JAKE AND STACY
Seahawks DE L.J. Collier details jump to year 2, how pass rush unit looks
With the Seahawks struggling mightily on the defensive line during 2019, even more attention was put on defensive end L.J. Collier, the team’s first-round pick that year, as he was rarely on the field and when he did play, he failed to make much of an impact.
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After suffering an ankle injury during an early practice, Collier missed roughly all of the Seahawks’ practices, missed all four preseason contests and was not active until Week 2. Overall, Collier appeared in 11 games and recorded just three total tackles.
Heading into the 2020 season, Collier will look to show why Seattle was right to make him a first-round selection. Collier joined 710 ESPN Seattle’s Tom, Jake and Stacy on Thursday and discussed how his offseason has gone and how he feels ahead of the 2020 campaign.
“I’m feeling good, man, I’m feeling great. I’m in way better shape now and (have been) looking forward to this year’s camp,” he said. “I’ve been having a good camp so far and I’m really enjoying it. I’m glad to just be able to be out there doing stuff with everybody else rather than be on the sideline watching.”
Head coach Pete Carroll told reporters earlier this week that he likes what he’s seen from the young defensive lineman so far.
“He looks like a different guy,” Carroll said. “He’s quicker. He’s explosive. He’s in great shape and he’s battling. He wasn’t ready last time around, getting into camp, getting hurt, we never did get a chance to find out.”
Collier says he put in a ton of work this offseason and is attacking his second season differently than his disappointing rookie campaign.
“Getting up earlier, two times a day working out and everything like that,” he said of his offseason work. “Really taken a different approach and been locked in during meetings, just absorbing any information I can get from (defensive line coach Clint Hurtt) or any of the coaches. Really just trying to take my game a step further, working harder, doing more stuff, get offs and things like that, working on my pass rush and things of that matter. Really just trying to acclimate myself to the league and get used to training and things like that. I feel like I had a good offseason and (I feel like) it’s showing.”
Collier is a bigger defensive end at 6-foot-2 and about 290 pounds, so he will be playing both the five-technique defensive end position while also occasionally sliding inside to play defensive tackle. He said he is comfortable playing both spots.
“I like it. I’m being flexible with both, so I’m just ready to be wherever they need me and I’ll be there and that’s just the whole point,” Collier said. “I really want to be able to play everything that way if they need a man up, I can be that guy.”
And with the disappointing season coupled with the fact that he was a first-round pick, there has naturally been some criticism of Collier as a player as well as criticism aimed at the Seahawks for drafting him. Collier said he’s not letting that get to him, and that he’s heard those kind of comments dating back to his college days at TCU.
“One thing about me is I’m going to be here, I’m going to play hard regardless of what people think of me,” Collier said. “And people can think what they want, that’s their opinion, they can say what they want. All I know is at the end of the day, I’m going to go out there and do whatever I can to help this team win and I’m going to play my hardest, I’m going to give my all … People have called me out my whole life and I’ve made it this far and I’m going to continue to go farther. I’m not happy with my situation, I want to do more, I want to go farther. I haven’t proved anything and I have a lot to prove.”
The new-look defensive line
Collier figures to be a big part of a defensive line unit that desperately needs to improve after recording just 28 sacks in 2019 and struggling to stop the run. The Seahawks made some moves to address that area of weakness, such as signing two defensive ends in free agency, drafting two more.
As far as the pass rush, Collier thinks it’s a good group, echoing the comments of defensive end Benson Mayowa, who signed as a free agent this offseason. Mayowa said that a good pass rush “takes a village” and with no clear No. 1 option at pass rush, that may well be the case.
“It’s going good so far. We have great chemistry,” Collier said. “… We’ve said before and (talked about how some people are talking about the Seahawks’ poor sack numbers last year) and we’re going to prove them wrong and how we’re going to come together this year and put something together and try to win a Super Bowl. I think we’re going to have something special this year and we’re going to shock a lot of people.”
The group hasn’t had as much time to gel this offseason due to COVID-19, which has limited the offseason as a whole as well as when the group could finally meet and practice together in person. But Mayowa and two other veterans have done a good job getting the most out of this group, Collier said.
“Benson’s an effort guy and he’s really been coaching up the younger guys and stuff like that,” he said. “He’s just a guy you can watch and want to model your game after and just watching everything he does, he’s a real pro.”
Two other players that are leading the charge are defensive end/linebacker Bruce Irvin, who signed as a free agent, and defensive tackle Jarran Reed, who re-signed with the Seahawks on a two-year deal this offseason.
“(Irvin) comes to work every day, knows what’s going on, he’s attentive, he’s locked in, he’s ready to go, he’s a great teammate, man, and I like playing with (Irvin and Mayowa),” Collier said. “They ask for a lot and you’re going to give a lot. Same with J-Reed. He expects a lot out of you, so that’s what you’re going to get. He has high expectations for all the guys in the room because he wants to win.”
Listen to Collier’s full interview with Tom, Jake and Stacy at this link or in the player below.
Follow 710 ESPN Seattle’s Tom Wassell, Jake Heaps and Stacy Rost on Twitter.
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