RENTON, Wash. -- Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Kris Richard said his reaction was "pure joy" when he found out last Friday that the team had acquired Sheldon Richardson in a trade, an addition that will make Seattle's front four as formidable as any in the NFL.
"We're getting a player who's unique, that we haven't had around here in a while, and he's been a really good guy to have around," Richard said of the defensive tackle. "He has tremendous character. We love who he is: confident, competent, intelligent, and he's picked our stuff up really fast. We just can't wait to see him kick this thing off."
Richardson will have only practiced for four days with his new team by the time the Seahawks open the season Sunday at the Green Bay Packers, but Richard said that won't create any limitations on how much he'll play.
"We're going to let it rip," Richard said. "He's here for a reason. He has a particular set of skills and we want him to show who he is."
The Packers will see a different looking Seattle defense compared to the one Aaron Rodgers carved up last season in a 38-10 Green Bay victory at Lambeau Field. That's not only because of Richardson's addition.
The Seahawks were missing Earl Thomas in that December game, which came one week after the All-Pro free safety was lost for the season with a broken leg. The Seahawks' defense was not the same thereafter, and his absence might have been felt against Green Bay more than any other game as Seattle suffered its most lopsided defeat since 2011.
That was the Packers' second straight win in Green Bay over the Seahawks following three consecutive home victories for Seattle, which dated back to the "Fail Mary" game in 2012 and includes the 2014 NFC Championship Game. The Packers beat the Seahawks, 27-17, in Week 2 of the 2015 season, three days before strong safety Kam Chancellor returned from his holdout.
That means Seattle's secondary has been missing an important piece in each of the team's past two losses to Green Bay. Thomas' absence wasn't the only reason the Seahawks lost by four touchdowns last season, to be sure. Their offense turned the ball over six times, including a career-high five interceptions from Russell Wilson. But it didn't help.
"It certainly makes a difference," Richard said of having Thomas and Chancellor this time around. "We want to be whole, we want to be at our best, we want to have all of our best guys out there competing against one of the best who's ever done it [Rodgers]. The past couple of times, we haven't been whole. This time we should be."
The trio of Thomas, Chancellor and cornerback Richard Sherman were on the field together for only 186 of the 535 pass attempts against Seattle last season, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Thomas missed five whole games plus parts of two others; Chancellor missed four earlier in the season because of a groin injury. When all three were playing, Seattle's defense allowed two touchdowns and intercepted eight passes. When any of the three were out, the Seahawks allowed 14 touchdowns with three interceptions.
"We've usually done well when we've had everybody," Sherman said. "We've never won in Lambeau with our group because we're always missing somebody. I think we have all the pieces in place to go out there and give them a great fight and I look forward to it."