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Seahawks with the most to gain: Greg Scruggs

Greg Scruggs had two sacks as a rookie in 2012 before missing his second season due to a knee injury. (AP)

By Danny O’Neil

The math behind Greg Scruggs’ opportunity couldn’t be any simpler.

Take away two starters, the Seahawks releasing defensive ends Red Bryant and Chris Clemons this offseason. Return one mainstay, Michael Bennett re-signing with the team for four years.

It all adds up to what is the single biggest opportunity for any player currently on the Seahawks’ roster.

DE Greg Scruggs

Age: 23

Experience: Entering third season

Pedigree: A seventh-round pick in 2012, Scruggs’ role was tough to pin-point at first. He wasn’t fast enough to project as an outside pass rusher in Seattle. A few Happy Meals short of 300 pounds, Scruggs wasn’t as big as Bryant to play at the five-technique defensive-end spot.

But over the course of his rookie season in 2012, Scruggs showed both strength at the point of attack and also a little wiggle as an interior pass rusher. His playing time increased over the second half of the season, and there was some thought last year that Scruggs might be able to compete for a starting spot. At least there was until he suffered a season-ending knee injury during offseason workouts.

Scruggs began the season on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list, and while he was eligible to resume practicing with the team, he was never activated. Now, after the equivalent of a medical redshirt season, Scruggs will try to jump back into the rotation at defensive line.

Danny O’Neil’s look at the other Seahawks with the most to gain:

LB Bruce Irvin
CB Byron Maxwell
RB Christine Michael
WR Jermaine Kearse

Predicament: Seattle’s defensive line was the beneficiary of the most significant upgrades a year ago with the additions of Bennett and Cliff Avril. This year, it’s the subject of the most turnover not only with the releases of Clemons and Bryant, but the free-agent departure of Clinton McDonald.

But while Jordan Hill figures to get first look at defensive tackle and Avril is the likely to replace Clemons, the other end spot is a huge question. Emphasis on the word huge. Not only was Bryant Seattle’s biggest defensive player, but he was also a captain. Scruggs isn’t the only candidate to step into that role. Jesse Williams might be if his balky knee hold up, but after spending his entire rookie season on injured reserve, there’s no guarantee.

The possibilities: Scruggs is bigger than he was two years ago when he was drafted, his weight up over 310 pounds at last report. Not only that, but the template for Seattle’s defense may be changing just a bit as the Seahawks have emphasized their pass rush more over the past few seasons. As imposing as Bryant was, he was never going to be mistaken for a pass-rush threat.

If Scruggs can hold the edge, he would bring more of a pass-rush threat without giving up too much against the run game.