‘Disrespected’ L.J. Collier ready for redemption in 2020 with Seahawks
While the Seahawks benefited from great play from 2019 second-round pick DK Metcalf and contributions on from fellow rookies Cody Barton, Marquise Blair and Ugo Amadi, the team’s first-round pick, defensive end L.J. Collier, had a 2019 season to forget.
The 29th overall selection in the 2019 NFL Draft out of TCU, Collier was taken in large part because the team’s defensive end depth was poor, especially on the heels of a trade that sent Frank Clark to the Chiefs for a first-round pick in 2019 and second-round pick in 2020 (that 2019 pick was used on Collier).
The Seahawks’ defensive line was an area of weakness in 2019, which made it all more disappointing that Collier was such a non-factor. He played just over 100 snaps, registering three tackles and no sacks, and he was a healthy scratch a number of times even while fellow defensive ends Jadeveon Clowney and Ziggy Ansah played through serious injuries.
Some seem to have already written off the young defensive end. He told reporters Friday morning that that would be a mistake.
“I am chomping at the bit to get out there because it’s one of those things where you didn’t have the year everybody wanted you to get, so they just kind of shift you off to the side as if you can’t play,” Collier said in a video press conference. “It’s disrespectful and I feel very disrespected, but I’m the type of person there’s no need for talking, just showing.”
Collier says that if he’s able to “run through a couple people,” he’ll make enough noise to be remembered.
Part of the reason that Collier’s season went south in a hurry was that he suffered an ankle injury during training camp. He missed all practices from then on until the week leading up to his debut in Week 2 against the Pittsburgh Steelers, and he told reporters that he “definitely wasn’t 100%” during 2019 and probably should have waited to return to action. By the time Collier appeared on the field, he was well behind other players, including fellow rookies.
“I just realized that missing those reps and things was a big thing, especially when you’re new to the league,” he said, “so I needed preseason to knock off the rust and things like that. I came in against the Steelers and hadn’t practiced anything in a very long time, no pad work. So I was a step behind everybody and when I did catch a stride, there was times where I didn’t play and things like that.”
And while the year didn’t go as he or the Seahawks had planned, Collier said he had a lot of takeaways.
“It was very difficult but I learned a lot last year about myself and about the league and I had great guys around me, great coaches,” he said. “… Last year taught me to always stay humble. I’ve been down before. I was down in college before. It’s what you do when you’re down. I can choose to stay down or I can choose to come out of this and do what I know how to do and that’s be great.”
Now, Collier says he’s ready to get on the field and show he’s a great football player. He also said the label of being a first-round pick isn’t an issue.
“I don’t really care about the first-round pick stuff,” he said. “I’m a football player at the end of the day and I can play football at a high level just like everybody else can, and I’m out there to prove that, that I’m one of the best and I can do what I need to do. I can rush the passer, I can stop the run. I’m out there to prove that, that I’m one hell of a football player and I’m going to show that this year.”
And when we see Collier on the field, you can expect to see him both at defensive end as well as inside as a defensive tackle on passing situations, which is what Michael Bennett used to do during his Seattle tenure.
“That’s what they told me they were going to draft me for, to bring that Michael Bennett presence,” Collier said. “He did some inside and out (reps) and I’m excited for it. I’m an athletic guy and I know I can go inside with my quickness and strength, so I’m excited for it. Whatever I can do to get on the field, I’m not worried about it.”
You can listen to Collier’s full interview on the Seahawks’ official YouTube page here.