Two games into his NFL career, Seahawks rookie Jarran Reed is making people notice. OK, so he’s making his teammates, coaches and opponents notice. As a run-stuffing defensive tackle, Reed maybe hasn’t caught the eye of casual football fans, because despite being some of the largest players on the field, interior linemen don’t often make attention-grabbing plays. But even if Reed isn’t in the highlight reels, he has unquestionably made an impact on Seattle’s defense since beginning the season as a starter.
“He has been right in the middle of two really good games of playing run defense,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “He has been a positive factor. Making some tackles and holding his own. He’s very disciplined. He’s not inclined to make the kind of first-year player mistakes. He does things right all the time and he’s very physical. He’s done a marvelous job the first two weeks.”
Other than showing a knack for knocking the ball down at the line of scrimmage, giving him two passes defensed, Reed hasn’t filled up the stat sheets, making four tackles in two games, but he has been in the middle—quite literally—of what the Seahawks want to do on defense. A year ago the Seahawks led the NFL in run defense, and veteran Brandon Mebane was a huge part of that stout run defense along with fellow starting defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin, but with Mebane signing with San Diego as a free agent, the Seahawks had a big void to fill on their line.
So when Reed, a key part of Alabama’s National Championship-winning defense, was still around in the second round of this year’s draft, the Seahawks decided to trade up to get him. The Seahawks had traded up just twice in six drafts under Carroll and general manager John Schneider prior to that, so the move showed they were serious about landing Reed, a player on whom they had a first-round grade.
“Jarran was rated very highly in our opinion,” Schneider said after the draft.
And so far, Reed is living up to those high expectations, starting both games and playing 73 of 115 total snaps, the third most among Seattle defensive linemen behind Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril. With Reed and Rubin helping anchor the run defense, the Seahawks are holding their opponents to just 64 rushing yards per game, which ranks third in the NFL, and 2.8 yards per carry, which ranks second, and the Seahawks are No. 1 in total defense and scoring defense. Reed is hardly the only reason the Seahawks are stingy against the run, but he’s certainly a big part of it.
“I guess it’s going good,” Reed said of his rookie season. “I’m just coming in here every day working as hard as I can in the film room and trying to learn from the older guys.”
Reed’s teammates were more willing to heap praise on Reed than he was willing to brag about his own play. In particular, linebackers can appreciate the work being done in the trenches, because it makes it a lot easier for them to make plays.
“J-Reed is good,” said linebacker K.J. Wright, whose ability to collect a team-high 20 tackles is in part dependent on the play of the linemen in front of him. “I knew when we drafted him—because I watched him in college—that he was going to be a good guy for us at nose tackle. Just taking on doubles and playing in the backfield. You saw he got two tipped balls last week I believe. He brings a lot to the table man. I’m really glad he’s on this team. The sky’s the limit for him.”
Added middle linebacker Bobby Wagner: “He’s doing a great job. He really keeps guys off of me and K.J., and we always appreciate that. He’s also getting into the backfield and causing havoc. When pullers come, he’s knocking pullers off, which is what we want to do, it lets us fly around… If (the defensive tackles) aren’t on it, then guards and tackles get to me pretty quick. We appreciate them because they pride themselves in not letting that happen.”
As much as Reed has made an impact with his physical ability, what has also allowed him to thrive early in his rookie season is his understanding of the game. The Seahawks have a mostly-veteran line this year, as they have in the past under Carroll and Schneider, in large part because that particular position group is one of the hardest for a young player to come in and grasp right away while also being able to hold up to the physical rigors of the job. Reed, however, has made the adjustment quickly.
“He’s strong, he knows how to use his hands well, but he’s also got a good understanding of the game for someone his age,” defensive tackle Tony McDaniel said. “Y’all better look out for him, because he’s going to be a problem in the future.”
Rubin, who wasn’t a regular starter until his third season with Cleveland, is also impressed with the rookie starting next to him.
“He seems like he’s lightyears ahead of most rookies who come into the league,” Rubin said. “He’s putting his best foot forward. He’s stout in there, he’s making plays, batting balls down. I like his mentality. When I talk to him, he’s like a real D-lineman. He’s not timid, he’s aggressive, ready to hit stuff. I can only respect that. I love it, and he’ll only get better.
“It’s hard (playing defensive line as a rookie). You’ve got smart quarterbacks who can scheme you up, you’ve got smart O-linemen who can take you out of a game. It’s real physical down there, and the speed of the game can throw you off coming into the league. When I was a rookie, I was kind of blind-sided by it, but he’s taking to it like a fish to water, and I’m glad for that. I’m glad he’s next to me playing.”
Photos from the Seahawks' Friday practice ahead of the team's Week 3 game against the San Francisco 49ers.