What Is This Seahawks Defensive Line Going To Look Like With Byron Murphy?

There’s really two questions built into the one overarching question posed in the title. First of all: what is Byron Murphy’s ceiling, both in year one, and overall? And secondly, what is the ceiling of the 2024 incarnation of the Seahawks’ defensive line?

What we’re hoping for is that Byron Murphy is one of those highly impactful interior defensive linemen that can wreck a game, and otherwise needs ample resources devoted to stopping him. There are a couple of different ways to look at that. Is he Aaron Donald (or, at least, an Aaron Donald Type, who is great from the moment he steps onto the field) or is he Geno Atkins (who didn’t do much his rookie year, before developing into a steady Pro Bowler – and occasional All Pro – when he was healthy, in year two and beyond)? That’s going to make a big difference on the outlook of this season.

I don’t think anyone would complain if Murphy turned into an Atkins type of player in year two, but obviously it would be disappointing to not get much from him as a rookie. Because, if he can fulfill his potential earlier rather than later, there’s a lot of talent around him to really get this thing going.

We’ve got Leonard Williams, who is not at his peak, but is still playing at prime levels (though, obviously, every year going forward has a chance to be worse than the one before it; he is going into his age 30 season, after all). We’ve got Jarran Reed, who really had a fantastic year last year and harkened back to his very best days as a Seahawk. We’ve got Dre’Mont Jones, who is on a big money contract, and is looking to bounce back from a pedestrian showing in 2023; I have no doubt he’s still got the goods, but he just needs to be utilized correctly (which was never going to happen under Clint Hurtt & Co.). We’ve got very good outside pass rushers in Uchenna Nwosu and Boye Mafe (Nwosu had 9.5 sacks in 2022 before being injured last year; Mafe had 9.0 sacks in his second season as a pro, and is looking to take the next step in his development into potential stardom). We’ve got Darrell Taylor heading into a contract season (who has 21.5 sacks across three years, and is certainly capable of being a menace on the outside). And, we’ve got a lot of potentially-promising young talent in Derick Hall, Cam Young, and Mike Morris, who might never amount to anything, but could always surprise us.

Even discounting the unproven guys on this roster, there’s still a TON of talent here, potentially capable of rushing the passer like nothing we’ve ever seen before. And, with the new scheme, and the influx of Murphy, they should be better able to stop the run than they’ve been the last few years.

The thing is, this defensive line could be an All Time Great Unit if Murphy turns out to be elite from the get-go. It should still be really good even if he isn’t there yet, but obviously, it would be a lot cooler if he ends up being worth the pick of being the top DT in this draft class.

Of course, I say that, but how true is it really? If Murphy is Just A Guy, how is this D-Line any different than it was a year ago? Well, I’m putting A LOT of the heavy lifting on Mike Macdonald and this coaching staff and scheme. I think having Leonard Williams all the way through, with a full year of Nwosu, and positioning Dre’Mont Jones more on the outside where he can have a bigger impact in setting the edge, while still being able to rush the passer, will all translate to better production as a whole.

Like I said, though, if it takes Murphy a year to get going, it’s not the end of the world. Does anyone expect these 2024 Seahawks to win the division or make the Super Bowl? If you do, you probably need to adjust your thinking. The 49ers are still the class of the division. The Cowboys and Eagles are still very good. The Lions and Bears and even the Packers are probably in better spots than we are right now. And, for as dysfunctional as the Falcons are as an organization, regardless of who they have at quarterback, they still have a lot of talent on that roster.

But, what I’m excited about more than anything is having Murphy learn from guys like Williams and Reed and Jones. From just a mentor standpoint, I don’t know if it gets a lot better than those guys. He doesn’t necessarily HAVE to be The Man from day one. There are not just veterans, but established and talented veterans ahead of him, who can guide him on how to be a pro, and to be a pro the right way. So, when he eventually does have to slide into being The Man, he’ll be ready that much faster to take over.

Suffice it to say, I’m pretty excited to see what this defense is going to look like. The inside linebackers are a huge question mark, and there isn’t a ton going on at safety. But, with a solid defensive line, and with our talent at cornerback, combined with a proper scheme that should put these guys in better positions to succeed, I don’t think there’s any question the defense can be middle-of-the-pack or better.

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