Seahawks new-look defense producing same-old results

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Frank Clark (55) has taken on a leadership role this season with the Seahawks defense. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

Seahawks legend Richard Sherman will line up against his old team Sunday for the second time in three weeks, and that’s just fine with Seattle defensive end Frank Clark.

“He’s not in this locker room anymore, so his opinion really doesn’t matter,” Clark said of his former teammate after the Seahawks’ win over Minnesota last week.

Seattle beat San Francisco 43-16 earlier this month at CenturyLink Field.

The two teams will face off again Sunday at 1:05 p.m. in Santa Clara, California, and the game will be broadcast on Q13 Fox.

“At the end of the day, this is my team now,” Clark continued. “This is my defense. Richard Sherman and his era is over here.”

A lot has been written about the end of an era in Seattle.

Along with Sherman’s departure, the Seahawks also parted ways with Michael Bennett, Kam Chancellor and Cliff Avril in the offseason.

Earl Thomas held out of training camp before suffering a season-ending injury in the fifth game of the season and K.J. Wright has played in just three games because of an injured knee.

It would make sense if the Seahawks struggled. And yet, here they are, 8-5, a win away from the playoffs. They have given up the sixth fewest points in the league.

“The guys that we lost, I wasn’t here with them,” first-year defensive coordinator Ken Norton said this week. “The guys that we have, have really stepped up.”

Perhaps none more than Clark, who’s recorded a career-high 11 sacks, and safety Bradley McDougald, who has taken over for both Chancellor and Thomas as the leader of Seattle’s young secondary.

“He has been a playmaker from the first game out,” coach Pete Carroll said of McDougald. “He’s been able to put himself in situations and make plays that other guys don’t make. He’s a really good guy in coverage and he continues to come through.”

The Seahawks signed McDougald last season for depth in the secondary. After he started nine games in the place of Chancellor and Thomas because of injuries, Seattle signed him to a three-year extension in the offseason.

Richard Sherman and Bobby Wagner exchange pleasantries after the Seahawks’ 43-16 win over San Francisco in Seattle earlier this month. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

“I think he came in with a lot of confidence,” All Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner said. “(He) came in knowing that he wanted to be the guy that everybody kind of turned to and everybody can count on.”

While Clark and McDougald have stepped into leadership roles this season, Wagner remains the main holdover from the Super Bowl teams of 2013 and ‘14.

He’s not surprised with the Seahawks’ success or the success of the team’s new leaders.

“Frank, I always felt like he had it in him,” Wagner said. “Same thing with B-Mac.”

He also pointed to defensive lineman Jarran Reed, who has started all thirteen games and racked up a career-high 6.5 sacks.

“I felt everybody was so focused on comparing the team to what we had and they were forgetting what we still had,” Wagner said. “We had a lot of guys in this room that were capable of doing some amazing things.”

Norton has enjoyed the progress.

“Just watching (the young players) play like they have, it’s fun to see,” he said. “This time of year, they aren’t young anymore. They’ve seen it all, now it’s time to put it all together and push for the finish.”

That starts in Santa Clara, where the Seahawks can clinch a return to the playoffs. For McDougald and his fellow defensive backs Shaquill Griffin, Tedric Thompson and Tre Flowers, it would be their first trip to the postseason.

“It’ll feel good,” he said. “It’ll feel great, actually.”

He also admitted he’s enjoying shattering a few predictions of what this young team was capable of along the way.

“It feels good to prove that many more people wrong,” he said.

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