The NFL Draft wrapped up last week with the Seahawks adding eight players, which means now is a pretty good time to dive into the mailbag to answer questions from you, the fans. As always, thanks to everyone who asked questions this week, and apologies if I couldn't get to yours this time around.
Nils Stadtlander from Germany asks why the Seahawks took linebacker Jordyn Brooks in the first round "over bigger needs like defensive end, defensive tackle or offensive line?"
A: In short, they took Brooks over those position groups because he was the player they liked best when Pick No. 27 came around. There is always some element of need factored into draft decisions, but as Seahawks general manager John Schneider has noted on a few occasions over the years, where the Seahawks or any other team can get into trouble when it comes to making bad draft decisions is when they move a player too high up their draft board due to need.
And while I get the notion that Brooks doesn't fit an obvious need because he played middle linebacker last year—if you hadn't heard, the Seahawks have a pretty decent middle linebacker—it's worth noting that Brooks only finished his Texas Tech career at middle linebacker, and played other spots prior to that, and it was clear hearing Seahawks coach Pete Carroll talk about Brooks that they plan to find ways to use him (more on this in the next question).
When Carroll and Schneider have been asked about the 2019 season and what they want to see the team do better, they have both mentioned improving the defense, and while the pass-rush is a part of that, it wasn't the only culprit. So if a fast, physical linebacker like Brooks can make the Seahawks better against the run, use his speed to keep teams from beating the Seahawks on the perimeter—something that was an issue last year—and maybe add a few sacks on blitzes, well then he does fit a need after all.
Speaking of Brooks…
@tompage asks, "Might we see K.J. Wright go back to strongside linebacker so Jordyn Brooks can play weakside?"
A: Schneider hinted at this possibility on Sports Radio 950 KJR on Thursday, so it's an option, though Wright, who has played all three linebacker spots in his Seahawks career, has said he prefers weakside linebacker, and he's coming off of a very productive season playing that spot. The Seahawks liked Mychal Kendricks at the strongside spot last season when all three linebackers were on the field, and Carroll did mention last week that Brooks is similar to Kendricks, who is currently a free agent, from a physical standpoint. So while anything can happen, the most likely scenario could be one where Brooks comes in and competes with Cody Barton and perhaps Bruce Irvin—it remains to see how much the Seahawks plan to use him at linebacker vs. defensive end—for the strongside spot. But again, anything is possible there.
The Seahawks don't know yet exactly how Brooks will fit in because he has yet to have a single practice with the team, but it's clear they're excited about what their first-round pick can bring to the defense.
"We just found a guy that could check all of the boxes," Carroll said. "We love his attitude, like John said, it's just his mentality. He's just really on it. His versatility—his first couple of years he played outside and in space. This past year, they changed schemes and he was really in a position where he was a lot of the time responsible for the quarterback and would chase the quarterback and spy him. He was up in the line of scrimmage and pressuring so we've seen him do a variety of things that give him the scope of ability to play inside or outside for us.
"We've got good players inside that we love. We've got Bobby and K.J. and we love what they've done. We'll give this guy a chance to see where he can fit in. We'll work the competition so that we can uncover exactly what's best. We really think that he's got a chance to be fighting for playing time right away. Cody Barton did a great job for us last year, so it'll be a very competitive situation, just like we like. Jordyn is all about competition, he's got a great head on his shoulders. I really like that he has a lot of respect for Bobby and K.J. He knows of them and he's followed them and he's looked up to those guys. The first call I got was from Bobby, he wanted his (contact) information so he could get to him right away. We always need to get faster and get tougher on defense, no matter what spot we're talking about, and Jordyn fit that perfectly. We're really excited to add him to our defense."
@Mirverson asks, "What's the word on L.J. Collier?"
A: Collier's name has come up, often unsolicited, when Carroll and Schneider have been asked about the pass rush in 2020, so it's clear they have high hopes that the 2019 first-rounder will step into a bigger role this year. The ankle injury that caused Collier to miss training camp and the preseason obviously set him back during his rookie season and he never was able to break into the rotation with a big role, but he'll have every chance this year to earn a much bigger role—Carroll mentioned him as a five-technique defensive end who could rush from inside on passing downs. And with Quinton Jefferson, who held a similar role last year, moving on in free agency and Jadeveon Clowney's future still unknown, having Collier step up would be big for Seattle's defense.
@steveo6924 asks how the Seahawks' pass rush would rank if they started the season with the group currently on the roster?"
A: I'm not familiar enough with the comings and goings of other teams to rank the Seahawks, but it's no secret that they need to get better when it comes to pass rush after producing only 28 sacks last year, tied for the second fewest in the NFL. So have the Seahawks done that? On one hand, they've added four players they expect to add to that group, signing Benson Mayowa and Bruce Irvin in free agency and drafting Darrell Taylor and Alton Robison in the second and fifth rounds, respectively, but on the other hand, Jefferson left in free agency, and of course there's the unknown of Jadeveon Clowney.
If the Seahawks can't re-sign Clowney, I still suspect they'll try to add someone else to that group, be it a veteran signing or even a trade before the start of the season, but even as things stand now, the Seahawks look like they've made that group better, not just because of who they signed, but because, collectively, that foursome, along with a hopefully-improved Collier and a year-more-experienced Rasheem Green, can make for a deeper pass-rush group. Seattle's best defensive teams have had deep defensive line rotations that keep players fresh, so even if none of the player mentioned above put up 10-plus sacks next year, they could collectively cause the sack total to jump quite a bit. Take, for example, the 2013 defense that was the best and deepest of the Carroll/Schneider era. Nobody on that team had more than 8.5 sacks (Michael Bennett), but that line still had the most sacks of any Seahawks team in the last decade because a ton of people were chipping in with Cliff Avril adding 8 sacks, Clinton McDonald adding 5.5, Bobby Wagner contributing 5, Chris Clemons adding 4.5 and so on. And look, I'm not saying the 2020 defense or defensive line will compare to the 2013 one—that's a pretty unfair standard to compare any team to in April—but it's just a good example that depth can be more effective than one or two dominant players.
"What happens in the third down situations, when we move guys around some, you'll see Rasheem and L.J. will work inside, along with (Jarran) Reed. we think we have a nice mix in that regard. Those guys are developing pass rushers, and they're learning their way, and both have a lot of ability and a lot of upside to them. So, we can have some real fresh players coming in, with rotation. We have enough depth right now, to move it around. But you have to look at the guys that play the 5-technique for us, the defensive ends, they are also considered inside rushers for us. We'll have at least four guys to move in and out of there to keep a rotation going. We'll see how we do. It's important that J-Reed comes back to the kind of production he had a couple years ago. If he can have any type of production close to that, with what we're doing outside, it's going to be a nice mix. We should be really better than we've been. We're real positive about that. That doesn't mean we're done working, either. John's going to keep going, keep digging around and see if there's a guy that might spark us in there, like we always do. Pretty fired up about it, really. We're really pleased with what we've done.
"If you look at all the four guys that we've added that rush the passer (Mayowa, Irvin, Taylor and Robinson), I think that's about eight or nine sacks apiece (in 2019). So, if you put them all together, that would be great. If those guys can come up and create something like 36-40 sacks combined, shoot, we'll really have hit the mark."
Joseph Chappell from Macon, Georgia asks, "When are we going to get a defensive back to lock down opposing wide outs. I love the picks, but where's the DB?"
A: No, the Seahawks did not draft any defensive backs, but they have added to that group this offseason, most notably by acquiring Quinton Dunbar in a trade with Washington. Dunbar battled injuries last year, but in the 11 games he started, he had four interceptions and was one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus.
Shaquill Griffin is coming off of his first Pro-Bowl season, so the Seahawks feel pretty good about him heading into 2020, Dunbar's addition likely will mean one of two things, either he steps into a starting role and upgrades the secondary, or his presence, plus a year of experience and maturity, leads to Tre Flowers taking a leap to the point he keeps his job, in which case Seattle's defense benefits that way. Carroll noted that Dunbar has experience playing inside and out, so it's possible we could see all three on the field at times.
As for safety, we all saw how much of a difference Quandre Diggs made when he came in last year, and he should be even better with the benefit of more time in Seattle's defense, and Bradley McDougald remains one of Seattle's most consistent defensive players. Marquise Blair showed flashes last year and could work his way into a bigger role as well, so while there weren't any additions there in the draft, I like the potential of that position group quite a bit.
@kmasterman asks, "Do your kids want to kidnap Charlie yet?"
A: For those who missed it, Charlie is the Schneider family pet who was a frequent presence in John Schneider's at-home draft room over the weekend, and who is also a very good boy. And no, my kids have no plans to try to kidnap Charlie that I know of—but they've also had a lot of free time to plot on their own with my wife and I both trying to work so who knows. And when Schneider briefly put Charlie on a zoom call with the media, my 2-year-old was very excited when I told her there was a doggy on my computer, then very sad when he went away, asking over and over, "Where'd the doggy go? Where'd the doggy go?"
And in related and very important dog news, Charlie is now on Instagram.
Tom Rice from Eureka, Montana asks, "What's going on with Jadeveon Clowney?" @Kbottom2 also asks about Clowney.
A: The short answer is, not a lot at the moment. As Schneider said on 710 ESPN Seattle Thursday morning, "we gave that a go several times. He's in a position where he wasn't ready to make a decision, but that's fine," implying that offers have been made, but Clowney hasn't decided to accept anything yet, which of course is his choice. The COVID-19 crisis has kept Clowney from being able to visit with other teams, so perhaps he's going to wait a while to see if travel restrictions are lifted, allowing him to visit other teams. So while Carroll and Schneider have said the door is still open and they'd love to bring Clowney back, they've also had to move forward and make other moves to bolster that position if he doesn't come back, hence the signings of Irvin and Mayowa.
@se7en_k43 asks, "How are the Seahawks going to keep Russell Wilson upright?"
A: Hopefully by blocking well.
Oh, you wanted a better answer than that? OK, well since you bring up this topic, let's look at what the Seahawks have done with their offensive line, a position group that will look quite a bit different in 2020. Left tackle Duane Brown and left guard Mike Iupati are back, but the Seahawks released center Justin Britt and right guard D.J. Fluker earlier this week, and right tackle Germain Ifedi signed with the Chicago Bears in free agency. The Seahawks have added a lot of players to that group, including third-round pick Damien Lewis, who will compete to replace Fluker, and free agent additions center/guard B.J. Finney, guard Chance Warmack, tackle Brandon Shell and tackle Cedric Ogbuehi. There are also several young returning players who will compete for roles along with the players mentioned above, including 2019 fourth-round pick Phil Haynes, who should be in the competition for a starting spot at guard.
How that all shakes out remains to be seen, obviously, but it's not by accident that Schneider has specifically mentioned protecting Wilson when asked about adding multiple linemen this offseason.
"We love our quarterback," Schneider said prior to the draft. "We want to have as many grown men in front of him as we possibly can." Schneider even referenced protecting Wilson when he called LSU guard Damien Lewis to tell him the Seahawks were about to draft him. So while the Seahawks will always want physical, tough linemen who can run block, it's clear that pass protection has been a priority this offseason as well.
And finally, it's always worth noting when talking Wilson and pass protection that his sack totals don't always reflect the quality of pass protection. While the goal of the line is to keep its quarterback clean at all times, Wilson's ability to scramble and prolong plays also leads to him holding the ball a lot longer than a traditional pocket passer usually would. The payoff can be massive, which is why the Seahawks are happy to let Wilson improvise, but the tradeoff at times can be Wilson taking a sack when he might have been able to throw the ball away earlier in the play. Again, all the huge plays make that risk worthwhile, but there are going to be some extra sacks over the course of the season that come with those spectacular plays.