RENTON, Washington — Sometime during the offseason, Bobby Wagner decided it was time for the Seattle Seahawks linebackers to start getting attention.
Most of the accolades were pointed toward the Seahawks secondary and rightfully so, with a trio of All-Pros patrolling the back end of Seattle's defense. The front four also got their due last season for their ability to put pressure on the quarterback and clog up running lanes.
Somewhat lost in the mix were Wagner and his cohorts at linebacker.
If attention is what Seattle's linebackers wanted, they've earned it in the last two games the Seahawks have played.
First was Malcolm Smith, who was named Super Bowl MVP after an interception return for a touchdown and a fumble recovery in Seattle's 43-8 victory over Denver. Then the Seahawks began defense of their first title with a 36-16 win over Green Bay during which Wagner tied a career high with 14 tackles.
"I back up my statements," Wagner said. "I think it's just us going out there and playing our game. I feel like we've grown, this is our third year together so we've got good chemistry and it's time to show it."
Wagner was all over the field against the Packers, especially in the first half. With Green Bay pushing the tempo of its offense, there wasn't a chance for the Seahawks to bring in substitutes and give guys a break. Even with being limited during the preseason while working through a hamstring injury, Wagner played 62 snaps.
He had 10 of his 14 tackles in the first half and was a nuisance for Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay's offense all night.
"We just want to go out there and perform," Wagner said. "We've got a great group of guys backing us and great group of guys in front of us. So we're just trying to hold our end of the bargain."
Wagner is entering his third season and will always hold the distinction of being drafted ahead of quarterback Russell Wilson. Wagner was selected in the second round of the 2012 draft, while Wilson was taken in the third round.
But coach Pete Carroll sees the development of the pair being on a similar track. For both players, the more experience they get, the more efficient each becomes at understanding nuances of the game.
"The time that you're out there, there are so many things going on, you're right in the middle of so much action that in time things will slow down, continue to slow down for the next couple of years even," Carroll said. "He'll anticipate plays and concepts and blocks and read-zone routes and all that kind of stuff. He'll process that better as he's out there more. It's not a one-year I got it deal. It's not a two-year deal. It takes three, four, five years for these guys to really benefit from the experience and consistency and continuity of the system that they're in."
For now, Wagner's attention is solely on Seattle's road opener Sunday at San Diego. There was conversation among analysts coming out of the opener that Seattle's defense could potentially be better than a season ago and rank among the best all-time.
"We practice so well that I feel like the game comes easier to us. That's something we pride ourselves on," Wagner said. "Every time we step on the field, it's an opportunity to show everybody that we're a really good defense and that we're not just going to be a good defense for one year, but it's going to be a long time, as long as I'm here."
NOTES: All-Pro safety Earl Thomas' days as the Seahawks' primary punt returner appear over. Carroll said he was taking that task off Thomas' plate and that wide receiver Bryan Walters would be the Seahawks' primary punt returner against San Diego. Thomas fumbled a punt in traffic in the opener, but Carroll didn't rule out using him in the future. ... CB Marcus Burley will step in as Seattle's nickel cornerback with Jeremy Lane (groin) going on injured reserve. Carroll said he sees CB Josh Thomas, signed on Monday, as a possible backup on the outside, but not as an option to play against slot receivers.
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