com and Rivals.com, Blair received offers from Minnesota, Purdue, Kent State, Toledo and Syracuse. That summer, he took an unofficial visit to Syracuse, connected with the players and coaches there and committed that June. 

One fatal flaw stood in the way; his grade-point average. 

"Marquises will be the first to tell you that he was young and immature as a freshman and didn't think about the repercussions of not performing well in the classroom," Haas said. 

Blair began to play catch-up in the classroom while continuing to make opponents pay for allowing him to catch them on the field. Blair would go on to be named first-team Division II all-state as a senior and was named the 2014 Ohio Cardinal Conference Defensive Player of the Year. He led the team with 75 tackles and on offense caught 35 passes for 724 yards and 11 touchdowns. In a playoff game, Blair scored four touchdowns on offense and one on defense to lead the team to a 35-7 win. 

According to Haas, Blair finally realized that football would be his "meal ticket" and gave up basketball his senior season in order to focus on his studies and training for college. But could he become eligible to play at an FBS program?

Blair did all that he could, including taking online classes during the summer after graduating in order to become eligible. Syracuse helped with the process. All signs appeared positive until the 11th hour. In late July, the NCAA determined that it would not approve Blair's transcript making him ineligible to play major college football.

"There was a culpability there," Haas said. "He learned the error of his ways." 

Scramble mode ensued. Blair and his coaches had little time to find an alternative plan at a junior college where he could play and work on his associate's degree in order to later transfer to a four-year institution. With few options to choose from, Blair selected Dodge City Community College in Dodge City, Kansas.

Blair applied online, received a football scholarship, packed his bags, got a ride to Cleveland an hour away and then took his first plane ride just under 1,000 miles west to attend school in a city he had never visited to play for people had had never met in person. 

--- Dodge City Destroyer

At the Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport in Wichita, Kan., to pick up Blair in late summer of 2015 was linebackers coach Michael Starkey, now at Defiance College in Ohio. Blair had gotten everything all squared away late in the process and missed a few days of fall camp before his arrival. So, Starkey brought along a note pad, handed it to Blair in the car at the airport and during the 2 1/2 hour drive to Dodge City held a one-on-one defensive playbook cram session. 

Dodge City, like Wooster High, used essentially a 4-2-5 defense with heavy man defense that Blair took to quite easily. He once again played a hybrid linebacker/safety role and once again flew around with reckless abandon creating havoc. But he did so while playing within the structure of the defense, which required him to play a lot of man-to-man coverage on slot receivers.

"You could just tell the first day of practice that he understood things," Starkey said. "He just understood football. He understood concepts, he understood the schemes and he took coaching very well. He just applied what he saw and what we were trying to do on the field better than anyone I've ever coached."

That combination of football IQ and tenacity made Blair a menace. His Dodge City highlight video is filled with clips of Blair making early recognition of a play, blowing past blockers and delivering a big hit. 

"He's a violent striker," Starkey said. "He can uncoil his hips whether it was destroying a blocker or making a tackle...That's one thing that immediately caught our eyes on his high school film just how violent he was as a 17-year-old high school senior. He was just violent in everything he did."

Blair's impact was instant and continued for two years. As a senior, Blair had 99 tackles, four interceptions, three sacks and forced four fumbles. 

"Everybody on our coaching staff and a lot of guys on our team they saw very quickly that he was just different," Starkey said. "He could do a myriad of different things that just made him elite at that level, for sure."

Starkey said that Blair didn't instantly become enamored with Dodge City but the coach told him that after one year there, when he went home for the summer, he would dream about coming back to be with his teammates. 

"When I picked him up for his sophomore year he was like, 'damn coach, I couldn't wait to get back,'" Starkey said. 

Blair did the work in the classroom and made the plays in games that allowed him to stand out. 

"He took coaching very well," Starkey said. "Better than anyone I've ever coached."

And just like at Wooster, Blair created a highlight reel of vicious hits. 

-- Utah hunts for a linebacker, finds a safety

In 2017, Utah had graduated two senior linebackers and needed help at the position. That sent defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley to Dodge City to recruit Blair, who stood out on game video with his speed and tenacity. A three-star recruit yet again, Blair would receive offers from Nebraska, Louisville, Michigan State, Iowa State and others. 

When Scalley met Blair, the coach did a double take. Blair, then about 187 pounds, didn't resemble the player Scalley had seen on video. 

"He looked big (in action)," Scalley said. "Maybe because he just played big. They'd blitz him off the edge and he'd take on pullers. "

Scalley said that Blair's junior college film was one of the most impressive physical displays he'd ever seen. So while Blair was not the guy Utah thought he was, "it didn't change that we loved him," Scalley said.  

Utah recruited Blair to play safety. 

“He could flat out move and was so physical,” Scalley said. “He was worth taking, regardless of position he was going to play.”

The challenge would be to get Blair’s footwork down at the safety position. That directive proved to not be a problem.

“It was very natural for him," Scalley said. "He’s such an athlete.”

Once again, Blair took well to coaching. Different staff. Same results. He bought into the program and Utah bought into him.

Blair needed exactly one play to announce his presence at Utah with a thud. It happened during his debut in the 2017 opener at home against North Dakota. 

“We put him in and he's lined up on the wrong side,” Scalley described, "and I'm screaming at him to run to the other side. He runs over and he's got the tight end in coverage."

The tight end blocked down on a run play to the right that involved a 310-pound guard pulling toward Blair.

"I'm thinking to myself, 'oh crap,'" Scalley said.

His concern proved unwarranted. Blair got low and thrust his legs up sending his shoulder pads into the lineman’s right shoulder. 

“He lights this guard up as if the kid were a little league football player,” Scalley said. "Just ruined him..."The entire stadium just goes, "ooh. That was our first taste of Marquise Blair at the University of Utah."

Back in Dodge City, Starkey watched the game with his girlfriend, who reacted excitedly when Blair made that big hit. Starkey, however, didn't blink. 

"I just kind of looked at her like, 'yeah, that's what he does,'" Starkey said. "That's the lion being a lion."

Blair went on to have a great Utah career that ended with him being named second-team all-Pac-12 as a senior. Remember those academic problems that dogged him in high school? Blair was named to the conference's honorable mention all-academic team. 

Scalley said he believes that Blair is only scratching the surface of what he can do at the safety position because he's only played it for two years. But, he continued, that Blair must continue to work on his man-to-man coverage skills at the next level. Scalley doesn't expect that Blair will ever lose focus and not be able to adjust to new challenges. 

“He hates to lose,” Scalley said. “He hates to lose a rep.”

Plus, Blair is all about team accomplishment and wants to be a key part of that success. 

“He’s not a me-guy," Scalley said. "He doesn’t even have a Twitter account right now...He’s not the guy that you're going to want to interview after the games. He’s not the guy that's going to give you complete sentences but he is a guy that lights up a room with his smile."

--- Seahawks see a fit

On the second night of the NFL Draft, Seattle general manager John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll zeroed in on Blair despite safety not being a huge need with starters Bradley McDougald and Tedric Thompson returning. They were seduced by Blair's physicality and athleticism. 

"We worked him out at the Combine and we thought this guy could play corner," Schneider said. "He’s just that kind of athlete. Really intense tempo-setter. Tough, tough dude.”

Carroll said he could see Blair, who became the father of a son last summer, playing Nickel right away because he is athletic enough to do so. But the primary objective is to groom him as a strong safety. 

"We really like him attacking the line of scrimmage..." Carroll said. "It’s his toughness that we’re really excited about.”

Blair is joined in Seattle by former Utah teammate, linebacker Cody Barton, selected in the third round.  

Barton said Blair's personalities on and off the field are polar opposite. 

"He doesn’t talk much, but he’s a very mellow, cool guy and then all of a sudden he puts the helmet on and he’s a wild man," Barton said. "He just wants to kill people. But great player, super smart on the field, has great range. Playing with him coming from Utah, I know how he plays and he’s going to do great things here."

Barton said the biggest hit he's ever seen Blair deliver came against Arizona when he smacked the Wildcats quarterback. However, Blair was called for targeting, a frequent occurrence during his career and something he said he needs to work on. 

"I've just got to lower my target," he said. 

Seattle also drafted Oregon safety Ugo Amadi in the fourth round to play free safety opposite Blair in the second unit. The two didn't know much about each other until they met at the NFL Scouting Combine. This weekend, they were roommates. 

And, according to Amadi, Blair actually speaks and has done so quite often.

"Yes, he definitely talks to me," Amadi said with a laugh. "We always talk...I don't know if ya'll have something going on, but for me, good vibes over there."

What's clear is that even without much to say, Blair connects with those closest to him off the field. 

"He's a great kid," Scalley said. "He has a great heart. I just loved his personality. You've gotta earn his trust, but once you do that dude will do anything for ya.”

Haas listened to Blair's draft teleconference and the short sentences he delivered and could only laugh. Those who have helped Blair reach this point find his budgeting of words endearing because they know who the person is behind the quiet demeanor. Haas, Starkey and Scalley have helped groom someone that Seattle is hoping will deliver loudly on the field where it matters the most and where he will always speak the loudest. 

"He is a man of very few words," Haas said. "He's very comfortable with silence." 

Unless, of course, Blair is creating the crashing sound of pad-on-pad violence.