‘Speed is everything’: Boye Mafe talks Year 2 with Seahawks

Jun 9, 2023, 9:53 AM

Seahawks Boye Mafe...

Seahawks rookie pass rusher Boye Mafe prepares for a snap against the Bears on Aug. 18. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The Seattle Seahawks wrapped up a three-day minicamp Thursday. At least the part that was open to media; the team will hit the field next week for a focus on passing.

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There are plenty of early takeaways and some important information from a Pete Carroll press conference yesterday (more on that here), but today’s notebook focuses on lessons learned by a young player.

Second-year pass rusher Boye Mafe sat down with Bump and Stacy after practice on Day 3 to talk about Year 2 in the NFL.

The pressure’s already on to improve – not necessarily for Mafe, a former second-round pick still working his way into the rotation, but for Clint Hurtt’s defense as a whole. Seattle’s defense has hovered in the bottom half of the league in far too many areas for far too long –  long before Hurtt took over –  but excuses are running out and tempting opportunities are mounting. Geno Smith’s surprise Pro Bowl season in 2022 brought with it two 1,000-yard receivers, a 1,000-yard rusher, and higher expectations for the offense. It was fair to wonder throughout the season how far the team could go with an improved defense. That thought is ever present already this offseason thanks to a weakened NFC.

Early efforts to improve the group are promising, even with injures to two key starters: they added ex-Bronco Dre Jones and brought back Jarran Reed to bolster the defensive line, signed Julian Love – an underrated performer – to add depth at safety, drafted the top corner in the class at No. 5 overall, and brought back future Hall of Famer Bobby Wagner – who excelled against the run in LA – to return as starting middle linebacker in the absence of Jordyn Brooks (talk about a comfortable back-up plan).

Key to growth will also be a group of pass rushers that include Mafe, who last year registered three sacks. The former Golden Gopher isn’t going to carry the load – that’ll likely go to Darrell Taylor and Uchenna Nwosu – but does have a chance to contribute to a rotation that’ll need to improve. The group last year ranked eighth in sacks, but that’s an accomplishment that needs a bit of a disclaimer, since they were bottom third of the league in pass-rush win rate, and as a whole the team ranked 22nd in defensive DVOA. The goal in 2023? Stop the run, of course, but also get to the passer more consistently – not just in bunches.

Mafe said the game has already slowed, but he’s focused on become speedier this offseason.

“Speed is everything,” Mafe said. “No matter what it is, but especially in this sport, you’ve got to be moving faster if you can. So, I definitely trained on speed, flexibility… changing my routine a little bit, adding certain things here and there.”

Mafe said the group of the Seattle Seahawks’ pass rushers as a whole feel closer, including with the defensive line.

“A group I feel like we’re actually a lot closer. It’s becoming a real room right now and it’s been really good. Even the D-line, the communication level is like we’re talking to each other about everything. If something happens at practice we handle it right then and there. So, it’s been really good. J-Reed coming back has been really nice; learning and playing with him, it’s a different game, and I’ve been really enjoying it.”

Mafe is only in his second season, but those first-year lessons are valuable for younger players, and he’s been sharing that information with rookie Derick Hall.

“There’s a lot of ways you can go as a rookie coming in so I’ve been trying to hold on and tell him to slow down things. It’s a whirlwind and I know he’s going through it right now. But anything he needs help with, just being there (and trying to be) a person he can lean on and talk with.”

Mafe, Hall, and the rest of the edge rushers are learning one important lesson so far about decision-making.

“A big thing for us right now is learning when we can take our shots,” Mafe said. “Learning situations, what’s going on on the field and when it would be the appropriate time. You can’t do it all the time just doing whatever you want. But at the same time, just taking those chances, understanding ‘this is a proper time to take my shot.'”

Video: Get to know Seattle Seahawks 2nd-round pick Derick Hall

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