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Jordyn Brooks stepping up in year two

Seattle Seahawks v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

The Seattle Seahawks opened their 2021 season with a resoundingly confident win over the Indianapolis Colts that wasn’t even as close as the final score indicated. Other than a third quarter offensive lull and a mostly garbage time touchdown for the Colts, the Hawks looked about as solid wire to wire as anyone could hope. But one of the biggest question marks going into this game was how the Seahawks defense would handle the Indy offense. Or, more matter of factly, how would the Seahawks defense handle any offense after losing some key players and not making the big name signings as replacements. And the defense responded. In a big way.

A statement win — on the road, against a 2020 playoff team — was exactly what the Hawks needed to build some confidence. The defense put together a stout team effort that saw Bobby Wagner lead the way with a baker’s dozen in the total tackle column, followed by second year player and 2020 first round pick Jordyn Brooks with a baker’s dime of his own (that’s 11 in common parlance). And he looked good doing it.

Brooks has big shoes to fill in year two. While he isn’t a direct replacement for KJ Wright, he certainly has to take on some of the leadership that the former had so steadily provided for the last decade. Brooks and Wagner came out of the gates on fire in 2021. And we expect as much from Wagner at this point, but to see Brooks settling in as the 1-B in this formidable duo is extremely encouraging for this team’s defensive prospects. In addition to his eleven tackles tallied on the stat sheet, Brooks also performed well in coverage and had at least one decent look getting after the passer.

The film

On the Colts first drive, Brooks made a solid effort to hold down coverage on tight end Jack Doyle, who made contact with Jordyn early and looked to keep him from making the stop on Nyheim Hines out of the backfield. While Hines did get the first, Brooks disengaged from Doyle quickly and got in on the stop, preventing a bigger pickup. You can see this play in the youtube highlight real at the bottom of this post (starting at 0:19 in the clip). It may not look like a positive play for the defense, but Brooks helped to cut off the middle and take away any chance of an explosive play.

Brooks still has room to grow, for sure. The play below is a good example of a time where the second year linebacker can continue to improve if he is going to turn into a game changing player for the defense.

On this touchdown to Zach Pascal, Brooks gets caught in an awkward position in his zone and starts to drift towards Mo Alie-Cox. As a result, he is late to come back towards Pascal, although Quandre Diggs could have reacted quicker on this as well. I imagine that gaining confidence dropping in to zone coverage will come with time.

Another specific area that would be great to see the second year linebacker develop is his technique when getting after the QB. While Brooks has the athleticism to be a force as a blitzer, his impact was limited in this regard. See the video below for an example.

Similarly, at 0:26 in the youtube clip below, Brooks shoots up the middle but does little to influence the play beyond pushing the pocket a bit, though he is hardly alone in this endeavor. Another area of concern is in Jordyn’s game strength. On the penultimate play of the Colts opening drive, #56 got absolutely pancaked by All-Pro guard Quenton Nelson. Nelson is a force as a lineman, but Brooks will need to be able to make plays regardless of who is chasing him around the field looking to put a body on him.

What do the analysts have to say?

Per the experts at PFF, Brooks graded out most positively in coverage, but was only mediocre in run defense and pass rush. My glass-half-full take on this is that coverage was the biggest knock on the Texas Tech product coming out of college. Seeing him put his athleticism to good use in coverage is a great sight to see in an increasingly pass happy league. Of course, Brooks plays in the NFC west where run support will continue to be critical when taking on offenses from the likes of the McVay’s and the Shanahan’s. Ultimately, I see this as a positive sign; I don’t doubt that Brooks can continue to develop and build on his capabilities as a run-stopping off ball linebacker. If he can do so while further developing his coverage and blitzing acumen, then I think the Seahawks may have found their best first round pick in many years and solidified their linebacking corps for seasons to come. I look forward to seeing Brooks play in front of the twelves for the first time this Sunday.