The Seattle Seahawks became an elite run stopping defense in 2013 and have been one of the best in the NFL every year since then. So far in 2016, they are leading the NFL in opposing teams rushing yards per attempt at 3.49 and were ranked third in rush defense by DVOA going into Week 15. This shouldn’t surprise anyone.
- 2016 - 1st place - 3.5 ypa
- 2015 - 4th place - 3.6 ypa
- 2014 - 2nd place - 3.4 ypa
- 2013 - 7th palce - 3.9 ypa
As Sheil Kapadia at ESPN wrote back in November when reviewing Pete Carroll’s coaching roots, “Carroll believes a defense which struggles to stop the run is a defense that lacks discipline”. Anyone that has followed Carroll and the Seahawks long enough knows that on defense their number one priority is stopping the run. When you stop the run you make the offense one dimensional and predictable, forcing teams to pass. This is where you get to unleash the pass rushers, and pit offenses against the fearless Legion of Boom, where most times, they lose.
Carroll has mostly relied on veteran stop gaps for run stuffing defensive tackles, as they already have technique and are assignment correct, where younger players take time to learn both. Veteran defensive tackles also come cheap, which allows John Schneider to pay big bucks to everyone else on the defense. There’s only been one difference in 2016:
Rookie Jarran Reed.
Before the 2016 NFL draft, NFL draft expert Todd McShay had Reed ranked in the top 10 (!) of all draft prospects. He was also touted as one of the “safest” players to draft, all because he was pro ready. Seattle drafted Reed in the second round with the 49th overall pick, after trading up seven spots. So how does a player touted as a first round draft pick fall to the second round? Because he’s a run-stuffer in a league that’s dominated by passing. To the glee of Schneider, the rest of the NFL’s mistake for letting Reed fall resulted in him being the “steal of the draft”. Our own Mike Bar has an awesome write up from back in June highlighting not just how good of a player Reed is, but how important his role in the Seahawks defense is.
If you haven’t read that article, go back and do it here. I’ll wait.....
Six months later, this is what Reed has contributed as part of Seattle’s defense.
How often do rookies end up starting day one for the Hawks? Not often, but Jarran Reed is one of the few that have. He was started the first three weeks until a hip injury sidelined him against the New York Jets in Week 4. Fortunately, the early bye helped him recover and he was back on the field in Week 6. Even though Reed didn’t start a game again until last week against the LA Rams, he has still been seeing a lot of playing time.
So far, Seattle’s defense has played the third-most snaps (958), with Reed playing in 404 of those, or 42%. His game average is 47% and considering that the Seahawks defense plays in nickel more than base, Reed is playing a lot. Take into consideration that the other two run-stuffers, Tony McDaniel and Ahtyba Rubin, account for 45% and 47% of all snaps at defensive tackle.
This is an equal trio, if you’ll ever see one.
So how do we know Reed has been doing his job? In Carroll’s 4-3 defense, the defensive tackles don’t get a lot of stats. Their job is to occupy blockers, absorb double teams and control their gaps, which allows the linebackers to flow cleanly to the ball-carrier to make tackles close to the line of scrimmage. Besides the defense leading the NFL in opposing teams rushing yards per attempt, Bobby Wagner leads all defenders in total tackles and should be considered for Defensive Player of the Year, KJ Wright is 12th in total tackles and is making a bid for his first Pro-Bowl.
Reed might not quite be what Brandon Mebane was for the Hawks (at least not yet), but I’ll gladly make that trade with his impact so far while also considering a salary savings of just over $5 million. Mebane signed a three-year, $13.5 million contract with the San Diego Chargers last offseason and has only appeared 10 games this year (currently on injured reserve with a torn bicep), compared to Reed’s four-year rookie contract worth $8.45 million. Also the fact that Reed is seven years younger, and still has upside to develop into an interior pass rusher, sorry ‘Bane, but I’m taking Reed.
We’ll always have a special spot in our Seahawks heart for Mebane and his belly roll, but Pete Carroll and John Schneider hit a home run with Reed.