Seahawks production at DE a big disappointment of 2021 season
Lack of pressure from Seattle Seahawks defensive ends had been a recurring problem until a promising second half in the 2020 season, which coincided with the midseason trade acquisition of veteran Carlos Dunlap, who made five sacks in eight games with Seattle.
It was expected the pass rush led by the DEs would continue to make strides in 2021, but that didn’t turn out to be the case.
While Darrell Taylor, a 2020 second-round pick, has shined in what has essentially been his rookie season after missing all of last year due to injury, and 24-year-old Rasheem Green has been a solid contributor, the fact that they’re two of Seattle’s top three in sacks isn’t exactly a good sign.
Green is tied with Dunlap for the Seahawks lead with 6.5 sacks going into the final game of the season, while Taylor is close behind with six. But that means Seattle hasn’t received many sacks from their other DEs, especially the veterans. As a result, they rank 28th in the NFL with 29 sacks as a team this season with just one game left.
“I feel like that position in this defense did not set guys up for success,” former NFL linebacker and current Seahawks Radio Network color commentator Dave Wyman said Wednesday on 710 ESPN Seattle’s Wyman and Bob.
Wyman went down the list of defensive ends and came up with a handful of names of players who didn’t meet the expectations based on their previous performances.
The 32-year-old Dunlap isn’t clear of the conversation even with his 6.5 sacks, and that’s because six of his came in a four-game stretch in December. That leaves nearly two months where he didn’t reach one full sack.
Benson Mayowa, who like Dunlap re-signed with the Seahawks last offseason after a strong 2020 season, has just one sack after recording six last year.
Kerry Hyder Jr., who along with Mayowa is 30, has just a half-sack in 2021 after making 8.5 in 2020 with the 49ers.
“I think it’s too late for for Kerry Hyder,” Wyman said in regards to whether he could play well enough in Sunday’s season finale to convince Seattle to retain him for 2022. “And it was also just strange. Maybe he’s a rhythm guy, maybe he needs (more consistent snaps), but he was part of a rotation going in. … It was like, wow, if you put him in and he gets starts and gets time, (he will) get production, but he just really didn’t.”
Bob Stelton, Wyman’s co-host on Wyman and Bob, said hopes were understandably high for the Seahawks’ defensive ends going into the season, which underlines just how surprising the outcome has been.
“We felt like, man, they’re in good shape,” Stelton said. “You get seven, maybe eight sacks out of Mayowa, maybe you get another eight or nine out of Dunlap in a full season. You bring in Hyder, who’s had 8 1/2-sack seasons, and we were talking about how just combined that could be a formidable group. And boy, has it been disappointing.”
The disappointment hasn’t been limited to players with strong track records, either.
Alton Robinson, a fifth-round pick in 2020, had an impressive rookie season with four sacks in 14 games. He goes into Week 18 with just one sack in 16 games, however.
“Alton Robinson, I expected to see him take a step and he really didn’t,” Wyman said. “… His first play in a game was against Dallas last year and he got a tackle for a loss on Ezekiel Elliott, and it just just hasn’t happened for him (this season).”
The case of L.J. Collier is perhaps the most frustrating, as the 2019 first-round pick not only has just one sack but has repeatedly been a healthy scratch on Seattle’s inactive lists this season. Next season will be the last of his rookie contract, and it would not be surprising if Seattle cuts him considering his lack of playing time and salary cap hit of nearly $3.5 million for 2022.
“Can L.J. Collier do anything to change their mind (Sunday)? I don’t think so,” Wyman said. “… If he was a free agent (signing) or late-round draft choice, I’d be like, ‘Oh, that’s a nice play. Not bad.’ But the first-round status just makes you always kind of discount him.”
With the amount of players at one position not playing up to expectations, Wyman sees the problem being more about how the Seahawks have used their DEs and not an overall lack of ability. Seattle has appeared to play more conservatively on the defensive line than in previous seasons, with ends regularly dropping into pass coverage, not something that is typically a strength for players at that position.
“I exaggerate about how many times they drop (the defensive ends) back into pass coverage, but it’s still part of it,” Wyman said. “It’s still maybe a guy like Mayowa drops back twice or three times in a game, but man, I think it’s (Seattle’s use of) that position that really didn’t set those guys up for success.”
You can hear Wyman and Bob’s full thoughts in the middle segment of the podcast at this link or in the player below from the second hour of their show Wednesday.