Over the coming weeks, we’ll continue to look at the hopefuls on the Seattle Seahawks’ 90-man roster. Seattle had eleven draft picks and made several significant moves in free agency. These are some simple thoughts on the new players and things to look for as the athletes wait for training camp to begin in July 25th.
Defensive Line: Demarcus Christmas, Poona Ford, Quinton Jefferson, Nazair Jones, Jamie Meder, Bryan Mone, Jarran Reed, Jay-Tee Tiuli, Al Woods (9)
Some context: Last season, Seattle kept nine defensive linemen; in 2017 only seven. The Seahawks will frequently use the strongside linebacker as an edge-rusher, but with nine athletes in this group and
seven six listed as defensive ends, it’s possible half of the defensive linemen from the group of 90 don’t make it to the final 53-man roster.
*Once again, the Seahawks have been tinkering. When we covered defensive ends in early June, Quinton Jefferson was listed among them. Today, Jefferson is designated as an interior lineman. They’ve also moved Jacob Martin and JD McKissic around, so hold all of this loosely until September 8th. After that... let’s be honest you should still be prepared for Pete Carroll to do Pete-type things with his players this year.
Leader – Jarran Reed. Bobby Wagner has been one of Reed’s biggest supporters since the end of last year.
The thing that I’m impressed with the most is his growth, leadership-wise. He has been very vocal, especially up front. He takes a lot of pride and accountability in not just understanding his job, but understanding what the offense is trying to do. He tries to call out the plays—it kind of reminds me of how (Brandon) Mebane was when he was here. Just the way he has been playing, you watch him work on his pass-rush moves every single game, and you see the production growth, you see the leadership growth. He has just been really, really good for us.
10.5 sacks is very, very good from an interior lineman. It landed Reed in the top 25 of all pass rushers last year. It’s also a hard number to repeat. Heading into the end of his rookie deal, we still don’t know if the Hawks will extend Reed or if he’ll playing with motivation for a big deal next offseason.
Most to lose – Naz Jones. What a fall it’s been from Naz’s first NFL play - a pick 6 off Aaron Rodgers that was called back for a phantom block in the back.
It will never go on Jones’ permanent record, which is a pity because it sure looks like he is now on the outside looking in.
Last year was fairly inexplicable with the number of healthy scratches and sheer lack of any information regarding Naz’s lack of playtime.
In 2017 Jones was getting sacks, defending passes, recovering fumbles, starting games - not very many, mind you, but some. Last year? None of those. In his rookie season Jones saw 326 snaps. Last year came in at 158.
This spring, rumors arose of a potential move to DE for Naz With additions of Cassius Marsh, Ezekiel Ansah, LJ Collier, and the same tryout for Shaquem Griffin this feels like the worst of all possible outcomes for Naz.
The main source of Jones’ problems could be attributed to Poona Ford
Most to gain - Poona Ford. Nose tackle is one of he hardest positions in all of football to evaluate based on stats. Poona only had 21 tackles in his rookie campaign, and three for a loss. But on tape he looked significantly un-rookie like. He’s surprisingly quick. He made very smart plays and got into the backfield at a good rate.
Poona Ford is surprisingly quick off the snap. He uses that burst to penetrate into the backfield. The left guard pulls on this pin-pull outside zone running play and Ford destroys him to the ground. #Seahawkspic.twitter.com/HOCA2TIeHg— Samuel Gold (@SamuelRGold) August 23, 2018
It’s a scathing review of the Big 12 that its defensive lineman of the year in 2017 went undrafted that year. Mind-blowing, really. But this is where Seattle has thrived in Schneider’s tenure: finding the unheralded guys who play as good of ball as the big name athletes.
Poona will hope to build on a solid expectation-free first season. This year, he’s more of a known quantity. PFF gave him an elite run defense grade by the end of the year. Ford ended the season with 241 snaps. Still not a ton, but significant for an UDFA.
Some believe Poona is in line to start in the middle for the Hawks. Al Woods has put a significant damper on that, but there’s a good chance those two are going to be the run shutdown duo for Seattle this year.
Soon-to-be forgotten rookie? – Demarcus Christmas. If you haven’t seen Field Gulls earlier reflection on Christmas’ selection in the draft, the bottom line is he is as mediocre as it gets. For some reason some have tried to drum up excitement about his rookie camp and summer progression, but honestly the only consistent feedback he’s getting from coaches is that he’s incredibly humble. Being humble makes one, perhaps, less likely to get cut than a Richard Sherman, but it does not guarantee that one is a good football player.
Unflashy newcomer – Raise your hand if you’re not old enough to remember Al Woods in Seattle. That’s right, Al Woods played for Pete Carroll in Pete’s second year as head coach of the Hawks. Played is a small overstatement; Woods saw action in two games and didn’t start either.
But he’s been significantly better since then, and that’s why he’s one of the precious few free agents signed this offseason! Again, slight overstatement. Woods has been cut from three teams in his career, and has been on average a rotational player over the last four seasons.
So why is he here? To do more of what he’s generally done. He’s 6’4” and 330 lbs, so Seattle will look to use him as their run-stopping force in the middle, playing alongside and differently from Jarran Reed. He’s not as fast as Poona Ford, and I wouldn’t expect him to get behind the line of scrimmage nearly as often. In his rookie year, Poona had nearly the amount of tackles for loss as Woods did in 2017 when he started every game.
But he is big, and he is cheap - $2.5 mil if he makes the team. Seattle finished 30th in yards per carry allowed last year, and Woods is at least comparable to the combination of Tom Johnson and Shamar Stephen that the Seahawks rotated through last season.
Flashier Newcomer – Jamie Meder. The specs on Meder are similar to Woods; he’s a run-stuffing defensive tackle who is here on a tryout basis for limited money. $720k is a blip in the NFL salary radar. He’s also a little less than Woods in other ways – one inch, 20 lbs, and four years, to be precise.
Meder has not played much of late because of a bad ankle injury, but to start the 2017 season Pro Football Focus thought he was the league’s second-best run stopper.
If the Hawks do extend Bobby Wagner or Reed (or both?), this would be my pick to make the team based on salary alone. It’s a very easy place to save money on a position where Seattle currently only has question marks anyway. Technically Meder has a higher ceiling but hasn’t played significant football in 20 months, so we’ll have to see how he holds up.
Best Madden 2019 Rating – 81, Jarran Reed. Tied for fourth highest defensive player on the Seahawks. Thoughts?
Most important stat heading into 2019 – 3rd.
In 2015 and 16, Seattle was the third best team in the NFL against the run by DVOA. -22.9% and -24.9%, if you care about that kind of thing.
Since then? They’ve been 14th and 17th the last two years, dropping all the way to -7.6% DVOA against the run last year.
For all the concerns about Seattle’s pass rush, this has been the worst stretch on the ground under Pete Carroll’s leadership. Dating back to 2011, Pete’s Seahawks had never been worse than 12th.
Getting gashed was foreign to the Seahawks from 2013-2016. Now that Seattle is coming off a two-year stretch where even Sheldon Richardson and Michael Bennett couldn’t make them an above-average run defense, and entering 2019 with potentially more questions than last year, teams might be confident they have found the new book on how to beat Carroll and company.