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Most Intriguing Seahawks: No. 6, DL Malik McDowell

Malik McDowell could help put Seattle's pass rush over the top, writes John Clayton. (AP)
LISTEN: Most Intriguing Seahawks: No. 6, DL Malik McDowell

During each show until the start of training camp, “Brock and Salk” is counting down the 20 most intriguing players on the Seahawks’ roster. The countdown continued with rookie defensive lineman Malik McDowell. The segment on McDowell is embedded above. John Clayton’s thoughts are below.

The intrigue

Malik McDowell was the key for general manager John Schneider in the Seahawks’ 2017 draft. Schneider targeted the defensive lineman as the team’s first pick. Before selecting him at No. 35 overall, Schneider made bold moves to trade down three times and acquire more picks to fill out what was considered one of his best drafts. In the eyes of Seahawks scouts, McDowell has the talent of a high-first-round pick. His inconsistent work ethic in college may have dropped his stock, but so far the Seahawks like what they see. McDowell is 6-6, 299 pounds and is expected to add 15 to 20 pounds in his first couple of years in the league. Looking for a comparable player in the NFL, you immediately point to Calais Campbell, the former Cardinal who just got $15 million a year from Jacksonville. McDowell has the ability to help Seattle’s defense in a couple of ways. He’s big enough to play defensive end and help as a run-stopper. The Seahawks’ defense hasn’t had a talent with that size to fill that role since Red Bryant. What also intrigues the Seahawks is his ability to move and provide an interior pass rush. Since Clinton McDonald left in free agency after the 2013 season, the Seahawks have been looking for an inside pass rush in nickel to work next to Michael Bennett, who moves to the interior of the defensive line on passing downs. If McDowell can record five or six sacks as a rookie, the Seahawks should be able to get more than 50 sacks this season. The Seahawks have three established pass rushers in Bennett, Cliff Avril and Frank Clark. With all three having the ability to put up 10-sack seasons, McDowell will draw plenty of one-on-one pass-rush opportunities.

By the numbers

It can be argued that this is the best defensive line the Seahawks have assembled under coach Pete Carroll since 2013. McDowell is the piece that puts the group over the top. Even though their roles are slightly different, I view McDowell and Clark similarly to Bennett and Avril from that season. Bennett and Avril were key additions in free agency that year, but they technically weren’t starters (they combined for only five starts while playing behind Bryant and Chris Clemons). Their jobs were to rush the passer in nickel. They earned their free-agency dollars. Bennett led Seattle’s defensive linemen with 598 snaps that year. Avril was third with 554. While it’s unlikely McDowell gets 500 snaps as a rookie, his flexibility could allow defensive coordinator Kris Richard to give a little bit of rest to Bennett. Bennett was on the field for 829 plays in 2014 and 810 in 2015. Avril averaged about 750 during that two-year period. Clark went from 332 plays as a rookie to 682 last year and produced 10 sacks. If McDowell can contribute 400-plus plays and five sacks, Seattle’s pass rush will be among the best in the NFL.

Notable

McDowell was a top-50 high school recruit who played three years at Michigan State. His best season was in 2015, when he had 4.5 sacks and 13 tackles for losses. His rating slipped with what is considered an off season last year. Still, no one doubts he has the ability to dominate in the NFL.

Quotable

Said Richard of McDowell: “He’s a body type that we haven’t had around here in a long time – 6-6, 300 pounds. He’s got length, he’s got speed, he’s got strength, so being able to have him either at 3-technique (or) playing at end, whichever we decide to play him, I think there’s going to be a level of athleticism there that it’s been a while since we’ve had that around here. What he has really shown is the aptitude, the ability to learn, the ability to take what we’re coaching him and fix the mistakes he is making. We’re seeing a guy getting better every day.”

Most Intriguing Seahawks: No. 20, WR Jermaine Kearse; No. 19, K Blair Walsh; No. 18, S Bradley McDougald; No. 17, RB Thomas Rawls; No. 16, DT Jarran Reed; No. 15, DE Frank Clark; No. 14, WR/KR Tyler Lockett; No. 13, WR Amara Darboh; No. 12, CB C.J. Prosise; No. 11, RT Germain Ifedi; No. 10, S Kam Chancellor; No. 9, TE Jimmy Graham; No. 8, DL Michael Bennett; No. 7, LT George Fant.