Seahawks training camp questions: Who’s bringing the pressure?
The Seahawks have their faults – the late starts, the close games, the frustrating losses – but they also boast some of the league’s premier weapons.
Russell Wilson at his best, a pair of reliable receivers with Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf, and one of the league’s most talented linebacker groups, headed up by five-time all pro Bobby Wagner. They also brought a boost (and a boom) back to their secondary with a blockbuster trade for All-Pro safety Jamal Adams. But to truly take advantage of all of that, there’s one key area in which they to improve.
Ask any fan about the Seahawks’ biggest weakness last year and they’ll tell you it was the pass rush. The Seahawks finished with 28 sacks – which was the lowest under Pete Carroll and good for 29th in the league – and tallied 68 quarterback hits (29th) and 126 pressures (26th).
That’s why one of the five biggest questions facing the Seahawks entering training camp is: Who’s bringing the pressure? This series will lead up to the launch of 710 ESPN Seattle’s Two-A-Days, beginning Aug 17.
As a quick note: This article will primarily focus on the LEO edge rusher spot. Yes, Seattle will need more production from veteran defensive tackle Jarran Reed (who signed a two-year, $23 million deal this offseason) and continued development from Poona Ford, Rasheem Green, and L.J. Collier (the latter two at 5-technique). But the most pressing need early on in free agency was to find someone to replace Jadeveon Clowney – who himself was replacing Frank Clark – and the Seahawks have a few players competing to be part of that rotation.
Mayowa and Bruce Irvin (more on him next) both returned this offseason for a second stint with the Seahawks.
Mayowa, who was most recently with the Raiders, signed a one-year, $3 million contract with Seattle after finishing 2019 with a career-high seven sacks. That’s been his only season with more than six sacks, but he also brought pressure while playing for the Cardinals in 2018 (his 11 quarterback hits were second to Chandler Jones). That production hasn’t been consistent in previous seasons, though – which means that even though he’s a veteran, the competition at edge rusher remains wide open.
Irvin can – and probably will – make appearances at strongside linebacker, but he can also compete in a more traditional defensive end role. He finished with 8.5 sacks in Carolina last year.
Defensive end was Seattle’s greatest need entering the draft, and while they surprised draft experts and critics by going with a linebacker in the first round, they didn’t waste much time stocking up on the defensive line afterward. That started with the selection of Tennessee’s Darrell Taylor at No. 48 overall. (General manager John Schneider told reporters afterward that Seattle considered selecting Taylor in the first round, rather than Brooks. They ended up getting both.)
Jim Nagy, an ESPN analyst, longtime NFL scout and former SEC scout for the Seahawks, said Taylor brings plenty of power and became a more consistent player in his final year with the Vols. He also called him a perfect fit for Seattle.
“I think he brings a little Frank Clark to that team, just with his edge and mentality. Getting to know Darrell a little bit, there’s just something about him that I think is really going to fit there.”
Taylor was placed on the Non-Football Injury list, so he won’t be an early participant in camp. It’s not too surprising and probably a precautionary measure; Taylor had surgery to repair a stress fracture in his leg in January.
Robinson, a fifth-round pick out of Syracuse, might have been the steal of the draft for Seattle. Robinson racked up 10 sacks in 2018. That total went down in 2019 (4.5 sacks) but Nagy said that, on tape, Robinson remained a disruptive force.
“He plays really long; he’s got a powerful long-arm move,” Nagy said during an interview with Tom, Jake and Stacy in May. “He can win with speed and he can win with power. He’s got a really nice get-off, he’s got that powerful long-arm move, and he can beat you in different ways.”
Also competing: Branden Jackson, Eli Mencer, Marcus Webb.