Second-year defensive lineman Frank Clark took a leap during the 2016 season, notching 10 sacks and 47 tackles, roughly tripling the productivity from his rookie season. Somebody who saw that coming was teammate Michael Bennett – he told 710 ESPN Seattle, in fact – so it only seems right to trust him on his predictions for next season’s breakout stars.
Bennett joined 710 ESPN Seattle’s John Clayton earlier this week and picked three names, coming from both sides of the ball, that he expects to make a similar jump in 2017.
Jarran Reed: “I think Jarran Reed has a possibility of having a breakout year. I think he’s starting to get it a little bit, him being able to shed the blocks, get off the blocks and make some big plays.”
Thomas Rawls: “I think Thomas Rawls is gonna have a big year. … The last two years he’s been hurt and he’s had monster yard rushing games. I think he just needs to, as a pro, figure out what it is that he needs to do to stay healthy; what is it that he needs to eat, what does he need to change in his diet or his workouts to stay healthy. And I think he will have a 1,500 or 1,400 yard rushing year.
Garry Gilliam: “I think Garry Gilliam’s gonna have a great year this year. I think he’s getting better and better, so I think he’s one of the guys that I think is gonna be pretty good this year, too.”
Bennett said that it takes time to build up skills as a defensive lineman and that “sometimes people give people greatness too early.” He said the real proving ground is in the playoffs and championship games.
“It’s easy to be great when you’re … up on the 49ers 30-0 and you get two or three sacks,” he said. “But it’s hard to be in the game like against the Falcons when the game was tight, and you’ve got to keep your poise and you’ve got to stay where you need to be in a gap, and you’ve got to be able to make a play, or you’ve got to be able to rush the quarterback every single play, and you’ve got to go to another level. So those are things it takes to be great, to be able to play great in championship games.”
Bennett said he thinks the Seahawks are “so close” on defense.
“We’re so close; we’ve got a couple things to fix,” he said. “If you look back at the Atlanta game, like, man, there’s a couple small things that we just had to fix and that game would have been ours. So we just go back and address the needs that we need to address and fix the things that we need to fix and not make the same mistakes. And I think we’ll be where we need to be, and hopefully we can do what we need to do. I think we have a lot of great players, a lot of great depth. Young guys, Frank Clark is coming into his third year, Jarran Reed’s his second year, (Justin) Britt’s a fourth year … so I think we have a lot of good players that could be great.”
Other highlights from the conversation:
• When asked how the offseason was going for the Seahawks, Bennett said it was “challenging” because of the amount of money being dished out in free agency. “There’s average players get paid like great players and some great players not getting paid, so it’s really confusing and it’s really competitive right now … because there’s teams with a hundred million dollars worth of cap space that are just giving whoever amount of money. And I think it’s hard when you’re a team like us that has pride and a process. We have a process of how of how success is found and how success is captured and I think a lot of teams don’t have that process, so they go out and just spend so much money, but (at the) end of the day, they get the same results.”
• In that vein, Bennett said general manager John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll are “really patient” in picking the right player to fit the Seahawks’ mindset. “To be able to play on this team you have to be selfless, you have to be able to be a great teammate, you have to be able to play multiple positions and I think guys aren’t used to that. And you also have to be great every time, because the players in the locker room won’t allow you to be mediocre. So those are things that I think a lot of players, when they think about coming here, it’s a test.”
• Michael’s brother, tight end Martellus Bennett, recently signed a lucrative deal with the Packers, which Michael Bennett said he helped encourage – though there was a mystery team he would have preferred his younger brother sign with. “It’s crazy though, ’cause he was talking to a couple teams and one team I was hoping that he’d really sign with but I don’t want to start no controversy. But one team I was hoping that he’d really sign with would have been great for us. But I thought Green Bay was a good team for him because he would be with Aaron Rodgers and he would get the ball and it’s close to his house and it’s just a really good team for him to be a part of.”
• Bennett got a bit goofy when it came to talking about how it’s easier for rookies to come into the Seahawks’ system and adapt to the mindset than it is for free agents. “I think it’s a little easier for rookies to come in because they’re like babies, and you’ve got to groom ‘em, and you’ve got to feed ‘em, and you’ve got to breastfeed ‘em and all that kind of stuff – nourish ‘em. So they’re very young and easily manipulated and I think veterans, they already have their way of doing things. They know how to eat before the game, they know how to stretch, they know what they do. So it just takes a certain type of mindset of a veteran to be able to come in and be confident to what he’s used to doing and still be able to perform under the rings of Pete Carroll and John Schneider.”
• Bennett also discussed his announcement that he’d be giving his 2017 endorsements to minority communities and creating opportunities for people of color. He expressed the ideal that athletes should strive to be role models. “I think it’s just time for us to take a whole other level. It’s like, we’ve been doing this, but it’s time for us to truly show the kids what this is about. A lot of times we get glorified for the touchdowns that we score or the hits that we make. Those are the things that the media always portray. Or if we do something bad, we say something wrong, that’s all over CNN or whatever it is. But when we’re out there doing stuff in the community, I think it’s really important that the kids see this because … when they see us, they see hope and they see change, and we have to continuously show them that there’s another way besides playing football or playing basketball. It’s a way to be able to be creative, a way to be a producer, be a sportscaster, be whatever you want to be. It doesn’t always have to relate to give him the ball and catching one.”