BY Art Thiel 06:00AM 08/18/2020

Thiel: Upon Seahawks’ Collier, much depends

Given his first-year bust, DE L.J. Collier is the guy who has to improve the most for Seahawks to have the best shot at big success. But Benson Mayowa also has an idea.

Largely because of a training camp ankle injury, DE L.J. Collier played just 152 snaps in his rookie season. / Art Thiel, Sportspress Northwest

As the gradual acceptance of facsimiles becomes a standard of U.S. life, the Seahawks’ first time in shoulder pads since the dark and cold of a January night in Green Bay seemed, you know, like real football.

Blockers blocked, defenders defended, quarterbacks threw and receivers caught.  No tackling yet, but players were knocked down and got up with grass stains. Newcomer SS Jamal Adams even intercepted a Russell Wilson red-zone pass and swooped the length of the field, ball held high.

The dream-state was enhanced by a cloudless day with a cool breeze off the lake, making it easier to drop one’s guard, and be open to crazy football ideas.

Like, say, DE L.J. Collier being a quality contributor.

Could be sunstroke. But as you know, coach Pete Carroll thrives in these uncertain moments, a man capable of selling rainbows at night. He used his Zoom presser Monday to make the case.

“He just looks different,” he said of the 2019 first-round draft choice, who played 152 mostly invisible snaps last season. “I talked to him for a while (Sunday) about coming off the draft year, and then all of the confusions and all of the distractions, and that he probably was not in his best shape, because I see now, he looks like a different guy.

“He’s quicker. He’s explosive. He’s in great shape and he’s battling. He wasn’t ready last time around, getting into camp and getting hurt. We get a chance to find out, but he’s off to a terrific start.”

A week of drills is not much of a database, nor is early enthusiasm from Carroll unusual, for just about anyone. But the facts that Collier showed up out of shape and unprepared from Texas Christian were fresh disclosures beyond the severe ankle injury in training camp that was the main cover for his lost rookie season.

How a top draft choice could be unready for the big time is a tad unfathomable, although not unprecedented (see Malik McDowell, 2017). Nevertheless, Collier is back, with a fresh title — player from whom the biggest improvement is needed for team success.

Carroll didn’t say that. But I’m happy to say it for him.

An argument can be made that the offensive line, with three spots missing incumbents, is more urgent. But the Seahawks have hired two veteran free agents and a third-round draft choice, Damien Lewis from LSU, for those vacancies.

They haven’t hired to replace studhoss DE Jadeveon Clowney.

That void seems to be the difference between playoff contender and serious playoff contender.

That doesn’t mean the Seahawks can’t still re-sign Clowney. He’s out there somewhere, Yeti-like. And they could pull a Sheldon Richardson-type deal for someone during the opening week of the regular season. But the last best guy in that category this August, ex-Viking Everson Griffen, took a one-year, $6 million deal from the Dallas Cowboys.

In acquiring Adams for bank that made owner Jody Allen look over the top of her glasses at GM John Schneider, the Seahawks have made their move on defense. They will have to make do with a pass rush improved by veteran free agent retreads Bruce Irvin and Benson Mayowa, and perhaps a little by Adams (six sacks with the Jets in 2019).

Even with Clowney, they had 28 sacks last season. Only one team had fewer. So how is that part of the program better? They have back veterans Rasheem Green and Branden Jackson, and may get a little help from two rookies, second-rounder Darrell Taylor (absent while recovering from foot surgery) and fifth-rounder Alton Robinson.

But . . . well, meh.

Clearing his throat, Mayowa would like to interject an alternative view.

“Sacking the quarterback takes a village,” said Mayowa, in 2013 a kid out of LA and the University of Idaho who who won a Super Bowl ring with the Seahawks as a deep reserve who played two games. “It don’t matter who the other guys are. You just take a village of guys with the same mind-set and working together, to get to the quarterback.

“You don’t need the big-name guys here. It’s always been to have a big name. You just need eight (ends in a rotation) working their asses off together.”

As an an example, Mayowa, 29, could cite his 2019 season with the Raiders. He was a rotation guy who never started. But in 15 games, he had seven sacks, 10 QB hits, five tackles for loss and three forced fumbles.

If those numbers had been attached to Clowney’s 2019 season, he’d be hired by now. Mayowa may be on to something.

“It’s a little different when you start to mix and match our guys,” Carroll said. “We do have some depth. We have guys who give us some real good athleticism.

“it can be a really fast defense. It’ll start with those guys’ ability to run upfront.”

As far as can be seen in these days of uncertainty, that’s the Seahawks plan for the pass rush: Make it all about speed with Collier, Irvin, Green and Mayowa. Then pick up a side hustle as football’s Village People.

 

 


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YourThoughts

  • jafabian

    If Collier can pick where he left off after his Senior year then hopefully he, Irvin, Green and Mayowa can make the D-Line respectable. Or at least put pressure on the QB to make the LOB part deux do its thing. They just need to bring in Clay Matthews. I get the impression that the club is holding out hope that Clowney will do a one year deal with them but it sounds like he’s willing to sit until he gets the contract he wants.

    • Husky73

      Does Matthews have any tread left on the tires? Is Clowney interested in playing football?

      • 2nd place is 1st loser

        Does Matthews have any tread left, does Bruce Irvin or Greg Olson? Does Clowney want to play football for the Seahawks? Because at this point it appears nobody’s lining up for his services.

        • art thiel

          See answer above. Clowney may have multiple suitors after first-week injuries.

          • Chris Alexander

            The only way Clowney gets suitors is by lowering his price. Injuries won’t make teams cough up $20M. Neither will opt outs. While it’s true that Clowney’s basically just biding time at this point, I tend to think it has more to do with him not wanting to go through the rigor / hassle of training camp if he signs for less than he thinks he’s worth.

          • art thiel

            Be careful of assumptions carried over from previous seasons. In terms of personnel replacements, the virus will make this year unique.

      • jafabian

        I figure the Hawks would probably use him in a specialty type of role. Definitely not every down. They don’t have a standout player on the D-Line but hopefully enough depth to tire the opposing O-Lines.

        • art thiel

          He has to be healthier than Ziggy Ansah.

      • art thiel

        Clowney has shown patience before. He understands that the lack of preseason football work for all players will lead to a higher percentage of injuries. Desperation is less than a month away for some team.

    • art thiel

      Not sure how Clay Matthews managed eight sacks for the Raiders at 34. Duplication seems unlikely.

      Latest speculation is that Clowney may join Pats, given the losses in free agency an opt-outs.

      • Chris Alexander

        Bill B. is smart enough to know that his team, as is, even after the opt outs, is “good enough” to win their division without spending money unnecessarily, and he’s also smart enough to know that it would take a miracle for them to beat Kansas City or Baltimore in the playoffs even if he spent every penny they have available under the cap. Obviously he’d never say either of those things out loud, but I’m certain he’s had those thoughts and come to those conclusions. If I were a betting man, my money would be on New England taking their “newfound wealth” and rolling it over to 2021.

        • art thiel

          Given the virus’s random impacts in 2020, including a shortened season, it’s a smart move.

  • woofer

    Maybe the league can be talked into reclassifying Collier as a second or third round pick, this being such a strange year anyway. It would take some of the pressure off. The expectations placed on a Seahawks first round pick are so low that nobody can be expected to meet them.

    • art thiel

      Relegation based on poor performance? I didn’t know you were a British soccer fan.

  • Bruce McDermott

    All good points re the DL, Art. Looking forward to hearing you ask Pete a question containing those points, if that is still on your “Pete list.” :)

    • art thiel

      He’ll talk around it. And without a game’s worth of evidence, he can.