Seattle Seahawks training camp preview: linebackers

After a long offseason – okay, compared to the 2020 nightmare the past few months have been a breeze – the Seahawks will officially kick off the 2021 season by showing up to training camp on July 27.

Continuing our series of camp insights, here’s a look at the state of linebacker position, including depth chart, a key question to answer and a bold prediction for the season ahead.

2020 in review

Showing no signs of slowing down after turning 30, Wagner won his sixth straight All-Pro first-team selection after amassing 138 tackles, 3.0 sacks and eight defended assists in 16 games. Although he was not thrilled with the move initially, Wright made a remarkable transition to strong back-up linebacker Bruce Irvin and had arguably the best season of his career, finishing as the only defenseman in the league. with more than 10 tackles for loss. and defended pass. Overcoming a slow start to his rookie season, Jordyn Brooks won in the second half with the weak side linebacker alongside Wagner and made 30 tackles in Seattle’s last five games.

What’s up?

The decision not to re-sign Wright stands out as the biggest change for Seattle’s linebacker corps. But the team also chose not to bid on Shaquem Griffin, allowing the former UCF star to become an unrestricted free agent. With the departure of those two players, the Seahawks signed undrafted rookie Jon Rhattigan and another former UCF star to Nate Evans this spring. The team was also awarded German athletic linebacker Aaron Donkor as part of the International Player Pathway program.

Depth table

Entrances: Bobby Wagner, Jordyn Brooks, Darrell Taylor

Heading into his 10th season, Wagner remains the crown jewel of NFL inside linebackers, as the tackle machine further bolstered his Hall of Fame bid with another All-Pro selection in the middle of the season. defense of Seattle. He remains a strong run defender and rebounded from a tough 2019 campaign in coverage, registering eight defended passes while shooting 3.0 sacks and 23 quarterback presses as a blitzer. Although he doesn’t have the same momentum he did earlier in his career, he still moves well for his position and his instincts should help compensate for athletic limitations as his career progresses.

Stuck behind Wright and Irvin on the depth chart, Brooks didn’t do much in his first two months with the Seahawks. He mostly played against special teams in the first two games before Irvin fell, then missed two games after suffering his own knee injury in Week 3. But once he came back in good shape Health In week 7, the former Texas Tech star found her rhythm playing plenty of clichés. Seattle’s 4-3 base defense, generating 56 tackles and a pair of tackles for losses in the last nine regular season games. He also made notable improvements to second-half coverage, setting the stage for him to take over from Wright as the team’s full-time linebacker in 2021.

After trading to select him in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft, Taylor sadly never saw the field for the Seahawks as a rookie due to several back setbacks from leg surgery. Now healthy, he has been on the team’s entire offseason schedule and has been given work as both a defensive end and linebacker. Offering similar athletic skills, size and footballing skills to Irvin’s, the ex-Tennessee should have every chance of winning the SAM linebacker as Wright’s replacement while seeing occasional snaps like a defensive end. LEO during transmissions.

Reserves: Cody Barton, Ben Burr-Kirven, Jon Rhattigan, Aaron Donkor, Nate Evans

Having started four games late in his rookie season replacing an injured Mychal Kendricks, Barton found himself largely relegated to special teams in his second campaign thanks to the arrival of Brooks. Utah’s 2019 third-round pick made two starts when Brooks was sidelined, producing a whopping 17 tackles in those games. While Taylor will enter the camp as a favorite to take the job, he should be in the mix to start as a strong linebacker.

The undersized Burr-Kirven has yet to see much defensive action in his first two seasons either and that likely won’t change in 2021 as he will try to keep a backup job behind Wagner and remain a key cog in special teams. He’ll have to fend off Rhattigan, an undrafted Army rookie, who impressed during the team’s offseason schedule and was a surprise All-American selection as a senior. Donkor and Evans will also be in the competition and could be potential options for the practice squad if they do well in camp and in the preseason.

Key question

Will Wright ever come back? And if he doesn’t, will the team regret not re-signing him?

More than three months after the start of the new championship year in mid-March, Wright unfortunately didn’t sign less than two weeks before training camp began. While he didn’t produce as many tackles (86) as in 2019, he proved he still has plenty in the tank by filling in the stats sheet with a pair of sacks, one interception, 11 tackles. for loss and 10 defended pass. But his advanced age – he’ll be 32 later this week – coupled with a plummeting salary cap has clearly had an impact on interest in his services in the league. Teams just didn’t want to pay too much for an aging linebacker off the ball.

Coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider have publicly stated that Wright could always return and as long as he is a free agent nothing should be ruled out. But for now, the Seahawks seem happy with their current linebacker lineup and understandably want to have Brooks and Taylor on the court. If these two players live up to expectations, the tough decision not to bring Wright back will look like a wise decision. But there is always a risk of handing over the keys to younger players, especially one such as Taylor who has yet to play an NFL snap. If he struggles and Wright ends up playing well elsewhere, the front office may look back wishing they had a mulligan.

Bold prediction

Flying all over the court in pursuit, Brooks will rack up at least 110 tackles, while Taylor will start all 17 games with the strong linebacker and produce 6.5 sacks.

As long as Wagner is standing in the middle of Seattle’s defense, he will be the favorite to lead the team in tackles. But as he prepares for his first season as a league linebacker, Brooks has the talent and the physical tools to give No.54 a chance in 2021. Resembling a younger version of Wagner in many ways , Brooks possesses elite speed for the job and while he featured the pursuit of quick Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray for a tackle for loss last season, he has an uncanny ability to chase running backs. side by side. He also has a high football IQ and as a rookie he quickly learned from his mistakes, especially on cover. Having produced nearly 60 tackles while playing just 32% of the Seahawks’ defensive snaps, it would be a bummer if he didn’t hit triple digits by stepping into Wright’s previous role alongside Wagner.

As for Taylor, he’s a much bigger stranger heading into a new season after a serious injury. But like Brooks, he has the obvious athletic traits and football skills to be an impact player for the Seahawks right away. Having led the SEC in the sacks in his last two seasons with the Volunteers, he should be an immediate upgrade in passing rushing perspective over Wright, who has never been known for his lightning chops. While he falls back pretty much into the cover and his ability to gain the advantage as a race defender is put to the test in the rugged NFC West, his ability to pin his ears and increase the pressure on them. quarterbacks could be a real difference maker for Carroll’s defense.

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