The Seattle Seahawks use their two defensive tackles in certain ways. The first is asked to do only one thing: be thick. Names such as Al Woods, Brandon Mebane and Ahtyba Rubin excelled as unmovable objects and were important parts in limiting opposing defenses from being able to run the football.
The other defensive tackle on the line is asked to do more. Defending the run is still an important responsibility, but the most important thing is to get up the field and apply pressure to the quarterback. It has been a little bit harder to fill this role, as Seattle has cycled through a ton of players with little success. Outside of Jarran Reed’s 10.5 sack outburst in 2018, no other Seattle defensive tackle has surpassed 5.5 in a season. It’s no surprise that it’s difficult to find a quick-twitch, 300-pound man, but Seattle has particularly struggled to find someone to fill this role.
The tandem as a whole has been in somewhat of a decline as opposing teams were allowed to gash the Seattle defense 4.7 yards-per-carry during the 2019 season. While there are talented players at this position, the days of a thick defensive brick wall at the line of scrimmage waiting to swallow running backs whole is gone. Instead, Seattle has opted for smaller, pressure generating defensive tackles or to even move defensive ends to the inside on obvious passing downs. Still, we will go through each and look at the type of players that can make the roster this upcoming season.
Players on roster:
Out of the players in this group, Jarran Reed is far and away the highest upside difference maker. Forced to serve a six-game suspension in 2019, his 2018 snap counts are much more reflective of his role going forward – where he played 78% of total defensive snaps. He was the clear pass rusher of the defensive tackle tandem, totaling 10.5 sacks in 2018. Unfortunately, he failed to replicate that same type of impact in his shortened 2019, where in 10 games he registered a measly 2.0 sacks and 13 QB pressures. Also concerning was his ineffectiveness in early down run defense, where he missed 15.6% of his total tackle attempts. Together, these stats contributed to his less than stellar rating from Pro Football Focus, where he was considered just an average player at best. Still, he has shown to be more than that which was why Seattle decided to reward him with a new 2-year, 23 million contract this offseason. Seattle still dreams of an overwhelming 3rd down pass rush of Reed flanked by three edge defenders, but for that to happen he needs to return to his game-wrecking form.
While he may not be the flashiest starter, the more effective player in 2019 was Reed’s partner – Poona Ford. The leader in snaps at the position with 47% of total snaps, he was the beef of the defensive line. An old fashioned, run-wrecking defensive tackle, he was the 30th best at his position in stonewalling running backs. He simply is asked to come in on first and second down, refuse to be moved by an offensive guard and junk up the middle of the field. He won’t regularly get his name put in lights, but his job is an important one for the other players on the defense as linebackers can operate unblocked to stop offensive playmakers in their tracks. Unfortunately, the other players haven’t been able to take advantage of Ford’s efforts on a consistent basis, but a properly built defensive line could flourish around the space-eating Ford on early downs.
While Bryan Mone represents the only other defensive tackle to take snaps for the Seahawks, calling him an experienced player would be a stretch. Appearing in four games as an undrafted rookie last season, he played a whopping 89 snaps over the course of the season. He is much more a Poona Ford clone rather than the pass rushing Jarran Reed. Huge (6-4, 335 lbs), strong and tough, Mone is a mountain of a man made for one thing, to be immovable. In practice, that sadly wasn’t the case. He made four tackles in his inaugural season but didn’t do much else, as Pro Football Focus regards him as both a poor pass rusher and poor run defender. It’s a very small sample size, there wasn’t a ton to be bullish about. He seems to project as a backup defensive tackle in his best-case scenario.
I considered copying and pasting Bryan Mone’s paragraph for the next candidate on this list, Demarcus Christmas. For they are very much the same players, designed to be the brick and mortar in the Seattle defensive wall. Unfortunately, Christmas missed his entire rookie season due to injury but the 6th round pick out of Florida State has some positive traits in his draft profile. Pro Football Focus ranked him 23rd in his draft class in run stop % and was a regular piece on a very talented Florida State defense during all four years of his college career. While we are still waiting for his NFL debut, there are plenty of snaps for Christmas to make his “presents” known… get it? Presents, presence? Let’s move on…
The last two names on this roster are P.J. Johnson and Cedrick Lattimore, both unheralded names looking to get their first professional snaps. Johnson was drafted last season in the 7th round by the Detroit Lions, but was cut before the start of the regular season. He spent the rest of the year on and off the Chargers practice squad but never earned a snap on the field. His stats in college (31 tackles, 8.5 for loss and 3.0 sacks) combined with his physical make-up (6’3, 320 lbs) makes him an interesting flier for the Seahawks. Lattimore is an undrafted free agent out of the University of Iowa after seeing time in all four of his seasons as a Hawkeye. He contributed 44 tackles, 3.5 for loss and 2.5 sacks in his senior season, similar to the other run-stuffing defensive tackles on this list. Both of these players aren’t far behind Mone and Christmas and have a more than fair shot of fighting their way onto the roster this coming season.
This group is top heavy, much like many other positions on the Seattle roster. Both Reed and Ford have the look of impact players in this league, but the depth behind them is highly
suspect. Mone is the only one who has seen actual time on the field, but low draft picks and undrafted free agents are standing in as the emergency options. Seattle does not play interior starters every snap on the defense, preferring to platoon and keep their mainline players fresh. It will not be surprising at all to see Seattle once again struggle to contain opposing running backs and generate pressure from the interior if Jarran Reed is unable to replicate his 2018 numbers. Seattle’s interior defense gives cause for concern, and when you mix in the worries about the Seattle’s edge rushers as well, this could turn into another year of frustrating Seattle football as they are projecting to be outmatched in the trenches.
Opening Day Roster Projection:
LDT: Jarran Reed
RDT: Poona Ford
Reserve: Bryan Mone
Cut: P.J. Johnson, Demarcus Christmas
Practice Squad: Cedrick Lattimore