Seahawks Position Breakdown 2021: Defensive Line

Well, I waited as long as I could possibly wait before getting to the defensive line. I even rearranged my whole posting schedule for the last month to give the team time to make any more moves they were going to make to the D-Line before the regular season started (this post was supposed to happen almost two weeks ago!). I guess we’re keeping Geno Atkins on ice until we get past the first game?

I mean, it makes sense. The defensive line has largely been set since earlier this offseason, when we waived Jarran Reed and re-signed Carlos Dunlap. It’s actually one of the great strengths of this team, at least on paper! Meanwhile, the Seahawks continue to tinker with the cornerback spot until – who is Bless Austin, you ask? I have no idea – we’re all left wondering what the hell is going on. Oh well, better luck for my posting schedule next year!

I’m a big fan of what the Seahawks have going at defensive line. I was really happy with the group in the second half of last year, and that starts with Carlos Dunlap. Oh sure, he’s going into his 12th season, but he’s just a solid, steady dude who gets regular pressure on the quarterback and is able to convert enough of that pressure into sacks.

Dunlap leads a pretty impressive DE group that gets production all the way down to the last man. Benson Mayowa returns; he has 13 sacks over the last two years. As a part-time pass-rush specialist, he’s nails.

Alton Robinson and Darrell Taylor are sort of hybrid DEs and SAM linebackers who we’re all excited about. I’m loathe to expect too much of a jump from year one to year two (especially with someone like Taylor, who didn’t even play last year), but we saw Robinson’s baseline last year and 4.0 sacks as a rookie is nothing to sneeze at. If he runs it back, fine. If he does slightly better, great!

The newcomer is Kerry Hyder, who has racked up two seasons of 8+ sacks in his 5-year career. I don’t know his full story, but by all accounts he’s a hard worker and is someone who will fit into our scheme really well.

Then, there are the low men on the totem pole, Rasheem Green and L.J. Collier. Granted, both have been varying degrees of disappointing, but even they bring SOMETHING to the table. I know we all expected more out of Green, who left college early; we kept hearing about how he needed to grow into his body or whatever. Well, it’s been three years and he has a total of 7.0 sacks to show for it. Heading into the last year of his rookie deal, it’s really a make-or-break season for him. He did play pretty exceptionally during the pre-season; I honestly don’t remember him ever showing out like that before. So, maybe things are starting to click; or maybe he’s finally grown into that body. I guess we’ll see.

It was interesting to hear how many people on Twitter were speculating about the Seahawks possibly trading away or cutting L.J. Collier during and after the final roster cut-downs. I mean, I can see why they said those things; he didn’t have a particularly great pre-season. You never hear stories about him in practice or training camp. His rookie year was largely a bust and his 2020 season was improved, but no one’s writing home to mom about 3.0 sacks. I don’t have a lot of positive things to say, other than he’s another guy to throw onto the pile. He did show flashes of making an impact at times last year, and ideally I think that’s all you need. Collier isn’t a starter for this team. He’s in the rotation. He can slide inside to play defensive tackle (as well as Green and Hyder, for that matter), and ultimately I think the team likes him. I also think his value is so low that you’d essentially be throwing him away for nothing. He was a first round pick and he’s probably currently worth a 6th round pick in return. For an able body you can plug and play, that’s not a trade I’m looking to make, especially when there’s at least SOME upside, if you squint your eyes and focus real hard.

My favorite guys on the team are always the defensive tackles, and I think the Seahawks have some good ones!

Poona Ford is our anchor here, with Jarran Reed being waived and signing with the Chiefs. That’s a scary proposition for some Seahawks fans, considering Reed has a semi-proven track record of making an impact in the pass-rush game from the interior; Poona has 2.5 career sacks across three season. But, the Seahawks gave him a raise this offseason for a reason: I think they see great things ahead for this erstwhile undrafted free agent. I do too! He’s got remarkable quickness that I think will translate to running into some more sacks and tackles for loss now that he’s the main guy in the middle.

Al Woods is just a huge plug in the middle of that line. He’s another aging veteran, going into his 11th season, but it doesn’t look like he’s lost anything. As long as he’s healthy, he should provide the run-stuffing we need, at a great value, I might add.

Finally, Bryan Mone rounds out the trio. He’s another undrafted free agent who is providing a lot of value and depth in the middle. He’s heading into his third year and is just an all-around pro already.

So, I can see why Geno Atkins is a target for this team, I just don’t know who you cut to pick him up. All of these guys will contribute, and at Geno’s age it’s fair to wonder what he has left in the tank.

As I’ve noted before, there’s a lot of excitement from the fanbase surrounding the pass rush on this team. This does appear to be as deep as we were in 2013. But, I think you have to take that with the caveat that there isn’t quite the top-tier talent in this group that there was in our Super Bowl-winning year. No one is holding a candle to Michael Bennett or Cliff Avril in their heydays.

I guess I’m happy with this unit, but I’m also a little anxious too. There’s a lot riding on these guys, especially with how poor the cornerback group looks. When you look at the defense as a whole, we’re counting on a lot of production from a lot of unproven guys. So, at least in the early going, it would be nice to see a big impact from the likes of Dunlap, Mayowa, Hyder, and the other studs on this defense.

I’m giving the defensive line a solid B+, with an opportunity to get into the A range if they manage to generate sacks into the 40’s this year. I’m less worried about the run defense, but obviously that needs to be a point of focus, because if teams are in a lot of 3rd & Shorts, they’re definitely going to convert a high percentage of them thanks to this weak secondary.

How Badly Do The Seahawks Need Jamal Adams?

I’m just going to get this out of the way up top: I want the Seahawks to give Jamal Adams an extension. I want them to make him the highest paid safety in the league, and I want him here and happy at least for the duration of THIS new deal (maybe not on a third contract, though). But, while these things tend to sort themselves out with no real trouble, there are occasions where the team and the player are too far apart in their values, and too stubborn to make that move towards the middle. That’s when you see things blow up, with players holding out, with teams making hasty trades to try to recoup some of their lost capital, with both sides doing their best to save face in the aftermath.

I don’t THINK things will blow up with the Seahawks and Jamal Adams, but I’d be a fool to totally bury my head in the sand and believe everything is going to be hunky dory.

We have to be ready to live in a world where Jamal Adams has played his last down in a Seahawks uniform. So, let’s look at what we have here, and ask ourselves: is what we have (on defense) enough?

The Seahawks have made a lot of improvements, without a lot of deficits, to make the pass rush better than it has been in the last couple years. And remember, the pass rush wasn’t too bad in the back-half of 2020! We brought back Carlos Dunlap and Benson Mayowa on team-friendly deals. We obviously retained Rasheem Green and L.J. Collier. We get to witness Alton Robinson hopefully take a leap from his first year to his second. We get to HOPEFULLY see why it was so important for the Seahawks to trade up to draft Darrell Taylor last year. Our big free agent splash was to sign Kerry Hyder, who looked really good for the 49ers a year ago. And, the possible cherry on top – assuming there are no further legal issues – is Aldon Smith, who is looking to continue to resuscitate his once-amazing career.

Along the interior, we lost Jarran Reed, which is a blow, no doubt about it. But, we still have Poona Ford and Bryan Mone. We brought back Al Woods to be a big plug in the run game. We have a bunch of really young guys to develop behind them. And, we’re taking a flyer on Robert Nkemdiche, who has been a HUGE bust thus far in his NFL career, but was nevertheless a first round pick in 2016 for a reason. If anyone is going to get the most out of this guy, I would venture to say it’s the Seahawks. He’s gotta want it, of course – and I think that’s the biggest hurdle of all – but if he’s interested, he’s got all the tools to be really special.

So, is that enough? Boy, there is A LOT to like, especially among the defensive ends. It’s not the highest-profile pass rushing unit in the league, but I really do believe they can be effective.

But, let’s try to be objective here. Essentially, it’s the same group as last year, only we traded Reed for Hyder. That concerns me, because finding interior pass rushing is so much harder. How good will Hyder be rushing on the inside, in this system? I guess we’ll find out. I’m also at a point with Taylor where I’ll believe it when I see it; he’s still a rookie in my eyes, since he has yet to play a down in the NFL. And, you HAVE to worry about depth, especially if/when the important guys get injured. Green and Collier are okay complementary pieces, but how diminishing will those returns be if they have to play on an every-down basis?

Most importantly of all, if we agree this is pretty much the same group as last year, you have to concede that the 2020 Seahawks also had Jamal Adams, his blitzing, and his 9.5 sacks out of the secondary. How effective will that group be in this hypothetical scenario where we DON’T have Adams?

That’s something I really don’t want to think about.

The wild card in all of this is what the Seahawks might get in return, if they were forced to trade Adams. Let’s say, for instance, we deal him for another team’s disgruntled holdout? What if we were to get Stephon Gilmore from the Patriots?

There’s a lot of risk there, obviously. Adams will be 26, Gilmore will be 31. But, given Adams’ style of play, I’d say the injury risk is probably a wash; the risk with Gilmore is more in the realm of old age slowing him down. Gilmore MIGHT be savvy enough to use his veteran wiles and sustain through the guaranteed money years of his next deal, just as Adams MIGHT not blow out a vertebra in his neck in the next 2-3 years.

In the short term, though, this could be an interesting move. Instead of valuing pass rush above all else, we’ll take our existing pass rush and combine it with vastly improved coverage in our secondary. Instead of D.J. Reed and whoever, it’ll be Gilmore and Reed and some really solid depth behind them. Improved coverage, in its own way, can aide in generating pass rush, by giving our guys enough time to beat the opposing team’s blocking.

Of course, the obvious dream scenario is to extend Adams AND trade for Gilmore. But, I don’t know if we live in that kind of world where I get to have whatever the fuck I want. Odds are, Gilmore is a pipe dream, and it’s better to set our focus on Adams.

In the end, the Seahawks don’t need Adams quite as much as they did heading into the 2020 season (mostly thanks to last year’s in-season trade for Dunlap). But, if we have our sights on winning another Super Bowl, I think Adams is vitally important.

Championship teams need superstars, period. Jamal Adams is a superstar. We’ve already seen that he can be wildly effective in this system, so now it’s time to pay the man and get to work.

The Seahawks Are Signing Aldon Smith

Someone on Twitter reported that the Seahawks are signing Aldon Smith to a 1-year deal, and I just couldn’t wait! This is terribly exciting news!

Obviously, there are two ways you have to write about Aldon Smith: the man and the football player. The man is … kind of a lot, and predominantly negative. Admittedly, I’m not super informed on all that he’s been involved with, but Substance Abuse and Domestic Violence are more than enough. For (some of? all of?) these things, he was suspended by the NFL from 2016-2019. He was reinstated, so he must have gone through extensive work on himself to make it back (it’s hard to return from an indefinite suspension like that; most people can’t hack it), but, you know, it feels wrong to be excited. I don’t know what he did or didn’t do to the woman he allegedly did whatever to, but it couldn’t have been good. At some point, you have to know better the first time when it comes to violence; if you’re not capable of that kind of rudimentary awareness, do you even deserve a second chance?

That’s not for me to decide, thankfully. He’s back in the NFL, he’s up for grabs in free agency, and the Seahawks have apparently gone and grabbed him. What am I going to do, not root for the Seahawks? That’s fine for other people to take a stand on, but if you dig deep on pretty much everyone and everything, you’re going to find darkness that people might say you should take a stand on. The safe bet is to sit alone in a room twiddling my thumbs for all of eternity. Failing that, I’m going to separate the man from the art, as they say. I’m going to continue to watch football and root for the Seahawks, so cram your opinions up your ass about everything else. I’m not a monk; sue me.

GREAT NEWS, EVERYONE! Aldon Smith is joining the Seahawks’ pass rush!

Smith played for the Cowboys last year (a fairly mediocre defense, as far as I can remember), and appeared in every game. I seem to recall him having a better season than he did (only 5.0 sacks), but I imagine my opinion is skewed because 3.0 of those came against the Seahawks in Week 3. He was a starter, and apparently started to wear down as the season went along, but that’s okay! Because I don’t think he’ll be a starter for the Seahawks if things break they way they’re supposed to.

Carlos Dunlap and Kerry Hyder figure to be our starters at either end. Smith, presumably, would be the next man up at one of those end spots, with Benson Mayowa also providing tremendous value on pass rushing downs. That’s FOUR quality pass rushers! Not counting what we might get from holdovers like L.J. Collier, Rasheem Green, Alton Robinson, Darrell Taylor, and Bobby Wagner and the rest of the linebacking unit. I mean, it’s not a ton of sacks from those guys, but if everyone contributes anywhere from 2-5 in the season – on top of what our big dog defensive ends rack up – that’s a force to be reckoned with!

Oh, and let us not forget Jamal Adams blitzing from the secondary and his 9.5 sacks last season. He still figures to be the highest paid safety in the game, and therefore a significant part of what we do from a pass rush perspective.

What an embarrassment of riches! This is, no joke, a championship-level pass rushing unit. To be fair, don’t look behind the curtain over there at what we’re doing with the cornerback spots … it’s fine, it’ll be fine, but LOOK OVER HERE! Sacks on sacks on sacks!!!

I feel so great about what the Seahawks have done this offseason, and it’s still not done! All it really cost us was Jarran Reed, Shaquill Griffin, and maybe K.J. Wright (how Wright is still not signed by anyone yet is appalling to me). With what we had for cap space, it’s truly remarkable.

The Seahawks Are Losing A Jarran Reed, But Gaining A Carlos Dunlap

Spring is the time for new beginnings. Nowhere* is that more clear than in sports.

* – that’s not even remotely true

There was a flurry of action last night in the 6pm hour, as Jarran Reed tweeted out he’d be gone by today. This was apparently because the Seahawks wanted to do a restructured deal to save money under the salary cap, while Reed wanted a long-term extension. I don’t know how you restructure a guy going into the final year of his deal; like, were they going to keep it the same but convert his guaranteed money into bonus money to split it up over 2021 and a ghost year? That, honestly, sounds kinda fucked.

Jarran Reed has proven himself to be a very good defensive tackle, with valuable pass-rushing skills. He had 10.5 sacks in 2018, had a down year in 2019 due to a 6-game suspension to start the season (that he was never able to recover from, with regards to the training camp/practice reps early on), and bounced back in 2020 with 6.5 sacks, while spending half the season on a defensive line that was one of the worst in the league at rushing the passer.

Now, it’s entirely possible that Reed was looking for a deal in some stratospheric realm that the Seahawks – and anyone else – would be foolish to sign him to. He’s not THAT valuable, not a Top 5 kind of guy. But, you know, he’s good. He’s in a second or third tier.

The problem all along was only signing him to the 2-year deal before 2020. It seemed short-sighted at the time, with very little chance to recoup on value; THAT was the time to extend him 3-4 years, at a more managable figure. But, for whatever reason, there was an impasse, and now here we are.

Then, almost immediately after word came down about Reed, it was announced that Carlos Dunlap would be re-signing! Two years, $16.6 million, with $8.5 million guaranteed! The Seahawks will save about $8 million by shedding Reed (still on the hook for a $5 million dead money figure) and are investing in Carlos Dunlap!

It’s bittersweet, because I really REALLY like Jarran Reed. But, I think the Seahawks have a better chance for success with someone like Carlos Dunlap anchoring one of the defensive end spots. We’re going to get more out of Dunlap – at least in the short-term – than we would have out of Reed, even though he’s obviously a better long-term prospect for sustained success.

Of course, now the Seahawks need to probably snag another DT. Poona Ford obviously signed an extension. Is Bryan Mone the other starter? The team really likes him, so that seems to be the way things are trending, but I imagine there’s a bargain-basement tackle out there for the Seahawks to grab.

Now, the primary pass rushing rotation includes Dunlap, Mayowa, Hyder, Alton Robinson, L.J. Collier, Rasheem Green, and 2nd year rookie Darrell Taylor (not to mention Jamal Adams, of course, blitzing from every which way). Not a bad little unit! I’m MUCH more confident in this group than I was heading into 2020, or even 2019 for that matter.

The Seahawks Made A Lot Of Smallish Deals While I Was On Vacation

All right, let’s run through the list, because I got a lot to do today.

  • Nick Bellore (FB) signed a 2-year, $4.45 million deal that’s probably just a smallish 1-year deal with no guarantees in year two, to spread out the salary cap burden
  • Chris Carson (RB) signed a 2-year, $10.425 million deal with a void-year tacked on to spread out the salary cap burden (only 2021 is guaranteed)
  • Ethan Pocic (C) signed a 1-year, $3 million deal with a void-year tacked on to spread out the salary cap burden
  • Benson Mayowa (DE) signed a 2-year, $8 million (approx.) deal with two void-years tacked on to spread out the salary cap burden
  • Kerry Hyder (DE) signed a 3-year, $16.5 million deal
  • Jordan Simmons (OG) signed a small 1-year deal
  • Cedric Ogbuehi (OT) signed a 1-year deal

Okay, that’s all I know about right now. In addition, David Moore signed a 2-year deal with the Panthers; he was solid, I’m sure we all wish him well. He greatly outperformed his 7th round draft status.

The Seahawks had one of the best Special Teams units in 2020, and Nick Bellore was a major reason why, so it’s great to have him around covering kickoffs and punts. He doesn’t do much as a fullback, and I don’t expect that to change.

Chris Carson, I will admit, is a bit of a surprise to me. I don’t know if this changes the Seahawks’ needs to go out and find a long-term replacement, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see. That means we essentially have the same running back room as 2020, minus Carlos Hyde (but, hopefully, with a full season of Rashaad Penny). I don’t think anyone was excited about Penny as this team’s lead back, but obviously we all know the risks with Carson and his injury-prone style of play. He’s elite when he’s healthy, and it’s a continual struggle to keep him healthy. The money isn’t terrible though. There’s an out after 2021, or if he stays healthy and kills it, we have him at a reasonable number for 2022.

Ethan Pocic is an okay center. The Seahawks have had a run of okay centers for a while now. My hope is that either we look to solidify this position with one of our few draft picks, or the addition of Gabe Jackson on the left side, with the continued emergence of Damien Lewis on the right side, will mitigate Pocic’s limitations.

Love having Benson Mayowa back! Great deal for a solid player! When he was healthy last year, he really wreaked havoc, and I don’t see him as one of those injury-prone type of guys, so there’s no reason why he couldn’t bounce back to play a full 16-game season. Locked in at two years for such a low number is incredible if he reaches his full potential!

I’ll skip over the real prize of this haul and talk about Jordan Simmons. He was let go, as opposed to being tendered, and is back at a presumably-lower salary figure. He’s a depth piece, and it’s always important to have depth. I thought he played pretty well when he had to fill in for Mike Iupati, so this feels like a no-brainer.

Same thing with Ogbuehi. He struggled at first in filling in for Brandon Shell, but I thought he came on towards the end of the season. I hope to Christ that right tackle isn’t a revolving door again this year, otherwise the Seahawks are going to have to get their asses in gear for 2022. The rest of the defensive lines in the NFC West aren’t getting any WORSE, I can tell you that much!

Okay, with all of that out of the way, let’s talk about Kerry Hyder.

I’ll be honest, I don’t know this man. They say he was on the 49ers last year and had 8.5 sacks, but that all flew well below my radar. He will be 30 years old this year and some have compared him to a Michael Bennett type (boy do I loathe hearing that comp after years of the Seahawks trying to draft guys to fit that mold).

It doesn’t look like Hyder has done a TON in his career. He had 8.0 sacks with the Lions in 2016, otherwise he has 2.0 sacks combined in his other four years. But, people are saying this is a great signing for the Seahawks, so I’m willing to listen to them. They’re the experts, I’m some jagweed sitting at a laptop, writing on a blog no one reads.

I think we’re all a little concerned that this means the Seahawks aren’t bringing back Carlos Dunlap. I read somewhere that the Seahawks are technically OVER the cap already, and will need to make some moves to get back down under it. But, I also read that the signing of Hyder doesn’t necessarily preclude the Seahawks from also going out and getting Dunlap, as they play different defensive end spots. I don’t know if any of this is true, I haven’t done the research; I’m still mostly on vacation-mode.

With it appearing that Bruce Irvin won’t be coming back, and the salary cap what it is, this COULD be it for the major moves. How do we feel about essentially the same D-Line as last year, with Hyder in for Dunlap? Well, that puts Mayowa back in a role where he’s more of an every-down lineman, which he did notably struggle with early in the season. He blossomed when his snap counts went down and he was free to get after the quarterback at a higher rate.

It would be FUCKING AMAZING if we could also get Dunlap back in the fold, but that’s looking mighty grim, all things considered. We also have to extend Jamal Adams, after all. Maybe this is a good sign for Alton Robinson, or Darrell Taylor? We’ll see, I guess.

It’s still early, so obviously there’s a lot to go down between now and the start of the regular season.