The draft may be over and free agency largely done. But questions about the Seahawks and the upcoming season never end.
So let’s dive into a few.
A: Yeah, I think he definitely does.
And it’s worth noting that the team has him pegged for a slightly different role in 2020 than 2019, where he’s going to play more inside at tackle, especially on passing downs.
Coach Pete Carroll, in fact, mentioned after the draft that both L.J. Collier — Seattle’s first-round pick last year out of TCU — and Rasheem Green will play more inside this season on passing downs, leaving the outside spots to the likes of Bruce Irvin, Benson Mayowa and the two draft picks, Darrell Taylor and Alton Robinson.
Here’s some of how Carroll explained it after the draft:
“What happens in the third-down situations, when we move guys around some, you’ll see Rasheem (Green) and L.J. (Collier) will work inside, along with J. (Jarran) Reed. We think we have a nice mix in that regard. Those guys are developing pass rushers, and they’re learning their way and both have a lot of ability and a lot of upside to them. So, we can have some real fresh players coming in, with rotation. We have enough depth right now to move it around. But you have to look at the guys that play the 5-technique for us, the defensive ends, they are also considered inside rushers for us. We’ll have at least four guys to move in and out of there to keep a rotation going.”
So basically, you have Green/Collier, Branden Jackson and maybe even Nazair Jones on the strong side, or the five-technique tackle (think the role Michael Bennett used to have), and Taylor, Robinson, Mayowa and Irvin at the rush end side, but with lots of mixing and matching, as well.
That might also help explain why Seattle didn’t draft a tackle. Seattle has Reed, Poona Ford and Bryan Mone as three tackles back from last year, and they’ll probably add another veteran at some point.
The team is officially listing Irvin as a linebacker, with the thought he could play some strongside linebacker (which is even more interesting in light of the team drafting Jordyn Brooks and that the Seahawks might also try K.J. Wright at strongside).
But even without Irvin, that gives Seattle six defensive ends with a good shot to make the team, with a likely first five at the moment (in no particular order) of Green, Collier, Mayowa, Taylor and Robinson. the Seahawks typically keep five or six ends, so Seattle has a pretty competitive group. But they won’t turn down a Jadeveon Clowney or Everson Griffen if one or the other falls in their lap (which is what it may take with Clowney, at this point).
As for Collier, the team retains high hopes for him despite an underwhelming rookie season. Both Carroll and general manager John Schneider have pointed several times this offseason to the ankle injury he suffered early in training camp as a major factor for his lack of impact last year. Obviously, they are willing to see what he can do with a season under his belt and a hopefully healthy training camp to get fully ready for a season.
If some fans may be ready to write off Collier, it’s clear the team is not yet.
A: The Seahawks have Ugo Amadi at nickel and they did make one acquisition there, even if not the big name fans might have been hoping for, claiming Linden Stephens off waivers last week from Miami. Stephens was on Seattle’s practice squad most of last season before being signed by the Dolphins and playing in the final three games of the season for the Dolphins.
Schneider specifically mentioned Stephens when talking about the nickel spot in his comments to media following the draft.
But I also read their comments as indicating they plan to use some of their current players in different roles to help fill out the nickel spot, as well.
It’s worth remembering that the Seahawks used a lot of sub packages down the stretch last season in which Marquise Blair got on the field as an extra defensive back — he had 26 snaps in the last four games in which he played (he was injured for the divisional playoff game against Green Bay) all in a role as sixth defensive back.
Blair was almost always a deep safety in that spot, allowing Bradley McDougald and Quandre Diggs to play closer to the line and that’s the kind of thing I think Carroll was talking about when he said “you’re going to see us create the challenge there for him. There’s some things that we’re working on, I don’t want to tell you all of it right now, I’d like to keep it under wraps. But there’s some different things that we’re going to try.”
I think Carroll definitely will try to find ways to get Blair on the field this year, and three safeties works well against teams with bigger receiving corps. And then you have Amadi to play against more traditional slot-type receivers.
Maybe Carroll also has a thought on how to use Tre Flowers, assuming he’s the odd man out in the right corner battle after the trade for Quinton Dunbar.
I think finding different ways to use some of their current players to fill out the nickel and dime packages is more what Carroll was hinting to there than making a splash acquisition of another defensive back (which I think they’ve already done with the trade for Dunbar).
A: The really basic answer to that is that they just really liked Taylor, the defensive end from Tennessee they selected No. 48 overall, and thought he was better than those other options.
Sure, you’d only expect for a team to publicly sell its draft picks once it has made them. But the Seahawks were really enthusiastic about Taylor.
The Seahawks said they are comfortable with Taylor’s stress fracture history and subsequent surgery to have a titanium rod inserted in the leg after being able to examine him personally when he visited the VMAC in March before NFL travel restrictions kicked in.
The way the Seahawks portray it, they debated taking Taylor in the first round but bet on him falling far enough into the second that they could take linebacker Jordyn Brooks and then get Taylor a little later (which they did with the trade up from 59 to 48).
Carroll raved about Taylor after the draft, saying that his most pleasant surprise might have been that Taylor was still there for Seattle to get at 48.
“That was a big deal because we thought maybe we had missed our chance in the sense that we really wanted to get him on the rush group,” Carroll said. “When we were able to hang through it and get him, that was a big pick for us.”
And Schneider, recall, said after Taylor was taken that “he was in consideration” to be taken in the first round.
“We view him as one of the very, very top pass rushers in this league,” Schneider said. “He played through a stress fracture last year in his leg, in his fibula, and just sucked it up. Then he ended up having surgery at the end of the year. Doctors feel good about him. We’ve seen him run around and there’s video of him working out and that sort of thing. We had him in for a visit, he had a great visit with the staff. He was actually the last guy that we had in before the quarantine came into effect. Just very excited and I know the coaching staff is very excited about a guy that can really put his hand in the ground and jump off the ball and play with leverage and effort and work his way back to the quarterback.”
Call it spin if you want, but those are pretty strong statements that will obviously be remembered as we see how this all plays out over the next 3-4-5 years and if their assessment of Taylor is proven correct.