The Seattle Seahawks expected transition to primarily using a nickel defensive package hinges on the acquisition of Antoine Winfield and his ability both tackle and cover extremely well in the slot. This free agent acquisition helps Seattle both change with a progressively pass-happy game while eliminating their main defensive “weakness” — if you can call any area a weakness on this defense — at the thin linebacker spot.
However, another extremely key elements to this scheme change will be the play of linebacker KJ Wright. The third-year man out of Mississippi State is a critical part of Seattle’s resistance against both the run and pass, and at 6-4 gives the Seahawks perhaps their best thumper along with Kam Chancellor and Bobby Wagner.
“You don’t realize how long K.J. is until you stand next to him,” new Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said. “Then you’re like, ‘Wow, that’s one big dude.’ So Bobby and K.J. have totally impressed me.”
Last season Wright ranked eighth in coverage and 18th in run defense among 4-3 outside linebackers, according to Pro Football Focus grading. The 250-ish pound backer can keep up with running backs and tight ends, and is expected to remain on the field when they hit that nickel defensive package. His solid tackling ability combined with Wagner at middle linebacker and Winfield in the slot make this unit flexible against whatever the opposition throws at them.
I would highly recommend Cian Fahey’s Pre Snap Reads piece on how excellent Seattle’s nickel package could be, where Fahey also touches a bit on Wright’s role and the value of his speed in this defensive scheme.