15 Most Important Seahawks Nos. 14 and 15: LB Jordyn Brooks and DE Carlos Dunlap
Leading up to Seahawks training camp, my co-host Jake Heaps and I will be counting down the 15 Most Important Seahawks of 2021. We’ll spotlight a new profile every weekday at 1 p.m. during Jake and Stacy.
We got the list started last week with two defensive players:
#15: DE Carlos Dunlap
When the Seahawks entered the bye week last year it didn’t look like they’d made much progress on their abysmal 2019 pass rush. That season, the Hawks finished near the bottom of the league with just 28 sacks. After the first five weeks of 2020, a stellar start by the offense successfully overshadowed worrisome trends on defense – like a 23.6% pressure rate (28th in the league) or just nine sacks.
Thankfully, that didn’t last.
Several factors – from a healthier Jamal Adams to weaker opposing quarterbacks – were part of Seattle’s defensive turnaround, but we’d be remiss not to mention Carlos Dunlap as one of the biggest factors in that improvement.
Seattle finished the year with 46 sacks. Dunlap finished with just five of those (though did tie for a team-high 14 quarterback hits) but his addition to the defensive line (thanks to a savvy mid-season trade) was a catalyst for the jump in sack totals.
He also had a habit of coming up with a sack in clutch moments.
— Seattle Seahawks (@Seahawks) November 20, 2020
Despite his impact, Dunlap was released in March, clearing a little over $14 million in cap space for Seattle. It was ultimately a bit of roster maneuvering for general manager John Schneider; Dunlap was re-signed a few weeks later to a two-year, $13.6 million deal, with a much more team-friendly $2.9 million cap hit in 2021.
The 32-year-old Dunlap will be one of Seattle’s older players this season, but for a team without veterans K.J. Wright and Jarran Reed – and a team that has unproven young talent in a player like Darrell Taylor – his value as a leader and consistent force on the D-line can’t be overstated.
What Jake said: “You could’ve made an argument that Carlos Dunlap should’ve been higher on this list. The impact he had last year was tremendous, without question… one of the reasons he’s so important is the leadership he brings, but he also brings elite level size, elite level skill, and elite level awareness with his ability to get to the quarterback. I watched film of him last year (in Cincinnati) and it looked like he still had the ability to be a productive player (so it made sense he was) disgruntled with lack of playing time. It’s why I knew he’d be a great fit here for Pete Carroll’s scheme and system… I just didn’t know it was going to be this big of an impact. And he made that impact quickly.
“I expect him to have around eight sacks. It’s who he’s been in his career. I think he fits perfectly to that LEO position that Pete Carroll wants. But more importantly, he’s a solidifying piece, he’s a leader on this defensive line, and he makes everyone around him better. And that’s why I think he’s one of the most important Seahawks this year.”
#14: LB Jordyn Brooks
The Seahawks surprised plenty of NFL fans and draft analysts when they selected linebacker Jordyn Brooks with the 27th overall pick in 2020. It wasn’t because Brooks wasn’t talented. He earned honorable mention All-Big 12 in each of his first three seasons with the Red Raiders before being named First-Team All-Big 12 in 2019. Rather, Seattle was in desperate need of a pass rusher and at the time boasted one of the best – if not the best – linebacker duos in football with K.J. Wright and All-Pro Bobby Wagner. So what were the Seahawks doing picking a linebacker with their most valuable pick of the draft?
A year later, Seattle is entering the season without Wright for the first time in a decade, and Brooks suddenly faces a tall task: how do you make up for the loss of one of the best outside linebackers in franchise history? It’s what makes him one of the 15 Most Important Seahawks in 2021.
Brooks got off to a fine start last season, but certainly has room to build on his rookie debut. He finished 2020 with 57 tackles and two passes defended across 14 games. Barring injury, he’ll be expected to make far more than the six starts he had last season, and with another young player at strongside linebacker – whether Darrell Taylor or Cody Barton – Brooks will be called on to offer a reliable option at WILL.
What Jake said: “He’s one of the young defensive players who has to step up for this team in order for them to get back to what the standard is, for them as a defense to play high level football and not be a weak point and actually become a strength, become something that can be counted on and depended on. And when you’re replacing one of the all-time great linebackers in Seahawks history in K.J. Wright at that WILL linebacker position you have to come through, you have to step up. And they love what Jordyn Brooks brings to the table. And when I say ‘they,’ I mean Pete Carroll and John Schneider. When they scouted Jordyn Brooks they felt that he was basically a clone of Bobby Wagner in terms of stature, in terms of speed; the rare combination of size, speed and instincts, they felt he had all those tools Bobby did coming out of college. When you see him up close and personal, he looks the part. He’s a good-looking linebacker – fast, strong, stout, twitchy, all those things.
“With every single game, you saw the improvement from Brooks. You saw his ability to be able to recognize what was happening in front of him in the run game and passing game. He became more confident, you saw him become more violent attacking downhill, taking on blockers and meeting the running back at the line of scrimmage. There were certain things he did that were just incredibly encouraging. It has me feeling Brooks has the ability to really take the next step this year as a full-time starter at that WILL linebacker position next to Wagner. And if you get Wagner and Brooks playing at a high level, I think Brooks has all the makings of a 100-plus tackle type of linebacker.”