Seahawks training camp questions: How will LB Jordyn Brooks be used?
The Seahawks surprised critics when they selected a linebacker – not a defensive end – in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft. But the way general manager John Schneider tells it, they found the perfect guy.
“He’s been through a lot and he’s overcome a lot,” Schneider said in a press conference that night. “He’s got a ton of grit. He’s our kind of guy.”
In an uncertain year, one with an abbreviated offseason, it didn’t hurt that Brooks was also a four-year starter at Texas Tech. Anything to make the transition to the NFL as easy as possible.
But getting Brooks acclimated to the league is only part of the problem. The other part? Finding out where he’ll play.
This is the fourth installment in this Seahawks Training Camp Questions series. Previous articles cover the competition at nickel, No. 3 receiver, and the pass rush. The fifth and final question will be posted Monday, Aug 17, which also marks the launch of 710 ESPN Seattle’s Two-A-Days. (Here’s what you need to know about that: at 11 a.m. every morning, John Clayton will be joined by a special guest, and at 5:30 p.m. every day ex-Seahawks wide receiver Michael Bumpus will take over the 710 ESPN Seattle Instagram page for a live video chat.)
Let’s get back to Brooks.
Brooks played at both outside and inside linebacker with the Red Raiders. He swapped to middle linebacker in his final season, where he continued to lead the team in tackles. Former Seahawks scout and current Senior Bowl director and NFL draft analyst Jim Nagy said Brooks’ play reminded him of fellow Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner (at 6-foot-1, 245-pounds, he certainly has a similar build). That’s encouraging news for Seahawks fans in the long-term; but for now, the five-time All-Pro isn’t going anywhere, so Brooks will have to wait before he can have a shot to compete on the inside.
That leaves the SAM spot, where Mychal Kendricks started last season, and WILL, where longtime veteran K.J. Wright plays. Pete Carroll said while Brooks is versatile enough to play anywhere, the likeliest position Brooks would be at weakside.
“He could play all three spots,” Carroll said. “The flexibility’s there. I think his clearest path, and might be the most obvious path, would be at the WILL backer spot. We’ll see how that goes. We’ll start him there and see how fast he can grasp it and how soon he can become comfortable, and we’ll see. We have tremendous flexibility in our guys that have been here for a long time in our program. With Bruce coming back, and KJ, and Bobby, it’s a fantastic group of guys. We’ve got a lot of options in playing here… but we’ve got to see how it goes. And that’s why this goes back to competition and we’ll see how it all plays itself out. KJ’s been a fantastic player, might’ve had his best year for us last year. Bobby’s at the top of his game, and we’re thrilled to have Bruce back. But that doesn’t mean that all four of don’t play at the same time, and all four of those guys are on the field at the same time. There’s options for how we can do that that we’ve worked out, and the competition will settle it.”
That’s really where things get interesting. Not just because Carroll – who coached a team that stayed in base defense a staggering 69 percent of the time – mentioned keeping as many linebackers on the field. But it also means Brooks will be battling with Wright. Brooks may be younger, faster and cheaper, but Wright’s production didn’t suddenly drop off at age 30. And even though the longtime veteran will be 31 to start the season, he’s also coming off one of his best years, with career highs in tackles (132) and interceptions (3).
There’s the option to potential move Wright to the strongside linebacker spot (and have Irvin back up at edge rusher) or have Wright rotate with Brooks. This all depends on how quickly Brooks can develop through August.