Salk: Who are Seahawks’ most welcome breakout candidates?

Aug 13, 2022, 9:22 AM | Updated: 10:45 am
Seahawks Packers Jordyn Brooks Aaron Rodgers...
Seahawks LB Jordyn Brooks awaits a snap to Packers QB Aaron Rodgers on Sunday. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
(Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

One of the most fun parts of any sports season is seeing who the top breakout players are. For the Seahawks in 2022, Mike Salk of Seattle Sports 710 AM’s Mike Salk Show thinks there are five who he really hopes emerge and take the next step forward.

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“Somebody that just sort of breaks out, that does more than they’ve done before and shows that they belong,” he said Thursday.

DE/OLB Darrell Taylor

Salk’s first choice was someone he’s talked about a lot this offseason, and that’s defensive end/outside linebacker Darrell Taylor, Seattle’s second-round pick in 2020 who had 6.5 sacks in 2021 in what was his first NFL season after missing his rookie campaign due to injury.

“Darrell Taylor’s got to be number one, right? Because of just the the pass rush, you started to see glimpses of it last year with the 6.5 sacks,” Salk said. “If Darrell Taylor turns into the perfect version of himself, if he’s double-digit sack guy, you’ve found something, right? I mean, it starts to take care of one of the biggest problems that you’ve had on your team for the last few years.”

Pass rush has been an issue for the Seahawks over the last few years, and Taylor figures to be one of the team’s top sack leaders yet again in 2022.

OT Charles Cross

The Seahawks have a new starting left tackle for the first time since early in 2017 as Duane Brown is gone and Charles Cross, the No. 9 pick in this year’s draft, is in.

“Just because of the size of that position, importance of the position, the resource you spent in trying to get him, and the problems, again, that you’ve had solidifying the offensive line over the years,” Salk said of why he picked Cross. “Left tackle has actually been OK for a while because of Duane Brown, but you let him move on and if left tackle is not good, you’re up the creek.”

CB Tariq Woolen

Another rookie Salk is keeping a close eye on is at cornerback.

No, it’s not Cincinnati product Coby Bryant, who won the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s top defensive back in 2021. No, it was fifth-round pick Tariq Woolen, a former college receiver who Salk described as being “the talk of camp.”

“He’s killing it out there,” Salk said. ” … He seems like a pretty smart kid who understands the game and is making that transition from wide receiver to corner that Richard Sherman made. He’s tall, he’s lean, he’s fast as hell, and we’re gonna get a chance to watch him on Saturday.”

Sherman, a future Hall of Famer who was a star for the Seahawks in the 2010s, also started his college career at receiver before transitioning to cornerback. Both are tall and long and in Woolen’s case, he has blistering speed, running the 40-yard dash in 4.26 seconds at this year’s NFL Scouting Combine.

“And by the way, if he’s everything that he could be, if he’s the breakout — I mean, he’s a freak show athletically — you found something in the later rounds that could be your next Richard Sherman,” Salk said. “So yeah, I’m not saying he is that, I’m saying if he breaks out and if that’s the capability, if he reaches it, that is enormous.”

LG Damien Lewis

The Seahawks’ 2020 draft class was hit and miss early on with Jordyn Brooks — more on him later — not playing much in 2020 and Taylor missing the entire season, but it looked like Seattle struck gold with guard Damien Lewis, who started every game that year and played all but one contest at right guard.

But 2021 saw Lewis move to left guard as the Seahawks acquired veteran right guard Gabe Jackson, and Lewis missed four games due to injury and wasn’t quite as effective as his rookie campaign.

“If Damien Lewis were to break out and expand on the promise he showed as a rookie … their guards really haven’t been that good,” Salk said. “That’s been probably more the problem than tackle. Their left tackle position has been OK. The problem is they just get manhandled the front in the middle. And it looked like he was going to progress and instead he regressed last year. So if Damien Lewis were to break out, that would be just pretty amazing.”

LB Jordyn Brooks

Brooks played a lot in 2021 at outside linebacker with K.J. Wright signing with Las Vegas, and the Texas Tech product played in every game for the Seahawks and set a franchise record with 184 tackles.

The young linebacker will have a new role for the Seahawks this season as not only are they shifting to a 3-4 defense, but Bobby Wagner is gone, so Brooks will play inside linebacker and have the “green dot,” meaning he’ll get play calls from the sidelines and relay that to his teammates on the field.

“Jordyn Brooks would be probably my last one that I wanted to mention, just because of trying to replace Bobby,” Salk said. “What you had in the middle of that defense, just how solid it’s been and what you knew you could count on, it’s a risk I think they needed to take (moving on from Wagner). I have no issues with them doing it. It’s what I thought they should do. But now you’ve got to find a way to replace him and Jordyn Brooks needs to rise up into the moment rather than shrink away from it.”

Listen to the full first hour of Thursday’s Mike Salk Show at this link or in the player below.

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