As a prospect coming out of USC, Rasheem Green was absolutely fascinating. On a broad level, he was young (20 years old) and played like it; he was pushed around, lost the football and looked every bit a raw but intriguing prospect. For the Seahawks, the connection was obvious: They had just parted ways with Michael Bennett, and Green’s traits suggested he could develop into a Bennett-like defensive lineman.
The Trojans did Green no favors in playing him inside regularly, but he did flash the ability to shoot through gaps and disrupt from the inside. Fittingly, just a few months after Bennett’s departure from Seattle, the Seahawks selected Green.
It’s a good thing Green had youth on his side, because his rookie season bordered on disastrous. An injury robbed him of development, playing time and any sort of momentum from a positive preseason. When he did see the field, he looked like a boy among men, pushed around and overmatched. Green’s rookie season ended with a bleak line: one sack, eight pressures and one tackle for loss on an average of 20.1 snaps per game.
Ahead of the 2019 season, it seemed possible Green would fall by the wayside. He was rarely mentioned throughout training camp and preseason, and expectations were high for Jadeveon Clowney, Ezekiel Ansah and L.J. Collier.
Instead, Green stepped up in a crucial way as Ansah and Collier were non-factors, and an argument could be made Green was Seattle’s second-most impactful defensive linemen this past season (though it it wasn’t exactly a sparkling group). Green paced the defense in sacks with four, while adding a positive 16 pressures, three forced fumbles and three tackles for loss on an average of 35.1 snaps per game. The jump in production was welcome, but it was the manner in which Green impacted games that is really worth getting excited over.
At USC, Green flashed positive hand usage, making good use of rip and swim moves. Whether it was a lack of opportunity or confidence, we didn’t see that in his rookie season. In Week 1 of 2019, Green again showed the relentless hands he played with during his time as a Trojan.
Developments across Green’s game—and in unexpected areas—overshadowed his consistent technique, but a sack against the Panthers in Week 15 reaffirmed his positive strides. In perhaps his best individual play of the 2019 season, Green landed a powerful initial strike on left tackle Dennis Daley, then swiped away Daley’s hands and finished Kyle Allen.
After spending 2018 getting pushed around by blockers, Green showed an aggression that was previously missing. It was evident against both the run and pass, and this stop against the Eagles does a good job highlighting it; Green rips away Zach Ertz’s hands and then pursues down the line for the tackle.
The tenacity Green displayed was evident against the run all season long, too. At the point of attack, Green would take the fight to the opposing tackle, hold up strong and disengage to make tackles at the line.
In the regular season finale against the 49ers, Green had one of his finest plays against the run all season, one which he would not get any credit for—taking on a double team on the edge to allow Mychal Kendricks to pursue the ball carrier from the backside unblocked.
Green’s most dominant game, unsurprisingly, came in the defensive line’s best game: in Philadelphia in Week 12. Without Clowney, a host of others—Green, Ansah and Shaquem Griffin most prominently—feasted. The most exciting part, however, was the way in which Green disrupted the Eagles’ running game.
Green played stout all game, moving laterally and forcing runners off their track. As offenses play sideline-to-sideline more and more, plays like this from an EDGE will be crucial. Green has always had good lateral agility, but if he can consistently play strong against the run while maintaining those movement skills, he will prove to be very valuable in an NFC West which features offenses that stretch their opponents.
Green’s final big area of development suggests the once-young prospect is rapidly maturing. At ‘SC, Green would be fooled by ball fakes and waste his rush because of a complete lack of awareness. With added value being brought because of his potential to reduce inside, the way he lost the ball was concerning.
In 2019, however, one of Green’s biggest moments and another of his best plays came as a result of great awareness. The first, in Arizona, was not only a good display of awareness—finding Kyler Murray after the play fake—but a tremendous display of athleticism to stay square to him.
Green had a knack for getting the ball out this season, and perhaps his best forced fumble came in Week 12. Aided by J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, who clips Andre Dillard on his way by and sends him to the turf, Green finds himself on the ground just behind Carson Wentz—before knocking the football out.
As a rookie, none of Green’s positive traits from college translated, and he teetered on lost cause. In his sophomore season, however, the positives we previously saw—hand usage, lateral agility, short-area quickness—showed up and even improved. Even more encouraging was the way his physicality and awareness grew. Not only was it quickly made apparent Green was still a player for the future, but he could grow into a complete, three-down player.
On its own, Green’s 2019 production isn’t anything to go crazy over. However, when that production is coming from the defense’s fourth or fifth rusher, not its second, it becomes a lot more valuable. At a minimum, Green showed in 2019 he can be a backup LEO and a bona fide rotational rusher on the Seahawks’ defense.
Green’s development was one of the brightest parts of the 2019 season; if the defensive line can make a similar jump in 2020, Green’s impact will be felt even more so.