One could be forgiven if they woke up on Monday morning startled by the realization that it is officially Week 1. I know I did. While the key decision-makers in the Seahawks’ front office are presumably aware of the looming NFL season, questions need to be asked of Seattle’s preparedness as they stare down a trip to Atlanta to take on the Falcons, still with a major hole on their roster.
The Jadeveon Clowney saga ended over the weekend, it’s true. However, Al Woods’ free agency ended long before that, in the second week of April. Despite Woods’ departure from the Seahawks having been confirmed five months ago, Seattle is yet to replace their stout defensive tackle from 2019. It’s not a thermal exhaust port in the Death Star-level flaw, but it’s a flaw on the roster nonetheless.
In 2019, Woods was a crucial part of the defensive line rotation and perfectly adept at defending the offensive strengths found within the division. Not only was he the primary backup to both Poona Ford at 1-tech and Jarran Reed at 3-tech but he started at the latter to begin the season with Reed serving a suspension. All told, Woods played 459 snaps last season, providing valuable depth and making several big plays—none bigger than corralling Jarred Goff on a failed two-point attempt in Week 5.
Would legitimately rather take on a grizzly bear fresh out of hibernation in the Oklahoma drill than meet Al Woods in the hole pic.twitter.com/8WrZbyPv2K— Alistair Corp (@byalistaircorp) October 7, 2019
With all due respect to Woods, it isn’t the player the Seahawks will miss in 2020 so much as the role. After all, if Pete Carroll and John Schneider have proven anything over the last decade, it’s that
running the ball wins games veteran defensive tackles can be found off the scrapheap, plugged into a hole, and not miss a beat. Ahtyba Rubin, Tony McDaniel, Junior Siavii, Colin Cole, Alan Branch, Jason Jones, Kevin Williams, and Woods have all played a part on Seattle’s defensive line at a low cost. It’s not a question of if the Seahawks can find that player again for 2020; it’s are they going to bother to do so?
Almost 48 hours since Seattle trimmed their roster from 80 to 53, the defensive tackle depth remains nearly non-existent. On the active roster, just Bryan Mone—a completely one-dimensional, massive 1-technique—offers an option behind Reed or Ford. On the practice squad is Anthony Rush, a similarly stout 1-tech, and Cedrick Lattimore, an intriguing-but-unpolished UDFA.
Finding that reliable depth piece is vitally important and perhaps even more so this year. The way the team has built their defensive line, a massive responsibility will be on Reed to create pressure and produce on passing downs as a rusher. To get the most out of him on money downs, he cannot play every early down before feebly trying to collapse the pocket on third and long. Keeping Reed fresh is of the utmost importance if the pass rush is to come alive in the coming season.
The Seahawks do not lack options, should they choose to look to the interior. The name everyone has wanted, Damon Harrison, is a free agent, and so too are a handful of other plug-and-play veterans. Maybe Seattle had hoped a different player would become available over the weekend who didn’t and now they will make a move. Maybe they are waiting for after Week 1 when that signing’s contract would no longer be guaranteed. Maybe Carroll’s praise of Mone early on in training camp was not just praise and the second-year UDFA will be this year’s Woods—which would be a mistake, given his limited ability.
The Seahawks are not short on answers to the question of, “where is the defensive tackle depth going to come from?” However, that the question still remains, six days away from Week 1, is noteworthy.