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2006 Season Review: Darryl Tapp

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Darryl Tapp: Hand it to Wikipedia: "In 2007, Tapp may see more playing time, as it has become obvious that current starting Seahawk's LE Grant Wistrom has lost his pass rush abilities to age, and will probably take a large paycut or be cut altogether." That's the sort of objectivity and accuracy I like to see in an encyclopedia. Of course, whoever wrote this is more or less right. Wistrom is slowing down and Tapp can expect a lot more playing time in 2007. So what can we expect from the man who very likely will be playing the all-important right defensive end position for the 2007 Hawks? Well, between his scouting profile and his part-time performance in 2006, the future looks promising, but starting full-time in 2007 may be a stretch.

Tapp was drafted a young 21 and didn't turn 22 until the season started. An underrated quality in an NFL draftee is youth. People tend to lump all first year players together, but the difference between a 21 y/o and a 24 y/o can be huge in terms of growth and development, both physically and mentally.

In his scouting profile Tapp is criticized for one thing above all else: A slow first step. I'm not a big believer in a player being "coached up", I tend to think that while the root cause of every strength and weakness of a player is not always well understood (like high motor or poor instincts), that doesn't mean the player isn't trying hard enough or that he can be fixed. Motor and instincts likely have as sound biological basis as height and 40 time, but "first step" is certainly something that can at least be improved. I'm sure Mike Marshall and Dwaine Board will continue to work with Tapp at reading the center and reacting to the snap, but a sack of seven or eleven yards like Tapp recorded in weeks 2 & 3 are more than likely "coverage sacks", where the defender reaches the quarterback only after the quarterback has held the ball too long and/or scrambled out of the pocket. In other words, no fast first step necessary. Those two, to this point, present 2/3rds of his professional sacks.

Tapp has a broad base of skills. He was considered a plus pass rusher in college, showing quick feet, good bull rush, club & swim moves and a strong closing burst. He was also considered a strong defender against the rush, able to stand up blockers, pursue the backside cut and string rushers outside. He's credited for good football intelligence, athleticism and versatility. Certainly, Marshall must like his ability to play tackle and end; He showed his athleticism with a 25 yard interception return for a score in week 12 against the Broncos.

Nothing about Tapp's 2006 screams cut Grant Wistrom. Tapp is the better pure pass rusher, but Wistrom likely still has the edge at collapsing the pocket and creating pressure. With check-downs and hot routes, pressure might be a tad overrated, but it counts. Tapp is a great fit in Marshall's beloved three man rush, but still doesn't move off the snap fast enough to excel in short yardage passing situations. Unless Wistrom is unwilling to restructure his contract and the Hawks are facing a serious cap pinch, it would be wiser for Seattle to employ a defensive end rotation much like the one they use at tackle. The balance will allow Wistrom to stay fresh and healthy while giving Tapp time to become a true starter.

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