Seahawks rookie progress report: How is 2020 class performing at the bye?
After starting the 2020 season at 5-0, the Seahawks are entering their bye week before a critical stretch of games that includes atchups with the rest of the NFC West as well as the 4-1 Buffalo Bills.
Seattle being 5-0 due largely to the offense, namely the heroics of star quarterback Russell Wilson. We all figured Wilson was an MVP contender and that more veteran players like Tyler Lockett, Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, and even second-year receiver DK etcalf would play critical parts of this team’s success, but how have the first-year players done so far?
Seattle drafted eight players in the 2020 NFL Draft in April, and that group has performed a bit all over the board through the first five weeks of the season.
LB Jordyn Brooks (first round, 27 overall)
The pick of Texas Tech linebacker Jordyn Brooks was a little controversial from the start.
The Seahawks actually keeping their first-round pick rather than trading down, much to the pleasure of many fans, but a linebacker over a pass rusher or offensive lineman? That didn’t seem to sit well with those who follow the team.
Brooks was impressive in college and made a number of plays with his speed and ability to get by blockers and into the backfield, but how would the Seahawks use him? And where would he play?
Ultimately, Brooks was placed at weakside (WILL) linebacker behind veteran K.J. Wright, which seemed to signal Brooks would succeed there after Wright’s contract expires at the end of 2020. But what happened was Bruce Irvin got hurt at the strongside (SAM) spot, so Wright moved there and Brooks became a starter.
That didn’t last long, as Brooks promptly sprained his knee in his first career start in Week 3 without making a tackle and he hasn’t played since. His lone tackle this year came in Week 1 when he subbed in briefly.
Thus far, once again, the Seahawks haven’t gotten much production from a first-round pick as you’d hope, though it seemed Brooks was set to play sparingly this year.
Brooks could be back Week 7, and if so, it’ll be interesting to see if he starts at WILL over Cody Barton, who had 13 tackles in Week 5. Brooks, meanwhile, has just 57 total snaps between defense and special teams and has just the one tackle.
Also worth noting, the Seahawks were looking at three linebackers at pick 27. One of the three, Kenneth Murray, went to the Chargers at 23. That left the Seahawks choosing between Brooks and LSU’s Patrick Queen. Brooks was the pick, and while he barely played and then got hurt, Queen, who was taken with the very next pick, has been a key part of the Ravens’ defense this year and was AFC defensive player of the week. That doesn’t impact the grade of Brooks, but it’s worth mentioning since those two will forever be connected.
As far as the grade, it’s tough because he hasn’t had any opportunities, but as a first-round pick, expectations are high, even if he was a clear backup entering the year. It’ll be interesting to see how much he plays when he’s healthy and how he performs. But for now, it’s a C.
The Grade: C
DE Darrell Taylor (second round, 48 overall)
This one is easy: It’s an incomplete.
Not only has Darrell Taylor, who the Seahawks traded up to get, yet to play in a game, the dude has yet to practice as he recovers from a shin surgery that has him out of action for at least the first six weeks from practice and isn’t eligible to play until after the Seahawks play their eighth game in Week 9.
With pass rush the biggest weakness of the Seahawks last year, it made sense they’d draft an edge rusher early, especially one who 19.5 sacks and 26.5 tackles for loss in his college career at Tennessee. But we’ll have to wait and see what Taylor does this year, if he even does play.
The Grade: Incomplete
RG Damien Lewis (third round, 69 overall)
No rookie has played more for the Seahawks in 2020 than right guard Damien Lewis.
Lewis, who won the starting job out of training camp, played 100% of snaps Weeks 1,2 and 5. He was hurt and played only four snaps Week 3 and the 79% in Week 4.
Lewis is currently Pro Football Focus’ sixth-rated rookie in the NFL through Week 5 due largely to his elite run blocking and the good news is he seems to be getting more technically sound.
Lewis has been penalized five times this year with two false starts and three holding calls. Three of those came in Week 1 against the Falcons, so since then, just one holding penalty and false start, each.
The rookie has done a nice job filling the role that D.J. Fluker held the last two seasons as a mauling right guard, and he appears to have gelled with an offensive line that has three new starters from center to right tackle and he and the rest of the crew have done a solid job opening running lanes and keeping Wilson on his feet.
— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) October 14, 2020
After a revolving door on the O-line for many years, it’s nice to see a rookie come in and play well from the start. Lewis looks like he could be a fixture at right guard for a long time. Great start for a third-round pick.
The Grade: A-
TE Colby Parkinson (fourth round, 133 overall)
Like Taylor, tight end Colby Parkinson is out until at least the Seahawks’ ninth game. He had a Jones fracture in his foot, which required surgery over the summer.
A key difference to note between Taylor and Parkinson is that Taylor could be utilized right now as the pass rush remains an area of weakness. Meanwhile, the Seahawks have four active tight ends who can all play.
Parkinson may not need to rush back unless one of those veterans gets hurt, so this could be a de facto redshirt year for the tall tight end.
The Grade: Incomplete
RB DeeJay Dallas (fourth round, 144 overall)
This was a tricky one.
With Chris Carson, Carlos Hyde and Travis Homer on the roster, it didn’t seem like DeeJay Dallas would get much work on offense. That so far has proven to be the case.
After being a healthy scratch Weeks 1 and 2, Dallas was active Weeks 3-5 and in Week 4, he had two carries for eight yards and two catches for 15 yards. He’s also made a quick impact on special teams, recording two tackles.
So some production is there, but not a lot. But that’s also not really his fault, and he’s done well in limited opportunities.
Like many rookies, it seems like Dallas will have to make his mark on special teams before stepping up in year two.
The Grade: C+
DE Alton Robinson (fifth round, 148 overall)
How was this guy inactive the first two weeks?
A healthy scratch to start the year, injuries piled up and Robinson was thrust into action. How’d he do? Oh, just his first career sack to force the Cowboys to kill their final timeout, no big deal. Double oh: The guy got his first sack before 2019 first-round pick L.J. Collier got his in Week 5.
In the final seconds of the game, rookie Alton Robinson records his first NFL sack! 👏
📺: FOX pic.twitter.com/4y2IQoveWP
— Seattle Seahawks (@Seahawks) September 28, 2020
In three games, Robinson has five tackles, three tackles for loss, the aforementioned sack and an additional quarterback hit while playing under 40% of snaps.
Thought of as a speed rusher, Robinson bulked up without losing that quickness over the offseason and has done well against the run.
There haven’t been too many “splash plays” from the defensive line this year as they are struggling once again, but Robinson seems to do something great every game he plays in. Sure seems like he deserves some more chances to shine going forward. The numbers show he’s earned it.
The Grade: B+
WR Freddie Swain (sixth round, 214 overall)
With Lockett, Metcalf, David Moore, Phillip Dorsett, Penny Hart, John Ursua and the likely return of Josh Gordon from suspension, I had little to no expectations for Freddie Swain.
But with Dorsett on injured reserve, Hart rarely playing, Gordon yet to be reinstated and Ursua on the practice squad, Swain has made the most of his opportunities.
Swain has at least one catch in every game, and has caught seven of eight targets for 97 yards and a touchdown.
— NFL (@NFL) September 21, 2020
He also recovered a fumble on special teams Week 1 when Atlanta ran a fake punt.
Last year, Ursua, a seventh-round pick, never really played, and was a healthy scratch all throughout the year before he caught one ball in Week 17. I expected something similar from Swain, but the guy is showing he should continue to get some more snaps and targets.
More capable weapons for Wilson? Never a bad thing.
The Grade: B+
TE/WR Stephen Sullivan (seventh round, 251 overall): INC
Another easy one.
Sullivan, who the Seahawks traded back into the draft to get with the fifth-to-last pick, was waived and re-signed to the practice squad ahead of Week 1.
Sullivan oozes potential at 6-foot-5-inches tall and roughly 250 pounds while running a 40-yard dash at 4.66 seconds. Is he a big receiver? A tight end? Both? Who knows? And we likely won’t know until next year.
The Grade: Incomplete