Seahawks' camp preview: Defensive backs

July, 24, 2014
Jul 24
8:00
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Before training camp begins on Friday, here’s my continuing look (by position) at how the Seattle Seahawks stack up going in and whether the team is improved or not as good as it was a year ago.

The linebackers were Wednesday. Now let’s look at the defensive backs.

Safeties -- Just as good.

Thomas
Chancellor
I would say better, but it’s tough to be better when you already have the two best starting safeties in the NFL with free safety Earl Thomas and strong safety Kam Chancellor.

Thomas is the best safety of his era and Chancellor is a punishing tackler with the size of a linebacker and the cover skills on most cornerbacks. The only question is Chancellor’s health coming off hip surgery, but expectations are he’s ready to go.

If there is a concern here, it’s depth. Jeron Johnson returns as a quality backup after missing most of last season with hamstring injuries. He can play either safety position.

The Seahawks lost veteran safety Chris Maragos to the Eagles in free agency, so Seattle will need to rely on younger players in backup roles. Several players are officially listed as cornerbacks on the roster, but also can play safety.

One of those is DeShawn Shead, the third-year player from Portland State who stepped up last season. At 6-2, 220, Shead can handle the strong safety spot.

The coaches also are high on Terrance Parks, a free-agent signee from Florida State who spent time with Hamilton in the CFL last year.

Two rookies will get a seriously look -- Eric Pinkins, a sixth-round pick from San Diego State, and Dion Bailey, a free-agent signee from Southern Cal.

Pinkins (6-3, 220) played safety in college, but the Seahawks want to convert him to cornerback. They see him as a Brandon Browner type of physical player, but Pinkins struggled learning the press coverage schemes in offseason workouts. He clearly looked more comfortable at safety.

Chandler Fenner, who spent last season recovering from a torn ACL, is a cornerback who also can play free safety.

Housler
Maxwell
Cornerbacks -- Some depth decisions to figure out.

As is the case with the safeties, the two starting cornerbacks are rock solid. Richard Sherman is arguably the best corner in the league. Byron Maxwell is much better than many people realize.

Browner and Walter Thurmond left in free agency, but Maxwell would have starter over both of them had they stayed in Seattle. But without them, the depth needs adjusting.

The Seahawks list 11 cornerbacks on the 90-man roster, although a few of them may see more work at safety. Jeremy Lane, one of the fastest players on the team and a solid tackler, is a quality nickelback. Lane also is one of the best gunners in the league on punt coverage.

Seattle signed two veterans who will vie for backup spots in A.J. Jefferson and Phillip Adams, who also could see work as a punt returner. Adams probably has the inside track.

But if you are looking for a camp surprise and a player who could take a major step forward this season it’s Tharold Simon. He missed his rookie year out of LSU last season after undergoing surgery on both feet, but Simon was the standout performer on defense throughout the offseason workouts.

So the Seahawks have some backup slots to fill with Browner and Thurmond gone, but it appears they have plenty of talented options from which to choose.

Terry Blount

ESPN Seattle Seahawks reporter

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