Jordyn Brooks, Boye Mafe emerging as keys to Seahawks’ defense

Oct 30, 2023, 12:13 AM | Updated: 12:16 am

Seattle Seahawks Boye Mafe...

Boye Mafe of the Seattle Seahawks tackles PJ Walker of the Cleveland Browns on Oct. 29, 2023. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

It wasn’t the prettiest performance from the Seattle Seahawks’ defense on Sunday, but they did their part in a 24-20 win over the Cleveland Browns, forcing three turnovers and picking up three sacks.

Recap: Seattle Seahawks win | Big Plays Instant Reaction | Stats | Standings

That side of the ball has been very solid over the last weeks, allowing point totals of 3, 17, 20 and 20 during that span.

A lot of attention has been given to the back end of the defense, with rookie cornerback Devon Witherspoon shining and the returning Jamal Adams making a noticeable impact, including forcing a key interception late in the fourth quarter against Cleveland.

But rather quietly, two front-seven defenders have been huge during the start of this season: inside linebacker Jordyn Brooks and edge rusher Boye Mafe.

What They Said: Seahawks on late pick, last-minute win over Browns

Those two both had big games on Sunday, with Brooks recording 10 tackles and a sack that resulted in a fumble.

“He’s on it. He’s on his game,” Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said of Brooks’ play. “He’s just playing great physical football. He’s a fantastic linebacker … We keep trying to put him in places that just accentuate he’s that kind of a factor. He’s doing great.”

Mafe recovered Brooks’ forced fumble and had eight tackles, four quarterback hits and a sack of his own. That sack not only was Mafe’s fifth of the year, but it marked his fifth game in a row with a sack.

“He just continues to play really solid, consistent football,” Carroll said of Mafe. “He’s been kind of doing it here for a month now and it’s great to see. We’re really relying on him and he came through again.”

Brooks, a first-round pick in 2020, is in his fourth NFL season. He’s second on the Seahawks in tackles, and his 3.5 sacks trail only Mafe and Jarran Reed for the team lead.

What makes Brooks’ play this year even more impressive is he tore his ACL late last season in a Jan. 1 game and it was unclear if he’d be ready for the beginning of this season. He’s started every game and been a force in the middle of Seattle’s defense.

“It feels good. It feels really good,” Brooks said. “… Just playing with these guys, I’ve been having a blast. Seriously. I’m just thankful and appreciative of where we’re at and I’m at right now.”

Brooks is just as happy to see what Mafe has turned into this year.

“He’s been growing up. He’s been taking a big step from where he was last year, so it’s pretty cool to see his growth and just the player that we all know that he is,” he said.

Mafe was one of two second-round picks the Seahawks had in the 2022 NFL Draft, and after serving as a rotational piece last year while recording three sacks, he’s been one of the team’s go-to players on the edge both against the run and the pass in 2023. His five sacks pace the Seahawks, and he’s been a fixture in opposing teams’ backfields.

Mafe shared why things are really clicking for him this year.

“Honestly just figuring out what my game is right now. Understanding every situation, every position you go against,” he said. “… Just preparing myself, really knowing that in the league now, knowing what’s going to happen and the biggest thing is understanding that what I have done is one thing, but I have to prepare to continue and try and maintain this drive that I have right now.”

Things are definitely slowing down for the University of Minnesota product, as well.

“When you can see things, football is one of those things where it’s art. There are certain movements and certain things that you know have to happen in a play, and when you see it, you kind of can see the play unfold before it happens,” he said.

Mafe was already starting to emerge as a top Seahawks defender before Uchenna Nwosu suffered a season-ending pectoral injury in Week 7, but he knows he and the team’s other edge rushers need to step up now with Nwosu out. Nwosu was tied for the team lead in sacks last year with 9.5 and also plays the run very well.

“We definitely have to. He was a big part of our defense. There’s a reason that he was that guy for us,” Mafe said. “… Just being out there with him was easy, and now we just have to find a way to step up as a whole group and figure out how we’re going to adjust our roles and make sure that we can be those players.”

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