On the day the Seahawks selected Jarran Reed with a second-round pick in the 2016 draft, Jim Nagy, then Seattle’s Southeast area scout, called the defensive tackle out of Alabama “the best run stuffer I’ve seen in a long time.”
And for his first two seasons in the NFL, Reed played the role of run-stuffer very well for the Seahawks, including as a full-time starter last year. But Nagy, who now serves as the executive director of the Reese’s Senior Bowl, also said back in the spring of 2016 that despite not being a pass-rusher in college, he showed in pre-draft workouts and at the Senior Bowl that he might be able to get to the quarterback at the next level.
“You saw more (pass-rush) in the postseason,” Nagy said. “That’s when you really started to get excited about the pass-rush stuff. Like at the Senior Bowl and in the workouts, you just saw the athlete. The way (Alabama) play their front there, they didn’t ask him to get up field, so the sack numbers don’t jump off the page, but what you did see on the tape was his ability to push the pocket and get pressure that way… Just his bend, his agility, the lean he showed in drills, and then at the Senior Bowl was pretty cool stuff.”
Two and a half years later, those words seem prescient, as Reed has developed not just into serviceable pass-rusher in his third season, but into one of the most productive interior rushers in the league. With the Seahawks trading Michael Bennett in the offseason and with Cliff Avril unable to play due to a neck injury, a big question heading into the season was one of where Seattle’s pass rush would come from. Frank Clark has led the way, as expected, with 10.0 sacks, but somewhat surprising has been Reed turning into Seattle’s next-most disruptive pass-rusher. Through 12 games, Reed, who had 3.0 sacks in 30 games over the past two seasons, ranks second on the team with 6.5 sacks, and his 17 quarterback hits are not only a team-high, that total is tied for 11th most in the NFL on a list dominated by some of the league’s best-known pass rushers.
“He was a real dedicated run defender coming out (of college),” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “We did not see him specialize in rushing the passer. His numbers weren’t great and the first couple of years, his numbers weren’t great either. He’s just emerged through his focus and dedication and hard work. He’s become a complete player.”
For Reed, becoming a more complete defensive lineman was “a major emphasis” in the offseason. Reed wanted to “get better at my all-around game, to be more reliable, to be on the field more for the team.”
Reed went about becoming a more complete player in a rather old-school way that fits with his laid-back demeanor. Rather than spend a bunch of money on high-tech workouts at state-of-the-art facilities, he spent his offseason in Atlanta working out on whatever type of field he could find, or at a public gym, his only “splurge” was working with a trainer who was his high school coach.
“I don’t go to fancy things other people go spend all that money for; I don’t do that,” he said. “I just use what the earth has. If there some grass to run on, I can run on that, some sand to run in, I can run in that. I lift a regular gym, for real… It don’t take no money.”
Through those offseason workouts, and by working with defensive line coach Clint Hurtt this season, Reed worked on his “get-off, leverage, using my hands, using different types of moves. It was really just understanding pass-rushing.”
And Reed has accomplished that goal of becoming a better all-around player, doing so to the point that linebacker K.J. Wright earlier this season said, “He’s probably the best three-technique guy I’ve probably had in my whole career.” Reed has not only been better on the field this season, he has done so while also taking on a bigger leadership role following the departure of several defensive veterans in the offseason.
“He has been getting after it,” linebacker Bobby Wagner said. “He has been amazing in the run game. The thing that I’m impressed with the most is his growth, leadership-wise. He has been very vocal, especially up front. He takes a lot of pride and accountability in not just understanding his job, but understanding what the offense is trying to do. He tries to call out the plays—it kind of reminds me of how (Brandon) Mebane was when he was here. Just the way he has been playing, you watch him work on his pass-rush moves every single game, and you see the production growth, you see the leadership growth. He has just been really, really good for us.”
And despite becoming a very good pass-rusher, Reed is more than happy to do the dirty work that comes with being a defensive tackle, be it taking on double teams or stopping a blocker trying to get to the second level to disrupt Seattle’s linebackers.
“As a linebacker you always love a guy who takes pride in making sur nobody touches you, and he’s definitely one of those guys,” Wagner said. “So for me, him being on the team is super important, because he keeps me clean. All of the guys keep me clean, but J-Reed is the guy who most of the time I’m right behind. He keeps me clean, and if you try to come and get me, then he makes the play in the backfield, and if you stay on him, then I make the play. We play off each other, and it’s always great to have a guy who takes pride in making sure the linebackers don’t get touched.”
Practice photos from the Seahawks' Thursday workout at Virginia Mason Athletic Center ahead of Monday's game against the Minnesota Vikings.