Why Bobby Wagner is so valuable to Seahawks' defense

Bobby Wagner, at right, gave Seattle's defense a significant boost last season, and the expectations are 2015 won't be any different. AP Photo/John Froschauer

From Bobby Wagner's value to the use of nickel to Kris Richard's imprint, here are three Seattle Seahawks numbers that matter.

20.8 -- The percentage of plays Bobby Wagner was involved in (tackles, pass breakups, etc.) when he was on the field last season. That ranked first among all defensive players, according to the Football Outsiders Almanac. In his first two years in the league, Wagner ranked third and eighth in this category.

When good players look good in the preseason, it's a non-story. But as someone who just started covering the Seahawks a couple weeks ago, Wagner has stood out. His ability to diagnose plays, get to the ball carrier and finish sets him apart. What he does for the defense against the run is special and a major reason why the team rewarded him with a four-year, $43 million extension this offseason. With Kam Chancellor holding out, the players voted Wagner as their defensive captain earlier this week.

The secondary garners a lot of the attention, but at 25, Wagner's got a high ceiling in terms of what he can accomplish in Seattle.

58 -- That's how often (percentage-wise) the Seahawks were in nickel last season, per Football Outsiders. In others words, nickel (five defensive backs) was their most common personnel package. Will Blackmon had been running as the first-team nickel for most of the summer, but ultimately, the Seahawks decided to go in a different direction.

"[Marcus] Burley, and Tye Smith also plays there," said coach Pete Carroll. "Burley played for us last year, and we like the way he does it. We gave him a competitive shot with guys coming after him, and he held on to the job."

Some defenses around the league opt to play with several different personnel packages. The Seahawks are not one of them. They were either in their base defense or nickel on 99 percent of the snaps last season.

Aside from Burley, the other difference in nickel will be the Seahawks' defensive line. Don't be surprised if they feature a look with Bruce Irvin and Cliff Avril at the end spots, along with Michael Bennett and Frank Clark rushing from the interior. That pass-rushing combination could very well be the Seahawks' most formidable and is something to watch for Sunday against a Rams' offensive line that has question marks going into the season.

21.8 -- The percentage of snaps in which the Seahawks rushed five defenders last season, per Football Outsiders. That ranked 20th in the NFL. They rushed six or more 5.6 percent of the time, and that ranked 23rd.

In other words, this was not a big blitzing defense. But Carroll has indicated the nature of new defensive coordinator Kris Richard is to be a little more aggressive. And in the preseason, we saw the Seahawks employ a variety of blitz looks.

Back in the spring, Richard spoke to 710 ESPN Seattle about his philosophy in terms of generating pressure on the quarterback.

"Obviously, the best way is is just to get your ends outside and just let them roar up the field. There's no doubt about it," Richard said. "Bruce Irvin, Cliff Avril, guys of that nature, just letting them pin their ears back, stick their foot in the ground and go after the quarterback. But aside from that, just letting those guys game it up front. And really, great coverage, great coverage. If we cover, we force the quarterback to hold the football, that gives our guys a real good chance up front to get after the quarterback."

The feeling here is the Seahawks won't stray too much from what has worked. Perhaps their blitz percentage will increase a little, but it won't be anything drastic. They have invested in the secondary and have the talent up front to win with four-man rushes. If they suffer an injury, or the defensive line doesn't produce, maybe Richard will switch it up. But overall, expect him to pick his spots when sending the blitz.