You can count on an NFL team to change during the course of a season. Whether it is through injuries, trades or a player winning a spot, the lineup from the first week to the last week will be different. There are breakout players who climb the depth chart and players who are thrust into roles unexpectedly. It makes it fun during the offseason to look for this year’s breakout players. People who maybe haven’t played very well before or who haven’t played at all have a chance to have a great year and make an impact.
Now we are almost at the end of the year and we can look back at some of the surprise performers. I will be focusing on the Seattle Seahawks for this and calling out some of the people who exceeded expectations. These guys have made this team dangerous by stepping up and making plays.
Jarran Reed- Defensive Tackle
I have talked about Reed before this year—well…I raved about him earlier, actually—but he is a monster right now. With 8.5 sacks, he is close to becoming the third defensive tackle in Seahawk history to reach double digit sacks. The other two are in the NFL Hall of Fame, Cortez Kennedy and John Randle. This does not mean he has slacked off in his run defense, though; he is seventh on the team in tackles and has ten tackles for loss. Reed is a force on the field and a positive presence in the locker room; he has helped lead a young defensive line this season.
Tre Flowers- Cornerback
Flowers has been the surprise player on the Seahawks’ defense earlier. Now, we know he is good enough to hold down his side of the field. Teams will still pick on him as opposed to throwing at Shaquill Griffin, who is still Seattle’s best corner, but Flowers has stepped up his game throughout the year. Flowers has six pass deflections but hasn’t been able to snag an interception yet. He has been above average in pass-coverage, but he is excelling in tackling and run defense. Flowers has forced three fumbles and is third on the team in tackles with 61. He went from a late round draft pick to starter very quickly and he looks like he is getting comfortable out there.
David Moore- Wide Receiver
The Seahawks got Moore in the seventh round of last year’s draft and stashed him on the practice squad pretty much the whole season. This year, he has shown a better grasp of the offense and is really providing Seattle with a big-play threat. Moore is fifth on the team in catches with 23, but he is averaging more than 18 yards per catch. Many of these are on deep routes where Russell Wilson is just putting the ball up and hoping Moore will make a play on it; this has led to him being second on the team in touchdown catches. He has been quiet lately with just one catch in the past three games, but look for him to keep getting chances to stretch the ball downfield.
Poona Ford- Defensive Tackle
Ford was an undrafted free agent out of Texas. Seattle was lucky to get the former Big-12 Defensive Lineman of the Year to help them in the middle. Ford has not gotten many snaps on the defensive line, but he is making the most of the chances he gets. Pro Football Focus has him rated as the eight-best run defender at defensive tackle, but he has been on the field for fewer than 200 snaps. Does this mean he is underused or does it mean he is being used right? I think Seattle is relying on him more as the season is going on. At first, he was learning behind the older guys and now he is getting more chances and more recognition for his performance the past few weeks. Ford plays like a Seahawk defensive tackle and seems to be a part of the team’s long-term plans.
Chris Carson- Running Back
This might not sound like a breakout to some because he was the starting running back since training camp, but he only played in four games last year and barely gained 200 yards. People were hyping him up because he had flashed potential, but people weren’t expecting the season Carson has put together. The Seahawks picking a running back in the first round of this year’s draft showed they didn’t have complete faith that Carson was going to produce what they wanted. Well, Carson is playing out of his mind this year; he is running hard and fast and should get to 1,000 yards. He needs fewer than 90 yards and even with people in his way he should get there. Carson is one of the best in the NFL at getting yards after contact and always seems to be falling forward. If the Seahawks make the playoffs, Carson will be a big reason why. His steadiness has kept the offense relevant through some tough performances.