Today we’re going over the career and legacy of Patriots defensive stalwart Richard Seymour, the player I ranked as the second-best defender of the Brady-Belicheck era Patriots Dynasty.
Number Two: Richard Seymour, DL
Richard Seymour was drafted in the first round of the 2001 NFL draft by the New England Patriots as the number six overall pick in a fairly stacked draft class, and a memorable Patriots draft that also produced o-line standout Matt Light who was taken 45th overall in the second round.
Seymour would play in 13 games in his 2001 rookie season, starting ten of them, including Super Bowl XXXVI (36), where he’d help bring Boston its first major sports championship victory since the Celtics won in 1986 while winning his first of three Super Bowl rings. He recorded a modest three-and-a-half sack on the season but was an essential piece in establishing the Patriots dynasty. He evolved into one of the most feared players in the NFL and one of the best (if not the best) defensive players linemen of the era.
In the 2002 season, Seymour would start all 16 regular season games for the Patriots en route to his first of seven Pro Bowl selections, recording five and a half sacks on the season, along with 12 tackles for a loss, one interception, a forced fumble, and even two blocked field goals for the special teams unit.
In 2003, The Patriots’ defense primarily switched to a 3-4 unit. As a result, Seymour had slid from defensive tackle to defensive end. He excelled at both spots. He proved himself to be one of the most versatile defensive linemen up to this point in the history of the Patriots and the NFL. That takes a big, mean player to succeed in a 3-4 defense. Seymour not only succeeded in creating pressure with a three-person front, but he also excelled in it in a way that we’ve only seen a couple of times in the history of the NFL. He even managed to block two more field goals this season, further proving his versatility.
Over the four years from 2003-2006, Richard Seymour was a top-five defensive talent in the NFL. He was selected for the pro bowl every year in this stretch and even more impressively received three first-team All-Pro nods and one for second-team All-Pro. In addition, he recorded 21 sacks in this period which was inevitably impactful when you consider that when Richard Seymour recorded a sack in a game, his team’s record was an eye-popping 46-8-0.
From noseguard to defensive tackle, to defensive end, to special teams, Richard Seymour always found a way to help his team. He started all three Super Bowl victories recording modest stats in all three games but undeniably made things difficult for opposing linemen and QBs whenever he was on the field. He was even put in as a blocking fullback for a handful of plays before he injured his knee during a Corey Dillon TD run during the 2005 season. He was one of the most versatile defensive linemen the league has ever seen and, like many of the dynasty-era Patriots defenders, had a style of his own that we hardly see replicated in today’s NFL.
He would lose a Super Bowl with the Patriots during the 2007 season, recording seven tackles during the game in the 18-0 Patriots infamous loss to Eli Manning and the New York Football Giants. His streak of five pro bowl selections was snapped this season, and he would miss out on the 2008 season as well despite recording a statistically strong season during what would be his last year with the Patriots. It would be four years before he was voted to another pro bowl, this time with the Oakland Raiders where he’d spend the final four years of his career from 2009-2012.
Notable Stats, Records, and Accolades:
- He had 57.5 sacks (151st most since 1982)
- Finished with seven Pro Bowls, Three-time First team All-Pro with the Associated Press, Two-time second team All-Pro.
- Football Hall of Fame Inductee 2022, NFL All-Decade Team of the 2000s, Patriots Hall of Fame Inductee in 2020, Member of the Patriots 50th Anniversary Team, and the Patriots All-2000s Team.
- Tallying Eight Fumble recoveries. including a then Patriots franchise record 68-yard return (Marlon Humphrey broke the record with a 70-yard return in 2019).
- 91 Tackles for loss (60th most all time, exceeded by only two other Patriots in Chandler Jones, and Willie McGinest).
- Patriots franchise record: seven blocked field goals.
Being voted first-team All-Pro by the Associated Press is one of the most difficult accolades to achieve for any NFL player. Think of great players like Joe Montana and Randy Moss and the stats they were able to produce in their accomplished careers, and you might be surprised to find out Joe Montana was only voted first-team All-Pro three times, and Randy was only voted for first-team on four occasions.
If you look at defensive players, it’s generally even harder to find someone who achieved this kind of success in any era of the NFL. Ray Lewis had seven, Deion Sanders had six, Night Train Lane had three, Mean Joe Green and Deacon Jones had five each, while Reggie White had eight. These are some of the best players in the history of the NFL, and it’s not crazy to think Richard Seymour probably ends up with five or more first-team nods in any universe where he stays with the Patriots.
The Patriots of Seymour’s era set a plethora of records, as each defensive player brought out the best in each other. Unrivaled team chemistry including Seymour and the other players I’ve mentioned so far was one of the main cornerstones in a string of championships that helped establish the Brady-Belichick era Patriots as the greatest dynasty in NFL history and possibly all four major sports. It was hard for me to not rank Seymour number one on this list, and I’ll make the argument for why I didn’t in the upcoming fifth and final part of this list/article. Thanks for reading!
To be continued and concluded in an upcoming part five.
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