Despite the regular season being just weeks away, the Seahawks’ defensive tackle group still appears incomplete. The two starting spots are locked in, with Jarran Reed and Poona Ford still in place, but the third spot at a rotation-heavy position remains unfilled. Seattle has long been expected to add a veteran to play both 1- and 3-tech, as Al Woods did in 2019, but are yet to do so. Whether the Seahawks do add another player into the mix or not, their defensive tackle group appears to be solid at the top.
Here’s what to expect from the group as it’s currently constructed: Reed and Ford will start at 3- and 1-tech. Behind them, second-year nose tackle Bryan Mone is set to backup Ford and has drawn positive reviews in camp. For the final spot, it will come down to sophomore Demarcus Christmas and UDFA Cedrick Lattimore. When Reed went down early in camp, it was Christmas who stepped up with the first-team.
The obvious dark horse candidate is a yet-to-be-signed free agent, be it Damon Harrison or someone else. But another dark horse contributor could already be on the roster, after a redshirt rookie year. Christmas isn’t exactly a disruptive force inside but his ability to play both defensive tackle spots and defend laterally could prove valuable to Seattle, just as Woods proved a year ago.
Reason for optimism
This time last year, the Seahawks were staring down the start of the season without Reed, who was set to serve a six-game suspension. Now, they’ll have the defensive line’s leader from the outset of the season after having shown faith in Reed with a new two-year deal worth an average of $11.5 million per season. Though his suspension and a lingering injury derailed his 2019, there’s reason to believe Reed can get back to a productive level against the run and pass.
Reed's awesome 2018 was the culmination of increased pass rush snaps and production:— Alistair Corp (@byalistaircorp) August 3, 2020
'16 - 214 snaps/1.5 sacks/8 pressures
'17 - 282/1.5/21
'18 - 459/10.5/43
'19 - 279/2/15
Pass rush snaps should again be in the 450 range in '20--what can he produce? He is absolutely vital
Next to Reed, Ford should continue to improve in his third season, and second as a starter. With an excellent ability to shoot gaps and elite balance, Ford has the traits to disrupt the passer in addition to being a high-level run defender. After an offseason training with Cliff Avril, Seattle could get a more well-rounded Ford in 2020.
Where it could go wrong
In giving Reed a new deal, the Seahawks made the defensive tackle the centerpiece of what was to be a revamped defensive line. Though he has reached previous heights well worth the cost, there is absolutely an element of risk hanging over it. Should Reed fail to return to his previous form against the pass, Seattle will have made a considerable investment in a run stopper.
Beyond Reed, they certainly lack depth. Though an addition could still come, that player is likely an aging veteran, potentially with question marks surrounding their health. The way the Seahawks’ defensive tackle group is constructed, it could end up being a middling, thin group.
A tremendous amount is weighing on Reed and the entire position group will live or die with him. We know they will be a disciplined and sound collection of players, but Reed will be the one to set their ceiling; he is paid to be a disruptive force from the interior, will he play like it?