BY Doug Farrar 04:17PM 02/23/2011

Five to watch at the scouting combine – Defense

Taking stock of five defensive players that the Seahawks could well be interested in on NFL Draft day.

The Senior Bowl wrapped up last month, but the pre-draft process is just beginning (Doug Farrar / Sportspress Northwest)

Now that we’re on the cusp of the scouting combine, and we’ve discussed a few offensive players the Seahawks might want to be looking at in Indianapolis, it’s time to talk more specifically about the defense. In our recent defensive line review, we discussed how the line changed after Red Bryant and Colin Cole were injured mid-season, and head coach Pete Carroll recently told Mitch Levy on KJR about his specific regrets regarding how the injuries were handled from a schematic standpoint.

“I wish I would have adjusted to that more quickly out of that scheme that fit those guys so well,” Carroll said of the hybrid front that featured Bryant as a five-tech run-stopping end, Cole as the nose tackle, and Mebane as the roaming interior disruptor. “It would have been a drastic change, but nothing that we can’t handle. The reason we didn’t do it is we thought it was going to be too taxing on the players. We needed to force ourselves through that because we lost the staying power of those guys. Red was really coming on, Colin had a knack in that nobody else was really like him physically…I mean 335 pounds playing nose tackle; and then Mebane, we didn’t really have a three-technique that could keep up the level of play. And we needed to help those guys more. That was a big decision for me that I thought….I knew that I could do that, I just felt like in the first year we might not be able to transition out because we’ve spent so much time in our scheme.”

Since the season’s end, Carroll has also talked about the need to reinforce both sides of the line, and the defensive line will obviously be a priority. With a class of linemen that may be as stacked as any in recent memory, it’s a good time for the Seahawks, because players that would go in the first round in other years would drop down to lower rounds. There may be more linemen who could easily transition to five-tech than we’ve ever seen in a draft class, which makes it specifically interesting for Carroll and general manager John Schneider. Our first three defenders of note all fall into that category.

Cameron Jordan, DE, Cal

The 6-foot-4, 287-pound hybrid end was the unquestioned star of the Senior Bowl; he crashed inside and outside so effectively in practices, his coaching staff had to back him off in the non-contact drills. Jordan may not be there when the Seahawks are ready with the 25th pick – he’s becoming more and more a household name – but if Carroll and Schneider are at all worried about Bryant’s recovery prospects or the depth behind him, Jordan would more than fit the bill, and he brings a bonus skill set with the ability to slip inside to three-tech and power past unsuspecting guards. With his interesting array of hand moves, Jordan may be the best of the potential quarterback disruptors in this class of bigger ends.

Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa

More was expected of Clayborn after his tremendous 2009 season, but even though the stats don’t quite match up in 2010, game tape will tell you that he was still very effective. A bit shorter than Jordan (6-foot-3, 286 pounds), Clayborn is a bit less positional versatile, but a real fireplug against the run. He’ll need that at the NFL level, because he doesn’t have Jordan’s killer first step or hand moves. That’s the potential problem with all of these bigger pass-rushing ends – many times, they got by in college just pushing sub-NFL tackles back, and the challenges for them in the pros will be severe. Seahawks fans, of course, learned this from Lawrence Jackson.

Jarvis Jenkins, DL, Clemson

Jenkins stands out on a Seahawks list because of the specific and documented interested Seattle showed in him at the Senior Bowl – Jenkins is a bigger guy (6-foot-4, 310 pounds – more on the Red Bryant side of things) who brings more specific run defense to the table. He’s not necessarily a dynamic pass rusher, but the upside to that is that most experts have him projected with a mid-round grade. Getting another mid-round run-stuffing bargain, as Carroll and Schneider inherited with Bryant, wouldn’t be bad at all.

Curtis Brown, CB, Texas

And with all the talk about linemen, there’s an equal need for cornerback talent going forward – that’s a statement easily made after any amount of 2010 Seahawks game tape. Brown is the first of two Senior Bowl standouts we’re discussing, and he may be of interest to Schneider because Brown brings a physical style and an ability to play tight coverage, which Schneider is used to from his time in Green Bay. A slightly undersized player (6-foot-0, 180 pounds), Brown is courageous in his tackling style, but relatively inconsistent when he’s trying to bring the wood. Where he impresses is in tight coverage and the ability to mirror faster receivers in different routes. Brown is estimated to go in the second round at this point, and a dynamite combine probably won’t change that, but it certainly could put Brown even more on the Seahawks’ radar.

Kendrick Burney, CB, North Carolina

With more and more teams playing nickel coverage, it becomes increasingly important to look for late-round bargains with defensive backs that can cover in short areas and display ball skills against slot receivers. Burney went into the Senior Bowl as a late-round prospect and blew everyone away with consistent deflections and interceptions in practices, and was named the North team’s Most Outstanding Player in the actual game. At 5-foot-9 and 180 pounds, Burney may lack the size to be a starting corner at the NFL level, but he’s a perfect nickel prospect – quick, tough, smart, and rarely out of position. Any great defense needs an under-the-radar player like that, and Burney will probably retain his third-day projection, though he’s on a hot streak right now, and it’s a fact that coaches and scouts pay more attention to the defensive back drills than many at other positions.


YourThoughts

  • http://whatever DanDZ

    No shorties! If Ruskel has taught us anything it is that we cannot consistently be pulling in tiny ball players. Burney is out in my book.

  • Lucky Infidel

    If we are going to draft defense high, then cornerback is the direction we need to go. However, I would take an offensive lineman in the first, a corner in the second, a defensive lineman in the third, a quarterback somewhere after, and some more offensive linemen to round things out.

  • Greg

    I totally agree with DanDZ ; enough of the mighty might midget corners thanks . We already have a wasted 1st round draft pick on the team that fits that bill . I do agree cornerback is certainly a need , but I have high hopes for Thurmond next season . His injury seems to have healed up nicely and he has a year under his belt now , lets see what the kid can do starting opposite Trufant .

    Jenkins from Clemson would represent good value with a middle round choice , and a back-up to Big Red is desperately needed as we all saw this last season . There should be plenty of decent D-lineman available in this years draft and no real need to spend a high draft pick there . I don’t see how Jordan “fits the bill” as a back-up for Bryant when you’re talking about a 287 lb DE who needs to stuff the run as a 5-tech . Sounds like more of a back-up for Clemons to me …

    No linebackers even mentioned ? With Leroy HIll almost certainly gone , Lofa an undersized MLB and walking injury with 2 bad knees and a previously torn pec , and Curry yet to show up as even a decent 1st round pick let alone a number 4 overall selection , our best LB 2 years running now has been an UDFA from TCU in Hawthorne . The depth behind them consists of Will Herring and who else ? They better grab a linebacker somewhere ; our once flaunted LB corps is no where near as good as some people seem to think .