Reed put in plenty of offseason work on his pass-rush moves and film study to become a more complete player.
“When preparation meets opportunity … ” is not only something Russell Wilson would say in a news conference or tweet, it’s also a reason for Jarran Reed’s success this season.
The Seahawks’ defensive tackle, who was overlooked for the Pro Bowl, has amassed 10½ sacks this season, including two in the season finale to reach double digits. Only Rams defensive tackle and defensive player of the year candidate Aaron Donald has more sacks — a ridiculous 20½ — at the position this season.
Reed joins two other former Seahawks defensive tackles to have double-digit sacks in a season — Cortez Kennedy (14 in 1992) and John Randle (11 in 2001). Those two men have Hall of Fame busts in Canton, Ohio.
“Yeah, those names are pretty good, too,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “That’s good company. It’s a fantastic season for him. We could see it coming. You guys were asking those questions as he was starting to get three and four and five (sacks), what’s going on. He’s just growing up. He’s grown up into a well-rounded football player, not just in the running game like when we saw him in the first couple years. He’s just expanded his game, he’s using his talents, he’s using his instincts and it’s really come through. He’s always been tough, always been a fantastic effort guy, but it just kind of didn’t get applied in the pass rush part of the game and he just has caught fire. It’s great to see.”
In his first two seasons, while playing 30 games, Reed had just three sacks — 1½ in each of his first two seasons. And when he was at Alabama, he notched just two sacks — one in each season. He always was known to be an effective run-stuffer on early downs, but not much of a factor rushing the passer.
“He’s built himself into an all-around, three-down player, and that’s exciting for us,” said Clint Hurtt, the Seahawks’ defensive-line coach and assistant coach.
So what is Reed’s explanation for his breakout season?
“It’s just being on the field more and getting a chance to showcase my talent,” he said quietly while sitting at his locker at the VMAC.
Indeed, the Seahawks’ offseason of change that included trading Michael Bennett to the Eagles meant Reed would have a chance to see more snaps. Last season, Reed was subbed out of the game on third down and Bennett would slide inside to his spot.
And because of that opportunity, he accepted and embraced the personal responsibility of taking his preparation to a new level.
“You could tell the first day we started the offseason program that he wanted to be in there on third and be a dominant player,” said defensive coordinator Ken Norton. “He wasn’t shy about it and he was willing to work for it.”
It’s an attitude the Seahawks didn’t need to demand from Reed. He pushed for it, and they were happy to help him.
“The good ones, you don’t have to encourage,” Norton said. “You just kind of guide them and let them go. He wants to be one of the best and he’s willing to work for it.”
That work included developing pass-rush moves other than just a bull rush of brute strength right into the opposing offensive linemen.
“I told him, ‘You have the ability to do so much more,’” Hurtt said. “He’s got really good hand-eye coordination, really good feet and really fluid hips. Now it was just about finding what else he did well.”
Besides adding and then refining his technique, Reed began to watch and analyze film in a more sophisticated manner.
“Then it was studying opponents,” Hurtt said. “He was starting to study tape and how everything applies.”
Hurtt’s phone might buzz at any time of the night with a call from Reed asking about something he’d seen on film.
“He’s really smart,” Hurtt said. “For some guys, it takes a while for it to make sense to him. But he is a really smart football player and he picked it up fast. He knew exactly what I was talking about and what to try to get done. He asks all the right questions. If he’s uncertain, he asks a lot of questions. A lot of young players don’t do that. It’s hard to get better if you don’t ask questions. But he will.”
His teammates recognized the effort being put forth.
“It’s amazing, but at the same time you watched him work all offseason on his pass-rush moves and you watched him work in all of the OTAs, in training camp and in practice, you saw the way he was getting off the rock,” said linebacker Bobby Wagner. “You could see it coming.”
Reed said he could feel the work pay off immediately. He had a repertoire of moves to choose from, he knew how his opponents preferred to block and were going to try and block him. The preparation and offseason work allowed him to play faster.
“Everything happens a little quicker inside and you have to be able to react quicker and use what you know,” he said.
While this might not have been expected from those outside the VMAC, neither Reed nor Hurtt will say it was unexpected.
“He’s put in the work,” Hurtt said. “His work ethic and attention to detail has made everything come to fruition. It’s not a surprise.”
Said Reed: “It’s not a surprise. I knew I had it in me all along. Now everybody is just seeing it.”
But could they see more in the future?
“I think he can get even better,” Hurtt said. “He’s not even close yet. In my opinion, this is not a one-year deal for him. He can consistently be an eight- to 10-sacks-a-year guy as an interior player. I know that’s hard because not a lot of guys do it. But if he continues to do what he’s doing, I truly believe he can be.”