Altruistic Al Woods emerges as a surprising but deserving captain for young Seahawks

RENTON, Wash. — Prestigious ranking positions in football, quarterbacks easily stand atop the mountain playing the most important position in professional sports. Behind them, receivers, pass rushers and cornerbacks also stand out as glorified positions that receive the big bucks from NFL teams.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, most casual fans probably can’t name more than a handful of nose tackles in the league. But while that’s not a sexy position and their contributions don’t often show up on a stat sheet through tackles, stats, or quarterback hits, they’re much more important than a score. of box indicates it.

While fans may not understand his true impact on the Seahawks’ game day performance, his teammates and coaches know how critical veteran nose tackle Al Woods is to their defensive success by anchoring the midfield. front line.

In a statement that speaks loud and clear about how his peers see him coming off of arguably his best season with a new contract in tow, Woods, 35, was voted one of Seattle’s four captains for the season. 2022 earlier this week. Along with catcher Tyler Lockett, safety Quandre Diggs and special teams ace Nick Bellore, he will wear a gold “C” on his uniform for the first time in his career.

One of Woods’ biggest fans, Seahawks defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt couldn’t have been happier to see him receive some well-deserved recognition in his 12th season in the NFL.

“It feels really good to see that happen for him. He’s a man,” Hurtt said of Woods’s appointment as team captain. ‘have. I love the guy as a person and I’m so happy he got rewarded with this. Even though he may not have had the title, the guy was always looked at that way.

On the court, Woods excels in what Hurtt called a “selfless and thankless job” as a nose tackle in Seattle’s all-around defense. Doing all the dirty work in the trenches, he often has to face double teams to free up the linebackers and safeties behind him. One of the best in the business, his presence helped Bobby Wagner and Jordyn Brooks stay clean and rack up more than 170 tackles each last season.

A position of great sacrifice that contributes to the success and acclaim of other defenders, the nose tackle is not for everyone. But playing with strenuous effort every time he is on the pitch, Woods thrives and even relishes the role.

“Guys who know they’re having a lot of success playing behind him, they know how valuable he is,” Hurtt explained. “His job is to take on two grown men. Okay, 600 pounds between him and controlling two guys, so the guys playing behind him can tackle and not have to deal with blockers and blockers address. And he will do it every time he’s there and never complain, don’t want no credit. As long as it helps us win, that’s still what it’s all about. So he is the definition of altruism.

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But as Woods proved time and again last year, he’s not just a space-eating tackle and can be a disruptive force. Called a “country strong” by many of his teammates, the 330-pound defenseman consistently blew points off the line of scrimmage last year, amassing 12 tackles that netted zero or negative yards in the backfield. Pro Football Focus credited him with 31 saves, or tackles that were a failure for offense, to earn an excellent defensive rating of 80.3.

A little surprised, Woods also helped defend the pass. Although he often didn’t play on second and third downs in obvious passing situations, he set new career highs with 18 quarterback pressures and three pass deflections while adding 1.5 sacks for do good measure.

Where Woods can have his biggest impact in Seattle, however, goes even further than what he does by smearing the line of scrimmage and keeping blockers away from his fellow linebackers behind him.

Leading by example by playing with a non-stop motor that rubs off on his teammates, in just one of many instances where he showed incredible chasing for a player of his size, Woods could be seen running towards the ball carrier Travis Homer 50 yards out in the field. a game during training camp. There were other times when he sprinted down the line to make a play outside the tackle box, something nose tackles rarely do.

While some veterans may not want to invest a lot of time in their younger teammates, Hurtt says Woods is the exact opposite, going out of his way to provide guidance and support to players regardless of position.

“When you talk about that someone who has their personal life together, whether it’s as a husband, as a father, taking care of their body like a pro, their practice habits, their study habits, what it does for young people,” Hurtt remarked. “A lot of times you have veteran guys who stay on their island and for themselves. He brings in all the young guys and really tries to help those guys. Few veteran players do that, but with him it just doesn’t work. not.” It doesn’t matter if it’s a defensive lineman or an offensive lineman or a DB or a wide receiver.”

For a team that could include several rookies immediately playing extended roles, including cornerbacks Tariq Woolen and Coby Bryant as well as tackles Abraham Lucas and Charles Cross, the importance of a highly respected player like Woods who does everything the right way to willingly and eagerly play the role of mentor cannot be overlooked.

For this reason alone, coupled with his obvious talent on the pitch and attention to detail, it should come as no surprise that Woods is revered by his teammates and coaches and was selected as team captain. As the Seahawks navigate new waters entering the post-Russell Wilson era starting Monday night against the Broncos, his veteran presence will be especially valuable to the organization.

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