Why Darrell Taylor may be Seahawks’ most important young player

Jul 18, 2020, 10:36 AM | Updated: 10:39 am

Seahawks DE Darrell Taylor...

Seahawks rookie DE Darrell Taylor could be a major piece of Seattle's pass rush. (Getty)


The biggest question mark for the Seahawks this offseason has been the pass rush and how that unit can improve after a lackluster 2019, which saw the defense sack opposing quarterbacks just 28 times in the regular season – tied for the second-fewest sacks in the NFL.

Which young players are Seahawks pinning the most hope on in 2020?

With roughly $60 million in cap space at the start of the offseason, there was belief that the Seahawks would sign a top free-agent edge rusher, such as Jadeveon Clowney, and perhaps sign another notable name.

What ended up happening was Seattle used a lot of their resources on offense, namely offensive line, and signed defensive end/outside linebacker Bruce Irvin, the team’s 2012 first-round pick, and Benson Mayowa, who started his career with the Seahawks as an undrafted free agent in 2013. The two combined for 15.5 sacks in 2019, but with other big names on the market, many fans and analysts were left wondering if they should have done more.

Then the draft came in late April and the Seahawks used two of their eight selections on edge rushers. One of those edge rushers, said former NFL quarterback Jake Heaps of 710 ESPN Seattle’s Tom, Jake and Stacy, could be the most important young player on the team in 2020.

“When you talk about what is the biggest area of concern this entire offseason, it’s been the pass rush very clearly,” he said on Friday. “So who are you going to be counting on to really take things to the next step? You’re going to be relying on a rookie. You’re going to be relying on the rookie, Darrell Taylor, who they were considering drafting in the first round over (Seahawks first-round linebacker) Jordyn Brooks.”

Taylor was selected with the 48th overall pick in April’s draft out of Tennessee. The Seahawks used one of their two second-round picks, as well as their third-round pick, in a trade with the Jets in order to move up in the draft to select Taylor.

Taylor is 6-4 and roughly 260 pounds with long arms and figures to play at the Leo spot in head coach Pete Carroll’s defense. In four years at Tennessee, Taylor had 19.5 sacks, including 8.5 sacks as a senior while he played through a stress fracture in his shin that required surgery. As Heaps noted, the Seahawks thought about securing Taylor in the first round, but ultimately decided to select Brooks. When the team had a chance to move up to secure Taylor, general manager John Schneider jumped at the opportunity.

The Seahawks likely will use a rotation on the defensive line in order to create as much pressure on opposing quarterbacks as possible. Heaps said Taylor getting up to speed will be important so he can make as much of an impact as possible.

“They gave up significant capital in the draft to be able to make that acquisition and you need Darrell Taylor to come in in this unique offseason and really be able to put things together quickly,” he said.

The Seahawks have rarely traded up in the draft under Carroll and Schneider, but when they do, it usually works out. For example, receivers Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf, as well as defensive tackle Jarran Reed were all selected in the first three rounds of their respective drafts after Seattle made a deal to move up and select them. Heaps thinks Taylor could be the next guy to join that group in terms of productivity.

“Obviously, you don’t feel too comfortable relying on rookies, especially when they’re not a top-10 or top-15 draft pick, but I think Darrell Taylor has all the confidence from the Seahawks and you hope he can be this year’s DK Metcalf,” he said.

Listen to the full second hour of Friday’s edition of Tom, Jake and Stacy at this link or in the player below.

Follow 710 ESPN Seattle’s Jake Heaps on Twitter.

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