Strategy is one of the things that attracted me to football. There are so many chess pieces on the board, with different roles to play and rules to follow. Receivers and cornerbacks, running backs and linebackers, moving and shadowing movement rivals the best dancers in the world. Yet, all of that grace and planning can be undone by powerful giants with bad intentions on the line of scrimmage. Guys like Aaron Donald and Walter Jones don’t care about your play design. The field bends around them. Seattle almost certainly did not add a Donald or Jones on day two of the 2020 NFL draft, but they invested heavily in young men they hope will be rhinos running through opponent chess boards.
The Seahawks personality last season very much reflected the shift toward Russell Wilson as the leader of the team. Both Wilson and Bobby Wagner are incredibly nice and good natured. This was in stark contrast to the persona the Legion of Boom era developed where players like Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Brandon Browner, Doug Baldwin, Marshawn Lynch and many others, played with a chip on their shoulder and fire in their eyes.
Lack of talent was definitely a problem for the Seahawks defense last year, but so was the lack of nasty aggression that accompanies every defense of note in the NFL. The Seahawks seemed to acknowledge that to some extent by adding Jordyn Brooks and Darrell Taylor with their first two picks of the draft.
Brooks is an imposing and aggressive hitter in the middle of the defense. Taylor is a cocky edge rusher who has already declared he intends to be the best rookie pass rusher in the NFL this season.
Contrast that with a guy like Rasheem Green, who the Seahawks drafted a couple years ago. Green was clearly talented, but was soft spoken. He made plays last year, and is growing as a player. It is hard to imagine him ever intimidating his opponent.
Maybe you do not think that matters. I do. Every player need not be a barking dog, but this defense consisted of a long list of nice guys. Wagner, K.J. Wright, Bradley McDougald, Shaquill Griffin, Tre Flowers, Green and others will never be mistaken for Chris Clemons or Sherm or even Frank Clark in terms of playing with a nasty streak. Brooks and Taylor bring some of that attitude.
I am generally wary of Seattle taking pass rushers in the draft. They have missed more often than hit when looking for edge players. That concern is amplified in a situation where they desperately need edge rushers and the draft is thin at that position. The chances of a big reach increase greatly.
For some reason I cannot completely articulate, I like the addition of Taylor. Part of my comfort comes from watching him bend around opposing tackles. Part of it comes from hearing his brash nature on and off the field. Part of it comes from the fact that Seattle traded up to get him.
Many of John Schneider’s draft habits are lampooned by Seahawks fans, like his flawed first round picks. One thing the man has proven is that when he covets a player so much that he will trade up to get him, that usually means the player will be a meaningful contributor.
The only three times the Seahawks have traded up in the first three rounds of the draft were to get Tyler Lockett, Jarran Reed, and D.K. Metcalf.
Each of those players either started or played significant snaps as rookies. That, plus some production, are the measures of success for Taylor. Seattle paid a steep price to get him when they surrendered a third round pick. You know how much Schneider prefers a bushel of picks, and the team was already thin before the move was made.
The fear is this was a move born of desperation. It will be hard to judge early on as pass rushers almost always take a season or two to develop. Clark, for example, had just 3.0 sacks as a rookie.
Seattle was left with just one third round pick after trading up for Taylor, and then traded back to add a 5th before picking big Damien Lewis to compete for snaps at right guard.
Lewis is a monster of a man, and fits the profile of what offensive line coach Mike Solari looks for in his guards. Lewis is a squatty 327 pounds. About that attitude injection, here are how a two different draft analysts described him:
“The run-blocking tape shows a forklift dressed as a right guard” – Lance Zierlein
“Wants to take your soul in the run game.” – PFF
Before you get too concerned the Seahawks drafted another guy who can only run block, you should know that Lewis has the best pass block win rate of any offensive linemen at the Senior Bowl. He also allowed only a handful of sacks during his time at LSU.
Lewis has a chance to come in and compete for a starting job right away. It was a surprise to see the team pick a guard given the glut of options already on the roster. That is part of why I like the pick. It indicates the team is really taking the best player available on their board instead of overweighting need and reaching for lesser players.
Nobody would have blinked an eye if they came out of this draft without adding another guard. Not only did they add one, but they added one in the third round. Lewis becomes the highest draft pick used on a guard by Schneider. Only one other player, John Moffitt, was picked in the third round by Schneider, but not as early as Lewis.
It will be interesting to see how Lewis turns out on a number of fronts. There are signs that the team is benefitting greatly from escaping the impact of Tom Cable on their personnel decisions. The three offensive linemen drafted since Cable left are: Jamarco Jones, Phil Haynes, and Lewis.
I continue to be high on Jones, and think he has a shot to compete at right tackle. Haynes is also a guy I think could compete for a starting role at guard this year. Should Haynes and Lewis become your starting guards, and Jones your starting right tackle, this line could be in very good shape for years.
There will be tons of competition at guard. Returning starters D.J. Fluker and Mike Iupati are on the roster. Former first round pick Chance Warmack is very intriguing. Nobody will be handed those spots.
B.J. Finney could also figure into that competition, but I continue to expect him to be the starting center and for Justin Britt to be released.
The line I would be most excited to see would include Duane Brown at LT, Haynes at LG, Finney at C, Lewis or Warmack at RG, and Jones at RT. That would feature youth and power and upgraded pass protection. That would also represent a lot of change, and we know Solari likes his veterans. The only position we are guaranteed to see a new name is right tackle. Let’s hope it is at least three new names.
Drafts are impossible to gauge this early. What we can say is the Seahawks did not make some of their previous mistakes like spending valuable valuable draft capital on running backs or clearly flawed tackles who are destined to guards.
The biggest risk they took was trading up for Taylor. They could have stayed where they were and nabbed Julian Okwara. Taylor will likely be the bellwether of this draft class.
The chance remains that Seattle will sign a free agent pass rusher like Everson Griffen or maybe Jadeveon Clowney, but I am not holding my breath. The pass rush may need to count on the development of youngsters like Taylor, L.J. Collier, Green, and Shaquem Griffin. It will not be hard to outperform last years squad. It will be far harder to be a truly impactul pass rush.
For now, we can enjoy the thought that the Seahawks prioritized bringing a little aggression and physicality back to the team.