After a season in which they became the best secondary in the league, Jalen Ramsey and company are ready to take the torch from the Legion of Boom.
The Seattle Seahawks created a new type of defense in the early 2010s, one led by their defensive backs rather than their front 7.
Despite some solid play up front by a few keys, the entire team was driven by the secondary. Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, and Kam Chancellor represented the best the league had to offer at their respective positions and they all resided on the same team.
As we dive deep into the 2018 offseason, the original Legion of Boom is no more – Richard Sherman is recovering from a devastating achilles injury and now plays for the San Francisco 49ers, while Kam Chancellor just announced his retirement.
In his piece on the NFL’s Next Legion of Boom, Danny Kelly of the Ringer tabbed the Jaguars as the heavy favorite:
"The numbers the Jags’ secondary posted last season are, well, absurd. Jacksonville’s pass defenders turned opposing quarterbacks into a collective Brock Osweiler–level passer (actually, worse) last year, holding QBs to a 68.5 passer rating, the lowest mark by any group since the Seahawks’ 2013 Super Bowl squad (63.4)."
Kelly of course highlights Ramsey as the leader.
"That unit is led by fiery corner Jalen Ramsey, whose prodigious talent for trash-talking is downright Richard Shermanesque. Only two years into his career, Ramsey has already established himself as one of the league’s premier shutdown corners, and in 2017 he gave up a catch on just 51 percent of his 92 targets in coverage, allowing a 63.9 quarterback rating against (10th), per Pro Football Focus. He grabbed four interceptions and defended 17 passes (tied for 11th) while giving up just three scores."
Ramsey is poised to become one of the best players in the NFL if he isn’t already, and something like leading the league in interceptions would help cement his status.
The Jaguars already have something the Seahawks never had at their peak – a 2nd cornerback to shut down the other side of the field. A.J. Bouye was as good, if not better at times, than Ramsey in 2017.
"Somehow, the guy opposite him posted even more impressive numbers: A free-agent newcomer, A.J. Bouye allowed a league-low 31.6 quarterback rating against, per PFF, finished tied for third in the league with six interceptions, and tied for sixth with 18 pass deflections."
One thing the Jaguars don’t have that the Seahawks did was two All Pro safeties. While Tashaun Gipson and Barry Church are above average, they don’t make the same impact that Thomas and Chancellor did in their prime.
That being said, both guys now have more experience in the system and could take a step forward due to familiarity and comfort. Gipson in particular has a very high ceiling – he was a ball hawk on an awful Browns team and has the range to be an interception machine on a defense that will put pressure on the quarterback.
Kelly ends the snippet with what is by far the team’s biggest deficiency on defense:
"Jacksonville will have to make due without slot corner Aaron Colvin, who left for Houston in free agency, but newcomer D.J. Hayden is ready to step into that role."
It’s nice to say Hayden is ready to step in, but I’ll be more cautious about a guy who has bounced around the league and never lived up to his draft pedigree. Colvin was a little bit overrated and will likely be exposed as a full time corner, but he was more than adequate as the third guy.