Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner continued a great 2016 campaign with 15 more tackles in Sunday’s win over Philadelphia.
Picking an MVP of a Seahawks defense is never easy if only because there are so many talented playmakers on Seattle’s roster, but you’re probably not going to get any arguments within the Seahawks locker room these days if you want to make a case for middle linebacker Bobby Wagner.
Wagner has been phenomenal all season for the Seahawks, and he was at it again in Sunday’s 26-15 win over the Philadelphia Eagles, piling up 15 tackles and one sack, giving him a league-best 108 tackles this season, including 78 in his past six games. With six games still left this season, Wagner has a very good shot at breaking linebacker Terry Beeson’s team record of 153 tackles, set in 1978. Wagner also became the first player in franchise history to record 100-plus tackles in five straight seasons, and he now has 586 in his career since coming to Seattle as a second-round pick in 2012.
“He’s killing it, man,” defensive end Cliff Avril said. “He’s killing it. B-Wags is playing lights out right now. It’s tremendous to have that many tackles at this point in the season. The sky’s the limit for him. He’s been playing lights out, playing fast, being vocal, being a leader. He’s just a heck of a ball-player.”
Wagner has been outstanding throughout his career, including when he earned first-team All-Pro honors and one MVP vote in 2014, but this might be the best he has ever played.
“I’d be lying right now if I said I didn’t think this was (my best season),” Wagner said. “The focus is there, I feel like the D-line is doing a great job of keeping guys off of me. K.J. (Wright) and I are doing a great job getting in the film room and studying and just kind of seeing plays. I just feel like we’re in a groove. K.J. and I are kind of just growing up out there together. It’s cool to play football with your brother, basically.”
As Wagner points out, his growth goes hand in hand with that of weakside linebacker K.J. Wright, who added 10 tackles Sunday, giving him 87 this season, second on the team behind Wagner.
“(Wagner) is just playing great ball,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “He and K.J. are playing great. They’re just playing top-line, as good as you can do it in football. I thought the effort on defense was really good all day long.”
Adding to Wagner’s impressive season has been his increased role as a pass-rusher with defensive coordinator Kris Richard calling his number more on blitzes than in the past. Wagner has 2.5 sacks this season, but he has been affecting quarterbacks more than that number would indicate, as is evident in his 13 quarterback hits, a total that is tied for third on the team with Michael Bennett, trailing only Avril and Frank Clark.
“I’m having a lot of fun getting in that backfield,” Wagner said. “It has been a blessing, man. The blitzes have been perfectly timed, so I’m grateful, hopefully coach Richard keeps calling them.”
Wagner’s plays were just part of another strong effort for the entire defense, which is now back to leading the NFL in scoring defense (17.3 points per game), a stat in which the Seahawks have ranked No. 1 for four straight seasons. With Kam Chancellor returning from injury last week, and with Bennett expected back soon from a knee injury, Seattle’s defense is confident that things will only get better going forward.
“I really feel like we still have another level to reach,” Wagner said. “We’re starting to get the turnovers, they’re starting to come. We’re playing well, but there’s some key guys missing who will really add to our team.”