With defensive line banged up, how will Seahawks get pass rush going?
As it was at the start of the offseason, the Seahawks’ pass rush is still an area of concern, though now, there’s less than three weeks until the team’s season opener in Atlanta.
Gone are Jadeveon Clowney and Ziggy Ansah, who are both still free agents, though joining Seattle are veterans Bruce Irvin and Benson Mayowa and rookies Darrell Taylor and Alton Robinson.
Having more players to rush the passer is certainly a plus as that is something the Seahawks didn’t really have last year. But with little time remaining before Week 1, some of the defensive linemen are banged up, most notably Taylor, who has yet to practice as he recovers from offseason surgery on his leg and could wind up missing the first six weeks if he’s placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list.
With the defensive line likely not entering the 2020 season at full strength, is that an area of concern? And how could the Seahawks get their pass rush going? Former NFL receiver Michael Bumpus discussed that group with John Clayton on 710 ESPN Seattle’s Two-a-Days on Tuesday.
“I’m a little disappointed because Darrell Taylor is not getting his reps, right? And it reminds us of L.J. (Collier) last year,” Bumpus said. “And I feel like L.J, he’s still a rookie – he only had 150 snaps last year, so that’s really only 2.5 or three games. With a guy like Darrell Taylor not being able to get the reps, it’s going to put him behind a bit.”
Collier, the Seahawks’ 2019 first-round pick, injured his ankle during a training camp practice last year and missed the rest of camp and all four preseason games. He made it back by Week 2 but was behind his fellow rookies, and he struggled when he got on the field, recording just three total tackles. Taylor, who the team traded up to get in the second round, may be a similar case this year.
Collier has missed some time or been limited recently, as have defensive tackles Jarran Reed (knee) – who had 10.5 sacks in 2018 – and Poona Ford (calf). Additionally, Irvin, who will play both linebacker and defensive end, has been taking it easy of late with a minor hip flexor injury.
“The only guys who have really been healthy are (Rasheem) Green and Mayowa and they’re going to depend on these guys,” Bumpus said.
Green led the Seahawks with just four sacks in 2019 and Mayowa, who signed as a free agent this offseason, has been receiving a lot of praise from teammates and coaches.
“Mayowa had seven sacks last year in a rotational position with the Raiders, so you would hope his production level goes up if he gets to start,” Bumpus said. “I’m trying to stay optimistic with the defensive line because you really don’t know what you have because there are so many young guys and there are a couple of new guys.”
Regarding Green, Bumpus wants to see another step forward for the 2018 third-round pick. He didn’t contribute much as a rookie but was one of Seattle’s best pass rushers last year.
“When you’re on that defensive line, you want to beat that offensive lineman to the punch and that’s what I’ve seen out of him so far,” he said. “He’s been in the league a couple years now and every year he’s gotten better and that’s just his thing. We can’t expect Rasheem Green to come out and have 12 sacks this year. If he does, good for him. He had four sacks last year, he led the team, he had three forced fumbles. Let’s just build on that. And the way I see him working, I expect him to do just that.”
What could help the pass rush is actually the secondary, which now boasts a safety tandem of First-Team All-Pro Jamal Adams and Pro Bowl alternate in Quandre Diggs, plus Pro Bowler Shaquill Griffin, Quinton Dunbar and Tre Flowers at cornerback.
“Having those two safeties back there with Adams and Quandre Diggs and you add these corners in, you would hope that this secondary would allow this defensive line more time to get after the quarterback kind of like how it was in 2013,” Bumpus said. “The Legion of Boom was that secondary. They provided the time for those linebackers and the defensive line to get after the quarterback, so I’m hoping we see that again in 2020.”
The other rookie
A lot of attention has been given to Taylor, as he was a high draft pick who has earned comparisons to former Seahawks edge rusher Cliff Avril, but the team’s other rookie defensive end, Robinson, could see some serious playing time due to injuries to players above him on the depth chart.
“I guess one guy that’s really doing well is Alton Robinson,” Clayton said. “He’s a little heavier than he was in college … and he’s looked good.”
Robinson is reportedly weighing about 277 pounds, roughly 15 pounds heavier than his listed weight. Bumpus thinks that’s a good sign.
“That kind of helped his game because before he gained all that weight he was just a speed guy. He wanted to beat you with his quickness and get around,” he said. “So now he’s added something to his game and that’s what it’s all about – getting better and adding things to your toolbox. And that’s what I’m seeing out of him. He’s going to get opportunities. He’s got to take advantage of the opportunity in front of him. L.J. is banged up, Darrell Taylor is banged up. He’s going to get these reps so you have to impress this defensive staff and it looks like that’s what he’s doing.”
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