Production and contributions from undrafted free agents have been a staple of the John Schneider-Pete Carroll regime. The Seattle Seahawks have approached rookie free agency as aggressively as other franchises approach unrestricted free agency, with Carroll tapping into his past as a recruiter at USC. The attention given to the post-draft frenzy every year has paid off, as the Seahawks have acquired impact players at a massive bargain rate, such as Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse and DeShawn Shead.
Last season was no different in Seattle, with 17 undrafted players on the active roster by the end of the season.
However, they didn’t get much production from rookie free agents, with perhaps Tre Madden bringing the most to the team. This year’s crop of undrafted free agents looks promising and early on it appears as though the Seahawks will get meaningful snaps from a UDFA in 2018, be it fullback Khalid Hill or defensive tackle Poona Ford.
Another name to follow closely is former Florida State EDGE/LB Jacob Pugh.
Playing both off the line of scrimmage as a linebacker and in a three-point stance as a defensive end during his four seasons with the Seminoles, Pugh didn’t rack up much production. Pugh finished his college career quietly, posting just a single tackle for loss (with zero sacks) as a senior. However, Pugh earned a late invitation to the East-West Shrine Game, then followed it up with an invite to the Scouting Combine.
Pugh performed well in Indianapolis, testing in the 86th and 78th percentile in the vertical jump and broad jump, respectively. Pugh’s less impressive short shuttle and three-cone (4.64s and 7.34s) reflect the kind of mover he is on the field. Explosive with above-average functional speed, however he lacks the agility and change of direction to bend with any sort of consistency.
As a defensive end against the run, Pugh has the length to get into linemen’s chest and set the edge. His length allows him to play patient, disciplined football on the edge and not freelance or crash into the backfield. Here, Pugh engages the pulling guard, getting into his chest and pushing him into the running back’s path, forcing the run wide and for a loss:
And again, this time standing up as a LB. Pugh barely moves from his starting position, remains square to the running back and makes the tackle at the line of scrimmage:
Being in the correct position and remaining patient is a consistent trait in Pugh’s game. Playing against electric playmakers at quarterback in the ACC, Pugh was outstanding at containing opposing quarterbacks and finishing upon arriving at the QB.
Staying in front of, and then tackling, Lamar Jackson is no easy feat:
As a pass rusher, Pugh lacks the bend to win on an arc with any sort of consistency. He did create pressure when looping inside, where his short-area quickness can be maximized. Seattle creates free rushes and overloads by utilizing stunts and loops extremely well, and Pugh’s skill set fits into that.
Although he doesn’t get to the QB in time, Pugh forces the throw and it falls incomplete:
Attacking the lineman’s inside shoulder, Pugh darts through the gap and again forces an early throw:
Although Pugh won’t ever be an every-down pass rusher -- nor should that be his role in the NFL -- but he does flash moments of good technical ability. The play action does enough to slow the pass rush down, but Pugh wins with excellent hand usage here:
Pugh’s future with the Seahawks will likely hinge on whether he can be one of the 10 best special team contributors in 2018, in addition to his role as a reserve defender.
After bringing him in for a visit, then giving him the largest bonus of all the UDFAs, it’s apparent Seattle has a specific role in mind for the former Seminole.
Shaquem Griffin is starting out in Seattle at the WILL linebacker spot, playing behind K.J. Wright. D.J. Alexander is backing up Bobby Wagner, with Wright capable of sliding inside as well. The Seahawks have shown in the past to like a unique skill set from their SAM ‘backer, a player capable of rushing off the edge and dropping into coverage. Barkevious Mingo brings that unique skill set to the defense, and in Pugh, they have a prospect capable of backing up Mingo and maintaining that role should he be forced into action.