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The EDGE rusher struggle for the Seahawks and John Schneider

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NFL: Combine Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The Seattle Seahawks’ biggest need heading into the 2019 offseason is EDGE rusher. Field Gulls readers agree with this; in a January 14th article, 43% of you voted EDGE as the biggest need (next highest was 20% on Free Safety). There is, however, a large issue. Getting the type of EDGE rusher the Seahawks love is going to be near-impossible.

The Front Office emphasizes long arms and wants a 10-yard split in the 1.5s for the pure EDGE types. According to Rob Station at Seahawksdraftblog, Seattle has never taken an EDGE rusher with under 33inch arms. Staton’s work also highlights the fact that Bruce Irvin ran a 1.55 10-yard split and Cliff Avril clocked a 1.59.

With much fanfare, the fellers over at The Draft Network unveiled their pretty mock draft simulator. In between doing laundry and making another cup of coffee, I decided to do a quick mock with Seattle.

I stuck at #21, aiming to take the best available EDGE from the upper tier group. My strategy was soon ruined. Coffee was left to go cold as I scrambled for an emergency Plan B. The disaster? Every upper tier EDGE rusher had been taken by the pesky CPU.

The situation gets more critical when you factor in the Seahawks’ measly amount of picks. Seattle has the least draft capital in the NFL and their four selections make a trade down from their first pick, at #21, a requisite action—especially certain when John Schneider’s history is accounted for. They’re not going to stay at #21. They’re going to trade down, multiple times.

In 2018, the bendy Harold Landry only lasted into the second round due to injury concerns. Combine testing and medicals will heavily sort where each of the upper tier EDGE rushers lands. But, by the time Seattle takes their first player, none of the Seahawk-y EDGEs will be left.

The 2019 EDGE rusher class is top-heavy. The remaining EDGEs are part of a lower tier that does not feel like Seattle quarterback hunters. These are guys like Jaylon Ferguson and Chase Winovich. I wrote about them fairly recently:

“NCAA sack record-holder Jaylon Ferguson is not the type of player the Seahawks have previously taken—he lacks burst and explosion. Nor is the high effort but limited flexibility of Michigan EDGE Chase Winovich.”

Perhaps someone like Miami’s Joe Jackson raises his stock by testing well, but he would feel like a giant reach in the late first/early second.

Missing out on the upper tier of athletic EDGE rushers may lead to Schneider going for a stud interior defensive lineman, such as Clemson’s Christian Wilkins. However, the depth of the draft at IDL and Seattle’s previous history makes an inside-out type DL feel more likely. Texas’ Charles Omenihu is that player.

Omenihu could take snaps as a big end against heavier personnel, but then move inside to rush the passer. He played all along the line for the Longhorns and with some refinement could be a dominant force at the NFL level.

The Senior Bowl standout’s arm length is a major positive (36 12 inches in Mobile), plus his burst and COD fits the profile of inside-out types the Seahawks have gone with previously. Staton’s work proves how highly Seattle values such metrics:

Rasheem Green, Quinton Jefferson, Jordan Hill, Jaye Howard and Malik McDowell all tested superbly in the short shuttle (4.39, 4.37, 4.51, 4.47 and 4.53 respectively).”

Frank Clark was considered more of an explosive inside/out rusher and he ran a 1.69 split at 271lbs. Malik McDowell managed the same 1.69 split at 295lbs. Rasheem Green ran a 1.65 at 275lbs.”

I’ll have a Draft on tape on Omenihu soon, hoping his combine doesn’t elevate him beyond the Seahawks’ reach. When Omenihu tests this Sunday, look is his 10-yard split being in the 1.6s and his 3-cone being in the 4.5 and under range.

Circling back to the pure EDGE rusher discussion, Seattle may be forced to look to Free Agency only. After tagging Frank Clark and re-signing other players, the Seahawks’ $60,455,232 in projected cap space will shrink dramatically. One potential bargain name to look out for is the 28-year-old Robert Quinn, who seems likely to be a cap casualty of the messy Miami Dolphins.