Of the many key injuries the Seattle Seahawks suffered on defense last year, one that did not get discussed very much was DL Nazair Jones.
Drafted out of North Carolina in the third-round of the 2017 NFL Draft, Jones made an immediate impact, intercepting Aaron Rodgers and returning it all the way for a touchdown. However, the referees decided to call a fictitious foul on Jeremy Lane, eject him from the game (which honestly was a net positive for fast-tracking the Shaquill Griffin era), as well as a weak block in the back on Cliff Avril to nullify what would’ve been only the second pick-6 thrown by Rodgers in his entire Hall of Fame career.
Don’t let the frustration of the loss of points take away from the moment itself, though. Jones recorded half-sacks against the Indianapolis Colts, Washington, and a full sack against the Arizona Cardinals. He also was credited with three passes defensed, plus a fumble recovery in that Washington game. Unfortunately, an ankle injury suffered in the November meeting at the San Francisco 49ers effectively ended his season, as he missed the team’s final five meetings. For a team already stretched for depth, this was quietly a significant loss.
If Pro Football Focus grades interest you at all (and they probably don’t), Jones was marked at 75.5, which is in the average range, but “average” for a rookie who battled a paralysis-causing nerve disorder is a damn good achievement if you ask me. He’s got a high motor, moves well, and has shown promise as a disruptive pass rusher in addition to what he can do in run support.
With a rotation that currently includes a quality pick-up in ex-Vikings starter Tom Johnson, as well as fellow ex-Vike Shamar Stephen and third-year Seahawk Jarran Reed, the interior of Seattle’s front line might be one of the pleasant surprises of the 2018 season.