When pundits discuss the Seattle Seahawks defensive line, the players who frequently get mentioned the most are Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril, with Frank Clark and Sheldon Richardson running well behind. This post, as part of SB Nation’s theme week, takes a look at the most under-the-radar defensive linemen across the NFL.
While I love the promise and current play of rookie third-round draft pick Nazair Jones, I think the better current player is Jarran Reed, who unfortunately was one of the many casualties from last Thursday’s win at the Arizona Cardinals. His hamstring injury is potentially “worrisome,” and the fact that he was immediately ruled out when he went down in the first quarter of that Cardinals game may be a sign that it’s a bad injury.
The second-year man out of Alabama was touted for his outstanding run-stuffing abilities, which came in handy for the Seahawks after Brandon Mebane was not re-signed in free agency. Reed made an immediate impact, as the Seahawks finished #3 in run defense DVOA, and allowed a league-best 3.4 yards per carry.
What stands out as a surprising and encouraging improvement in Reed’s game is his presence as an interior pass rusher, something the Seahawks have struggled to consistently manage since Clinton McDonald’s departure in the 2014 offseason. On the surface, Reed’s stats show 1.5 sacks, the same number as last season, and he’s already had more solo tackles (17) this season than in 2016 (13), but for defensive tackles, statistics often don’t tell the whole story.
One of my favorite plays from Reed this season is on Earl Thomas’ crucial interception of Jared Goff. Watch Reed push Rodger Saffold backwards and into Goff’s throwing lane, which renders him unable to step into the throw, thus the absolute gift that falls into Earl Thomas’ arms.
Another clutch moment from Reed came against the New York Giants, who unbelievably had a chance to take the lead in the final quarter despite virtually no offense from the opening snap. In steps #90 for his first career strip-sack, and this is still the only turnover that the Seahawks offense has converted into a touchdown.
Reed finished the Giants game with seven solo tackles, including two run stuffs to go along with that sack.
Reed has had a larger role in Seattle’s defense, which has quietly re-transformed (that’s not a word, is it? It is for this column!) itself into a top-10 run defense after a dismal September. As a rookie, Reed played in 15 games and made five starts, totaling 477 snaps (44.2% of all defensive snaps). He’s already at 324 (53%) this season, and it’s really unfortunate that Reed is hurt at a time when the Seahawks are already decimated on defense.
I definitely should once again give a shout out to Naz Jones, who has two sacks, an interception that should’ve been for a touchdown if not for the refs, as well as a fumble recovery. He has a high motor and isn’t afraid to hustle his way down field to make tackles. The future of Seattle’s defensive line rotation looks bright based on what Reed and Jones have shown thus far, and lest we forget the potential re-signing of Sheldon Richardson, as well as the hopeful return of Malik McDowell.