It hardly seems revelatory to say a two-time Pro Bowl selection is an essential part of a defense. It seems rather obvious when that same player has had four consecutive seasons over 100 tackles and will likely have a fifth such season in as many years in the league.
Though it doesn’t seem like Bobby Wagner gets that recognition. It’s his counterparts in the Legion of Boom — primarily Richard Sherman — who garner most of the praise. If not them, then it’s Michael Bennett’s versatility lining up in every sort of technique he’s asked to play in. They’re all valuable players and among the best at their positions. So it’s really a credit to the greatness of the Seahawks’ defense.
But in the literal and figurative center of it all is Wagner. That couldn’t become any clearer after his blocked field goal that helped end the Arizona Cardinals game Sunday night end in a draw.
— Def Pen Sports (@DefPenSports) October 24, 2016
It was a play that invoked the shenanigans of former Minnesota Vikings linebacker Matt Blair, the NFL’s unofficial all-time leader in blocked field goals (21), despite being a full five inches shorter.
Just for fun, look at the further parallels of the two. They were both drafted in the second round and made immediate impacts. Blair unofficially gained nine tackles per game (and higher during the prime of his career) while Wagner is averaging 10 per game right now.
Sacks were not officially tracked during Blair’s career but he was known to be an effective blitzer much like Wagner is with the Seahawks. Even scarier is that they both average an interception exactly every 10 games and both have a Pro Bowl selection every other year.
Blair does have the advantage being a fumble magnet, as he has a career total of 20 recoveries — and, of course, the insane amount of blocked kicks compared to Wagner’s one block. But Wagner is also accomplishing these numbers in a much different age of football and on a team where he’s not the lone star.
Blair came in at the end of the “Purple People Eaters” era and became the star of the team, only briefly having Joey Browner to his aid at the tail end of his career (coincidentally his nephew Brandon Browner was a teammate of Wagner’s for a couple of seasons).
The greater point than two players having similar career arcs is that Wagner is often overlooked on his team like Blair is on a historical basis. The numbers Blair put up are Canton-worthy, but it doesn’t look like he’ll get a senior nomination any time soon. And until last week, it seemed that Sherman, Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas III and Michael Bennett were all getting more recognition for making the Seahawks defense tick.
They are all strong components, that’s for certain. Teams don’t just randomly lead the league in scoring defense five years in a row counting this year. The Seahawks are the only team in history to have four consecutive defensive scoring titles.
Wagner is at the center of it all, and it’s high-time that’s recognized by more than Pro Football Focus — he’s the only Seahawk graded higher than a 90 this season by PFF — and other analytic sites.