July 30, 2019: Jadeveon Clowney is a disgruntled member of the Houston Texans. New Seahawk Ezekiel Ansah remains out of practice with a shoulder injury. Jarran Reed received news of his six-game suspension less than a week ago. And, to top it all off, first-round pick L.J. Collier suffers an injury in practice that requires him to be carted off.
Ultimately, the sprain didn’t keep Collier out long as the rookie made his debut in Week 2. What followed, however, was a bitterly disappointing rookie season, with Collier playing just 155 snaps across 11 games, notching a grand total of two tackles. By the end of the season, Collier was lumped in with the rest of a defensive line seen as needing a total revamp—forgotten.
As Seattle has gone about replenishing depth along the defensive line in free agency and the draft, Collier has remained in a position to have an impactful sophomore season. Gone are Quinton Jefferson and his 602 snaps—the most on the line last year. The Seahawks, without a doubt, would love nothing more than for Collier to step up and occupy those vacated snaps. A powerful, long 5-technique who can, and is expected to, play 3-tech as well, Collier is not dissimilar to Jefferson.
Obviously it wasn't as severe as feared, but another reason to exercise patience.— Alistair Corp (@byalistaircorp) July 29, 2020
The path is there for him to play a LOT, more or less replacing Quinton Jefferson.
He's a powerful player, heavy hands, good length, versatility. He can be a solid player!pic.twitter.com/xNUQKaqn4T
While the outside opinion of Collier is almost entirely negative, the internal view of him appears bright. Not only is he positioned to compete for a starting job and be a part of the team’s pass rush packages inside, but it sounds as though he has been given a clean slate. Speaking to Peter King on The Peter King Podcast on Wednesday, John Schneider said of Collier, “Last year—nobody has even seen him yet. We thought we were going to lose him for the season. He had a very rough, kind of NBA-ish high-ankle sprain.”
Schneider’s quote on Collier is telling for a pair of reasons. The first goes back to that bleak Tuesday afternoon in 2019 when Collier was carted off the practice field. The initial fears of a long-term injury and the subsequent foreboding updates from Carroll were, evidently, rooted in an internal belief that it could keep him out for several months. So, while Collier made it back within weeks, it’s fair to think he never got all the way back—which gets to the second part of Schneider’s quote. The anonymous player who got on the field for 155 snaps in 2019 was not representative of the violent, powerful player who Seattle loved at TCU and expected to be a foundational piece of their defensive line.
That player, as Schneider said, is still to be seen.