Benson Mayowa has played in 12 or more games in all but his rookie season, but never as a starter. He was not credited with a single start for the then Oakland, but now Las Vegas Raiders last season, arguably his best season to date. He’s got another two seasons where he only started two games, and has never started more than six.
So why did he get the nod against the Atlanta Falcons, and how’d he do so well?
Because he’s Superman now, thanks for asking.
So remember way back before Jadeveon Clowney gave a big middle finger to the Seattle Seahawks? Mayowa signed early in the offseason for $2.5 million guaranteed, and incentives up to $4 million. People scratched their head.
But here’s the deal. Benson Mayowa’s ceiling this year in this scheme is truly unknown. His potential is quite high, and as he flashed against the Atlanta Falcons he could very easily outplay this contract. He’s already received some Chris Clemons comparisons, and it could be that he is exactly what Seattle needed on the line.
Let’s start with last season. Mayowa recorded 7.0 sacks, which would have led this team last year. He did that on a ridiculous 21 snaps per game average over fifteen games. For context, even through injury Clowney averaged 47 snaps per game over the thirteen that he played last year.
Half the snaps, twice the sacks.
But it gets better. Mayowa had three forced fumbles last year, a career high. Not a complete anomaly as he’s had one in three other seasons as well.
If we go back one more season, in 2018 Mayowa had a one-year stint with the Arizona Cardinals. He recorded four passes defended and 11 tackles for loss in addition to four sacks. He’s been a pretty disruptive player on limited opportunity throughout his career.
Mayowa stood out immediately in camp this summer, and glowed about the opportunity to finally play as the primary LEO.
I’m happy to have the opportunity to be the guy in front. That’s something I never had coming into camp. That’s what I appreciate the most… I’ve never had that opportunity to step up and be the guy; I was always the rotational guy, the second guy. Whether I was better than the guy who was in front or not, that was always my role. It just feels being good being a guy that’s stepping on the front line, that’s what I appreciate the most.
Mayowa also compared himself to a former Seahawk great - not in talent or playstyle, but in career progression.
“Chris Clemons, he had 11 sacks three years in a row, y’all didn’t know him before that. It’s not always about a big-name guy, it’s about how bad you want to get to the quarterback.”
John Boyle says that “The Clemons comparison isn’t a bad one for Mayowa. Like Mayowa, Clemons went undrafted, and like Mayowa, he had to wait for his chance to be a starter, starting just three games in his first five seasons before the Seahawks acquired him.”
Contributors here at Field Gulls have been both excited about Mayowa’s potential, as well as making the Clemons comparison earlier this summer, and it’s obvious the team sees the parallels and the corresponding potential.
Athletically, Mayowa comps out very well to former Seahawk Chris Clemons.— John P. Gilbert (@JohnPGilbertNFL) August 18, 2020
Clemons entered his age 29 season (2010) with 20.0 career sacks and then recorded 33.5 sacks the next three years.
Mayowa is entering his age 29 season (2020) with 20.0 career sacks. https://t.co/YDSKxoUO6M
Now onto Week 1. Mayowa had one of the best one-tackle games a lineman can have. He’s going to tend to do that in the stat sheet (he’s had a couple games with less tackles than games played in).
However: one sack, one pass defended, one tackle for a loss, and one QB hit. That’s some respectable Week 1 preseason-free production, and earned him the leash to finish fifth on the team with 71 snaps. Both his sack and his deflected pass came on fourth down, against Matt Ryan, on the road. This dude’s nerves and motor are solid.
Mayowa already came in with some quality pressure percentage numbers, as The Athletic compared his 2019 season to those with Seattle last year:
It’s unclear why Mayowa has never been given a real shot as one of the primary edge rushers on any of his previous four teams. It’s that undrafted life, I guess. With Alton Robinson inactive in Week 1 and Darrell Taylor needing more time to recover, this job looks like it’s Mayowa’s for at least half the season. Now it’s time to see if he can replicate his Week 1 performance against the New England Patriots in Week 2.