Overview: Rookie Lawrence Jackson started ahead of Tapp until week 7. Tapp didn't win the job; Jackson lost it. On a depleted defensive end rotation, Tapp made up for missed time, recording 5.5 sacks in those eleven starts and ending the season as Seattle's most active end, playing nearly two-thirds of all defensive snaps.
What Went Wrong: Jackson starting ahead of Tapp. Jackson didn't so much earn the spot as be appointed. A pass rush is hugely dependent on the front four. Seattle rushes just four on about two-third of all plays, and even when a blitzer or three is added, the thrust of the rush comes from the defensive line. Swapping Jackson for Tapp weakened the entire pass rush, from allowing easy double teams on Kerney, to allowing guards and centers to peel off and pick up free blitzers or apply a double team.
What Went Right: Tapp is solid exactly as he is. He's consistently disruptive, able to beat about any type of tackle, and not so bad in run support as to be a liability. Tapp has a great first step, good dip, good inside move, good rip and a capable bull rush, plus the kind of suddenness to convert penetration into a sack. He makes those around him better.
Quintessential Game: Seahawks at 49ers
Seattle 34 - San Francisco 13
3-2-SF 39 (5:38)Niners, 4 WR (2 Left/2 Right0, Rb. Seattle in a 4-1 Dime. At the snap, Tapp explodes on a nice short angled edge rush that pulls Adam Snyder wide. This is important because an offensive line is strongest when its compact, as it bows and players are isolated pass rushing gaps appear. Tapp's edge rush and Brandon Mebane's forced double team isolates Tony Wragge and Bernard is able to exploit the gaping "C" gap on Wragge's right. From there it's just a good skill and talent showing by Bernard as he closes on Hill and swats the ball from his hand. It's two games, but it's good to see Tapp back.
Outlook: Tapp turns 25 next September. 2009 is his walk season. Seattle would be best served to lock him up now, but won't. Instead, expect Tapp to be franchised and paid a little too much next season. Tapp is entering his prime seasons, but he won't enjoy a huge mid-career breakout. Instead, he should start hovering around double digit sacks for the next three seasons or so. In between those sacks he'll be the guy forcing off balance throws and check downs, bowing the pocket and being an unassuming difference maker.