The Seattle Seahawks may very well have the best starting safety tandem in the NFL with free safety Earl Thomas and strong safety Kam Chancellor. Each has been voted to the Pro Bowl since joining the league in 2010 as well as being named to the NFL All-Pro Team. Quite an accomplishment for a pair of young men just four years out of college.
While every team in the league would love to have a dynamic starting duo like Thomas and Chancellor in their secondary, the Seahawks have struggled to add quality depth behind their young studs. Understandably, this is a problem which has gone mostly unnoticed due to the fact that Thomas and Chancellor have managed to stay relatively healthy throughout their tenure in Seattle.
However, head coach Pete Carroll knows it would be prudent to find capable backups for his hard-hitting secondary, which has been aptly nick-named the “Legion of Boom.” While defensive backs Jeron Johnson and Chris Maragos have played well at times, neither player inspires a ton of confidence in the event that they are needed in a more prominent role. Fortunately, Carroll and Seahawks general manager John Schneider may have found another obscure gem in undrafted rookie Dion Bailey from the University of Southern California (USC).
Bailey actually began his college career playing linebacker for the Trojans defense. He started as a redshirt freshman in 2010 and recorded 81 tackles, two sacks and two interceptions on his way to Pac-12 Defensive Freshman of the Year honors.
Bailey then remained at linebacker throughout his sophomore year, again posting solid numbers and wowing coaches and opponents alike with his spectacular coverage abilities. He finished his second season at USC with 80 tackles, four interceptions and a sack, after starting all 13 games for the Trojans. It was after his solid sophomore year when the promising young linebacker committed himself to a necessary – but difficult – position change.
With his team needing help in the secondary, Bailey made a voluntary switch from linebacker to safety. Looking back, his coverage skills likely foreshadowed his inevitable move to the secondary. Luckily for him, the change would prove to be a good one, and likely will be responsible for prolonging his career.
After all, Bailey was far too small to play linebacker long-term. He measures at 6-foot-0 and weighs a mere 201 pounds as a Seahawk. Now, to be fair, he did carry more weight while playing linebacker, but not much. Bailey clearly carries his weight better and more comfortably where he is now.
At safety, he posted 61 tackles and a career-high five interceptions. This served as further proof that the experience made him a better player. Bailey then chose to forgo his senior year for the 2014 NFL Draft. Unfortunately, he went undrafted in what was arguably the deepest rookie class for decades, despite the improvements to his game. It didn’t take long following the conclusion of the draft for the Seahawks to pounce on Bailey and he was quickly signed as a priority undrafted free agent.
Now the question is, what chance does Bailey have of making the final 53-man roster? The truth is, no one is entirely sure. The good news for Bailey is that Coach Carroll strongly believes in playing the best player at every position regardless of draft position or paycheck.
It is blatantly obvious that consistent, mistake-free football is the only thing that matters to the modern-day Seahawks and their coaching staff. Therefore, Bailey will likely have every opportunity to provide depth behind the infamous Legion of Boom and earn his place on the final roster.