Wyman: Pressure is on for Seahawks’ 2018 and 2019 defensive draft picks

Apr 29, 2020, 3:43 PM
Seahawks Shaquem Griffin...
Shaquem Griffin and other young Seahawks must step up on defense in 2020. (Getty)

When talking about the Seahawks, the focus is currently on the 2020 draft class, which brought eight selections to the team. But should there be more focus on the previous two draft classes?

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During Seattle’s run of dominance in the early- and mid-2010s, which included a Super Bowl title, young players were the key to the team’s success. Head coach Pete Carroll, in his Flying Coach Podcast with Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr, talked about the young team’s makeup during that time.

“The first couple years, we drafted and found some guys in free agency that you could just tell they were the core guys of our program and that we were going to build the team around them,” he said. “And we did, and we fortunately had a real collection of great, competitive guys and really, everyone had a chip on their shoulder and everybody had something to prove and they couldn’t wait to do it on a regular daily basis.”

Dave Wyman, a former NFL linebacker who is a host on 710 ESPN Seattle’s Bob, Dave and Moore, provided some exampled to back up what Carroll said.

“You go back to 2012 and we didn’t know much about Kam Chancellor. We knew Earl as a first-rounder, but we didn’t know much about Richard Sherman,” Wyman said.

2012 was when the Seahawks started that tremendous run, earning a wild card berth and winning a playoff game. Thomas and Chancellor were in their third seasons, Sherman and K.J. Wright were in their second, and Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner were rookies. The next season, they won the Super Bowl.

Wyman said that the players from the last two drafts are going to need to step forward this season, like those guys did in 2012 and 2013, if the Seahawks want to build off their 11-5 record in 2019.

“Those are the kind of players those guys are going to have to be if they want to make it back to the playoffs,” he said. “They did it last year … They were able to do it on offense and they did just enough on defense. But this is a defensive team, a run the ball team, so on defense, that’s where I’m afraid.”

The Seahawks’ defense was one of the worst in the NFL last year against the run and pass and struggled to pressure opposing quarterbacks.

After cutting starting right guard D.J. Fluker and center Justin Britt this week, the team added over $12 million to their salary cap. Because of this, some expect Seattle to make a move on defense, potentially adding a pass rusher like Jadeveon Clowney who played for the Seahawks last year and who general manager John Schneider said the team could still bring back. Wyman thinks the roster is essentially set.

“We’re talking about the salary cap and who are they going to go get. I don’t think there’s that much (space) left,” he said. “When you start budgeting out (incentives, roster bonuses, signing draft picks, signing undrafted rookies, injury reserve payments, practice squad players and other payments) it takes away from that pool and I think we’re almost there, so where do you turn?”

Where you turn, he said, is your recent draft picks.

In the secondary, there’s some question marks with the younger players. Shaquill Griffin, who is entering his fourth season, is expected to keep his starting spot as an outside cornerback after a Pro Bowl year in 2019, but Tre Flowers, who has started opposite Griffin the last two seasons, could be out of a spot after the Seahawks traded for Quinton Dunbar.

If Dunbar wins the outside cornerback spot, Flowers could then compete with 2019 cornerback Ugo Amadi for the starting nickel corner spot.

At safety, the Seahawks spent a second-round pick on Marquise Blair in 2019, but he didn’t see the field much until Tedric Thompson got injured. Later in the year, the team acquired Quandre Diggs and Blair’s snaps came mostly on special teams.

Cody Barton, a 2019 third-round pick, was expected to start in 2020, but after the Seahawks spent a first-round pick on linebacker Jordyn Brooks, that’s less clear.

And at defensive line, the team’s biggest question mark going into 2020, 2018 third-rounder Rasheem Green, 2018 fifth-rounder Shaquem Griffin and 2019 first-rounder L.J. Collier will all need to step up in a big way.

“You need (a handful of sacks) from L.J. Collier. You need Rasheem Green to get 6 or 7 or 8 (sacks). These guys from the last two drafts, especially on defense, are huge for this team’s success,” Wyman said.

With Griffin, he started his professional career at outside linebacker and as a core special teams player. It wasn’t until the second half of 2019 that Seattle used him to rush the quarterback, which he did a lot while in college at Central Florida.

“I’m hoping, right from the beginning, that they put him down with the defensive ends. He’s a pass rusher and that’s it,” Wyman said. “…This is, to me, his last chance. I thought he was sort of on the border when they kept him last year, but he needs to contribute. And same thing with all of these guys. They need to take that next step. I like both of these drafts – especially the 2018 draft … It’s time for these guys to be what Sherman was and what Kam was to this team back in 2012 and 2013.”

Listen to the full discussion at this link or in the player below at the 26:30 mark.

710 ESPN Seattle’s Dave Wyman is not on Twitter.

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Wyman: Pressure is on for Seahawks’ 2018 and 2019 defensive draft picks