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Nothing screams rebuild like trading away your franchise quarterback. If there were any remaining doubt that Seattle was in rebuild mode, it was removed when the team also moved on from the leader of their defense, Bobby Wagner. While these two are the biggest names wearing different uniforms, they are not the only ones as the Seahawks go younger and cheaper on both sides of the ball.
Looking at their performance in 2021, maybe it was time for a reset in Seattle. The run defense was excellent, ranking second at 3.8 yards per carry. That was not an issue for opponents though, as they could simply throw on a pass defense that ranked in the bottom third in yards per attempt, sacks, and interceptions. This unit was even tied for 28th with nine forced fumbles on the season.
Those statistics paint a fairly clear picture of the overall defense, but one more aspect is very important to IDP managers. Despite their struggles and the fact Seattle faced the fifth-most rushing attempts in the league, no defensive unit was credited with fewer solo tackles than their 580, and only six teams collected fewer assists. It would be great if the NFL were to standardize how they keep tackle stats but for now, it is on us to watch the trends of stadium stat crews.
Of Seattle’s 34 sacks last year, 30 were recorded by the defensive line. Of those 30, 17.5 were credited to players that will be wearing different uniforms this year. Carlos Dunlap led the club with 8.5 and is currently a free agent, while Rasheem Green takes his 6.5 to Houston. So where will the pass rush come from in 2022 and will there be anyone here worthy of serious fantasy consideration?
It has been a long time since this team gave us a top-12 defensive lineman. This is not due to a lack of talent on the roster, but rather due to the approach of keeping everyone fresh by limiting snap counts. In 2021, twelve defensive linemen saw action for the Seahawks. Eleven of them played at least 218 snaps while none saw more than 67% of the action. Carlos Dunlap was arguably their best player up front and was the most productive fantasy option of the group. He finished at 24-10-8.5 despite playing less than 38% of the snaps. Overall, six Seattle linemen recorded at least 20 solo stops but none more than 27. If this mass rotation approach continues, it will be more of the same for IDP managers in 2022.
On the outside, former Charger Uchenna Nwosu, and second-round pick Boye Mafe, replace Dunlap, Green, Kerry Hyder Jr, and Benson Mayowa, and will join Darrell Taylor as the pass rush rotation. The team also signed Shelby Harris and brought back former starter Quinton Jefferson after he spent the last two seasons with the Bills and Raiders respectively. Both Harris and Jefferson project to play on the inside much of the time, but both are the kind of tweeners that can complement the run defense by playing end on early downs. On the inside, big-men Al Woods, Poona Ford, and Bryan Mone were largely responsible for Seattle’s success versus the run and should make up much of the early-down rotation.
What it comes down to here is that Taylor and possibly the rookie Mafe, have the potential to be quality IDP contributors at defensive end, while Harris and maybe Jefferson are capable of useful numbers as tackles. Unfortunately, none of them are likely to see enough playing time to be more than marginal, end-of-the-roster, bye-week fliers.
- DE Darrell Taylor – DL2 upside if he plays enough but most likely a decent DL3 for bye weeks
- DE Uchenna Nwosu – Pass rush specialist with weak tackle production
- DE Boye Mafe – The potential is there if the playing time comes
- DE Alton Robinson – No impact expected
- DE L.J. Collier – Could be on the roster bubble
- DE Tyreke Smith – Developmental prospect with long-term upside
- DT/DE Quinton Jefferson – No impact expected
- DT/DE Shelby Harris – Possible DT3
- DT Poona Ford – No impact
- DT Al Woods – Possible bye-week depth in tackle-required leagues
- DT Bryan Mone – No impact
With both K.J. Wright and now Bobby Wagner gone, the Seahawks are opening a new chapter at linebacker. When the team used a first-round pick on Jordyn Brooks in 2020, everyone expected he would eventually replace Wagner in the middle. Not many expected it to happen this soon though.
Brooks spent most of his rookie season as the strong-side linebacker, seeing action in base packages. In that role, he recorded 35 tackles and 23 assists, which were good numbers considering the limited snaps. With one fumble recovery and a lone sack to his credit, he has not shown up brightly in the big-play columns yet. Considering he had three turnovers and three sacks in his final year at Texas Tech, those numbers may yet be coming.
What Brooks did do as a first-time starter last year was lead the league with 108 solo tackles while finishing third in assists with 77. Those are impressive achievements considering the low numbers of tackles awarded team-wide. Brooks displayed his range, making plays sideline to sideline, and proved himself in coverage, showing the speed and athleticism to stick with tight ends and running backs all over the field. All signs point to the third-year player stepping right into the shoes of Wagner and becoming a perennial top-ten linebacker.
Seattle gave us a pair of top-ten linebackers last year. Brooks was number two and Wagner ranked seventh, racking up 171 combined tackles himself. So where will all that production go? The team did not draft another linebacker, nor did they make any significant free-agent additions at the position. Thus, expectations are that Cody Barton will move to the weak side and be the other three-down starter. The 2019 third-round pick has filled in admirably for short stints over the last three seasons, including the final two games last season when Wagner was out. In those games, Barton went 12-6-0 with a pass breakup and scored 24.5 fantasy points.
There is an outside chance Barton could be pushed by Ben Burr-Kirvin, who is coming off a major knee injury, or one of the other projected backups such as Tanner Muse, Joel Iyiegbuniwe, or Jon Rhattigan, but the smart money is on Barton to emerge as a strong LB3 or better in 2022.
The Seahawks rarely field three linebackers and when they do, it is often an extra pass rusher on the strong side. Thus, the title of starting strong-side linebacker means little for IDP managers. What might make it important for us to know, however, is that the team usually puts their top backup at that position. I expect a healthy competition for that role this summer, with the guys previously mentioned as the main combatants. If he is fully recovered, Burr-Kirven would be the favorite. If Burr Kirven is not all the way back, keep an eye on Tanner Muse
- MLB Jordyn Brooks – Quality LB1 with elite tier potential
- WLB Cody Barton – Unproven but expected to be a quality LB3 or better
- SLB Ben Burr-Kirven – Injury sleeper
- SLB Joel Iyiegbuniwe – No impact expected
- WLB Tanner Muse – Possible injury sleeper
- MLB Jon Rhattigan – Special teams contributor
Despite the struggles of their pass defense last year, The Seahawks are in great shape at safety. The truth is, much of their problem versus the pass, was related to injuries, especially late in the year when strong safety, Jamal Adams, was lost to a torn labrum, and free safety, Quandre Diggs was playing through a sore ankle.
When healthy, this duo complement one another well. Adams is the big physical intimidator that will line up in the box often, contributing significantly in run support while posing a serious threat as a pass rusher when called upon to blitz. Some might argue that Adams is a liability in coverage, which might be true if he is put in certain situations.
Diggs is smaller and less physical but not afraid to put his shoulder into a ball carrier. His strength, however, is in veteran savvy, cover skills, and his ability to make plays on the ball. Diggs has 13 interceptions since coming to Seattle via trade in late October of 2019.
Projecting statistics for Adams is somewhat challenging. He always manages to be in the top-20 conversation and usually in the Top 12, but how he gets there varies. In 2018, Adams set a career-high in tackles with 85 solo and 29 assists. That year he added five turnovers, three and a half sacks, and eleven pass breakups to be the fantasy game’s number two defensive back. While his tackle totals are always respectable, Adams has fallen short of 65 solos in each of his other four seasons. In 2020, he ranked fourth among defensive backs at 12.3 points per game, with much of his production coming from a record-setting nine and a half sacks. Last season, Adams was on pace for 80 tackles and 44 assists before suffering the shoulder injury, but the Seahawks rarely blitz so he had no sacks. Adams did manage to double his career interception total with two. If he is not turned loose to chase the quarterback once in a while, it will be tough for Adams to break the top five but he is a safe bet to find a way onto the DB1 list.
Diggs made his way into the top-20 last season as well, but we may not want to count on a repeat of that. He set career-highs in tackles at 66, and assists with 27, while tying his previous best of 5 interceptions set the year before. The splash-play numbers could be there again but keep in mind Diggs averages 46 solo stops, posting more than that twice in seven years as a pro.
The organization has high expectations for 2019 second-round pick Marquise Blair if he can ever get healthy. Knee injuries have ended his run in each of the last two seasons. When he was healthy as a rookie, Blair served as the third safety and saw a lot of action in sub-packages. He is expected to be ready for training camp and could be a factor in the box scores if he can get on the field consistently
If Blair can get back to pre-injury form, it will not leave much room for Ryan Neal to get on the field. The coaching staff, however, knows Neal can play if called upon and are happy to have him on special teams until that time comes. Neal made four starts in 2020, intercepting two passes, breaking up two more, and accounting for 27 combined tackles. He made four more starts last year after Adams was lost, tallying 26 combined tackles and breaking up a pass. He has been as good on the field as in the box scores and is a player to snap up if there are injuries ahead of him.
This team has a long history of getting solid play at the corner positions from free agents and late-round picks. They will need to do it again if they are going to be competitive in 2022. The projected starters are former Eagles second-round pick Sidney Jones, who has played for three teams in five seasons, and whoever climbs out of the mosh pit to claim the other spot this summer. Ugo Amadi who started some games last season, or last year’s fourth-round pick Tre Brown who played in five games as a rookie, are the early favorites. Free-agent additions Justin Coleman and Artie Burns bring some experience to the competition while the organization secretly hopes either rookie fourth-round selection Coby Bryant or fifth-rounder Tariq Woolen, turn out to be the next Richard Sherman.
- SS Jamal Adams – Priority DB2 with top-5 potential
- FS Quandre Diggs – Depth with DB3 ceiling
- FS Marquise Blair – Deep sleeper/injury sleeper
- SS/FS Ryan Neal – Injury sleeper
- CB Sidney Jones – CB2 upside
- CB Ugo Amadi – Long shot with CB2 ceiling
- CB Tre Brown – The rookie corner rule could be in play (missed most of his rookie season)
- CB Justin Coleman – No impact expected
- CB Coby Bryant – Rookie corner watch list
- CB Tariq Woolen – Rookie corner watch list
- CB Artie Burns – no impact expected
That does it for part four of this year’s preseason offering. I will be back in a day or two with the Broncos.
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