O’Neil: Seahawks running out of time to boost pass rush after Brooks pick
We’re used to being surprised by the specific player the Seahawks choose in the first round. They have a habit of picking guys that no one expected whether it was James Carpenter in 2011, Bruce Irvin in 2012 or Rashaad Penny two years ago.
This time, it was the position that was most surprising.
Yup. A linebacker, and the selection of Texas Tech’s Jordyn Brooks caused quite a stir, and not just because of the usual second-guessing from know-it-alls who insisted Brooks wasn’t even the best linebacker available. First of all, linebacker was the least urgent of Seattle’s needs on what was a decidedly below-average defense last season. Secondly, the Seahawks already have a guy in Bobby Wagner who is playing the most valuable position among the linebackers and being very well compensated to do so.
So what gives?
“We’re in this draft to try to take guys that can impact us because they’re special players,” coach Pete Carroll said after the draft. “Not necessarily just to fill a need and try and hit a need.”
Except the Seahawks do have a need. It’s pass rush, and while they might be right that pick No. 27 wasn’t the right place to address that need, Seattle is running out of chances for offseason improvement.
Yes, they added Bruce Irvin, who was productive in Carolina last season. They also picked up Benson Mayowa, who’s coming off a season with a career-high 7 sacks. But Jadeveon Clowney has shown absolutely no inclination to accept the offer Seattle made, the Seahawks have shown no inclination to improve that offer and now they’ve used their single most valuable offseason resource to choose the best player available when it couldn’t find a trade partner to move back. That’s not a criticism of Brooks as a player. At all. It’s a recognition that Seattle is (quickly) running out of avenues it can use to find additional horsepower for the pass rush.
Are the Seahawks going to wait until August and hope that Jacksonville’s Yannick Ngakoue becomes available much like Clowney did a year ago? Would Baltimore’s Matthew Judon be an option? Maybe there’s a couple of pass rushers they’re eyeing today in the second and third rounds of the draft.
For now, they’ve got a guy they believe will be a key piece of counterprogramming to division rivals like the 49ers and the Rams, who’ve exposed Seattle’s lack of speed on defense, not to mention Arizona and quarterback Kyler Murray. Just how Brooks will do that and how soon remains to be seen.
“Where you play him and all that, just in general when you look at our division, we’ll figure it out,” general manager John Schneider said. “That’s not really for today. The guy can fly and he’s a run-and-hit guy. He’s actually a really good rusher with the inside stuff, the A-gap, too. He’s just a very disruptive football player.”
In other words, this was a long-term investment, which is fine, but it doesn’t address the short-term needs. And while teams are right to be leery of forcing draft picks to address needs, that doesn’t change the fact that there is an easily recognizable deficiency on this defense that is only becoming more concerning as Seattle runs out of time, but more importantly resources, to throw at it.
Brooks may indeed have been the best player who was available when it came Seattle’s turn to pick, but that fact doesn’t change the reality that the Seahawks may not get a better opportunity to shore up its most notable weakness.