STACY ROST

Seahawks Q&A: Who are breakout star candidates on offense and defense?

Jun 1, 2022, 9:26 AM
Seahawks Darrell Taylor...
Seahawks pass rusger Darrell Taylor tackles Rams running back Darrell Henderson .on Tuesday. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

This week’s Seahawks Q&A features questions about breakout stars and the quarterback competition.

Jake & Stacy: Have the Seahawks done enough to solve their pass rush problems?

With so many great questions submitted on Twitter, this will be part one of a few installments as we examine the Seahawks’ offseason so far. (So, stay tuned if you don’t see your question listed here yet.)

@BrendoPretendo: Who is the likely breakout star on offense and defense?

There are lots of candidates here for a relatively young Seahawks team. Honorary mention on defense goes to cornerback Tre Brown, a second-year pro who impressed in limited action last year, and who has a good shot to win one of the two corner spots.

But I’ll give the nod to Darrell Taylor. The third-year edge rusher is effectively entering year two after a solid 2021 campaign that saw him finish with six-and-a-half sacks. Those numbers tapered off toward the end of the season – Taylor had four sacks in the first five weeks and 1.5 sacks in the final five – but Seattle made a few nice additions this offseason (ex-Chargers pass rusher Uchenna Nwosu and second-round rookie Boye Mafe join the fray on the outside, while defensive line stalwarts Poona Ford and Al Woods will remain on the interior) to compliment the continued development of Taylor.

Newly-promoted defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt is set on an attack-minded defense that won’t just provide more blitz opportunities for linebackers or a safety like Jamal Adams, but will also ideally focus on allowing the outside rushers to be more aggressive.

On offense, it’s hard not to see opportunities for rookie running back Ken Walker.

You’d love to see former second-round pick Dee Eskridge take a big step forward, but it’s a crowded wide receiver room with a ton of talent at the top, and DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett will command the bulk of Seattle’s targets. You’d also love to see No. 9 pick Charles Cross – the highest pick Seattle’s made in a decade – impress in year one.

But Carroll’s focus on the run game, combined with a shaky injury history for both Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny, provides a path for Walker to add immediate impact. He’ll need to earn those reps.

Per ESPN’s Brady Henderson, Carson wasn’t spotted on the field at OTAs and there’s been no update yet on his status. But even if Penny takes off and is able to stay healthy, Walker can fill a role as a change of pace back. Again, there should be ample opportunities in this particular offense, behind an offensive line that could be better than national critics expect.

@TomSlaughter2: Is there really a chance Geno Smith is QB1?

There’s certainly a chance. Speaking of national critics, both Carroll and general manager John Schneider are higher on Lock than outsiders would think. In an ideal world, they can tap into the version of Lock the Broncos saw in late 2019, when he went 4-1 in five starts (to see that version, check out the tape from his Week 13 performance against Houston that saw him throw three touchdowns and complete over 80 percent of his pass attempts). But there’s also a bad version of Lock – the one that saw him throw four interceptions against the Raiders the following year. If Lock can’t meet the challenge, Smith will presumably take over as QB1. Carroll has previously shown a liking for players who are familiar with his system, and Smith has that advantage over Lock.

There’s always the possibility of a wild card; perhaps the Browns cut Baker Mayfield, for instance. But barring that, Seattle certainly appears to be comfortable rolling with Smith in Week 1 if Lock fails to impress.

@awkong90: Would the worst possible outcome for this season be an 8-ish win team? Not bad enough for a high draft pick but not good enough to get into the playoffs.

I can certainly understand this argument. I’d say two things though.

Firstly, I’d like to see Seattle get a shot at one of the draft’s top passers, and that’ll mean having a top five pick. That said, far worse than poor first-round positioning in 2023 would be a total lack of improvement of Seattle’s young players, particularly former high round picks, in 2022. Rebuilding a contender – whether with pick one or pick 17 — suddenly becomes tougher when you don’t have a solid foundation. It’ll be easier to look at No. 12 overall if it means Taylor, Charles Cross, Jamal Adams, Tre Brown, or Jordyn Brooks were named to a Pro Bowl.

Secondly, and this is what makes it easy to stomach that first point: remember that the Seahawks have two first round picks and two second round picks in 2023, which gives them a bit more flexibility should they opt to trade up.

@jawnjang: If Jake Heaps wasn’t a QB, would he have made a better fullback or linebacker?

Jake’s a smart guy, but being a linebacker also requires a kind of grittiness that one notable former linebacker would say quarterbacks lack. So tough break there. Jake doesn’t really have the neckroll collection to be an old school fullback. I’ll say sticking in the pocket is the best move for him… or maybe long snapper.

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