Jordyn Brooks and C.J. Mosley
Seaside Joe 1235: Will Brooks earn the recognition that Seahawks fans hope he will deserve?
C.J. Mosley has always been an interesting player to me. Because even though he was an acclaimed linebacker at Alabama, a first round pick, a four-time second team All-Pro with the Ravens, and the highest-paid linebacker in the NFL until Bobby Wagner took the lead for a short period of time, Mosley managed to somehow stay off of my radar when I would try to mentally picture the game’s best players.
Maybe it was the fact that Mosley played in Baltimore during a period when the Ravens didn’t have a lot of playoff success. Or the fact that he basically missed all of 2019 and 2020. Or that going to the Jets is like entering into the witness protection program. But despite how respected and acclaimed and talented he is, it feels like C.J. Mosley is more respected within the industry than what you would imagine based on how much air time he gets on a national scale.
C.J. Mosley is like the NFL’s version of the band Sparks.
But it could be that the reason that Mosley’s talent is less appreciated by me personally than it is for players, coaches, and Ravens fans is that there are few jobs in football that are as thankless as being an inside or off-ball linebacker.
In my world, C.J. Mosley is C.J. Mosley. But in somebody else’s world, K.J. Wright is their version of “C.J. Mosley.” To a fan of the Falcons, Dolphins, or Ravens, I have to assume that they don’t understand Wright like I do, and vice versa would go for many of their favorite players and my unintended depletion of respect for the work that they do.
Rare is the inside linebacker like Bobby Wagner, Luke Kuechly, and Fred Warner, who have managed to gain consensus superstar status among fans in every part of the world. And even though Wagner was the comp for Jordyn Brooks coming out of Texas Tech in 2020, I’m beginning to think that the more reasonable ceiling as a linebacker would be C.J. Mosley.
Which is not at all a bad thing.
There are many key differences when comparing the first two years for Brooks and the first two for Mosley back in 2014-2015.
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For one, Mosley stepped into an incredible situation as a 22-year-old rookie with the Ravens in 2014, playing alongside Elvis Dumervil (17 sacks) and Terrell Suggs (12 sacks) that year and backing up two of the best interior defensive linemen in the NFL, Brandon Williams and Haloti Ngata. There was nobody blocking Mosley’s path at inside linebacker next to veteran Daryl Smith, and he could excel in that position with 133 tackles, three sacks, eight passes defensed, and two interceptions.
The next year was a disaster 5-11 season for Baltimore, but Mosley repeated his own efforts and had 117 tackles, four sacks, seven passes defensed, and 13 tackles for a loss. There was seemingly nothing he couldn’t handle in Dean Pees’ 3-4 defense, but Mosley has since not been tasked with pressuring the quarterback: He has only 3.5 sacks since the beginning of 2016.
For the most part, Mosley has only been an elite run-stopping off-ball linebacker, with good cover skills. But again, Mosley basically missed all of his age 27 and 28 seasons and when he returned with the Jets in 2021, he was not that much different than the player the Seahawks were getting next to Wagner last year.
In Brooks’ case, he entered the NFL at age 23 and was blocked by Wright for most of his rookie season in 2020. An experienced and polished run-stopper in Lubbock, Brooks was expected to need time to become a three-down linebacker in the league because he wasn’t tasked with having to cover many players in the Big 12. A 2020 draft preview at a Ravens blog even compared Brooks to Mosley:
The Baltimore Ravens need a quality starter at inside linebacker and Jordyn Brooks can be just what the doctor ordered. Brooks can also be had on mid-to-late day two, as well. Overall, his value will exceed wherever he gets taken.
Brooks would be one of Baltimore’s starting inside linebackers from day one. I could see a very C.J. Mosley-like presence vs. the run early on in his career. Brooks does an excellent job to get into the backfield and his read-and-react time is stellar. Considering how much investment the Ravens have made in improving their run defense, Brooks would be a great addition to cap it all off. Brooks’ inexperience in pass coverage could make him a two-down player early on, but Baltimore may be able to work around this and keep him shallow and near the line.
“Ebony Bird” expected Brooks to be a late-second to late-third round pick, but in typical Seattle fashion, the Seahawks weren’t interested to know what the public’s perception of a player’s draft value is, and they shouldn’t be. The Seahawks picked Brooks with the 27th overall selection, which meant that Baltimore was left to pick LSU’s Patrick Queen at 28 instead.
Queen has had somewhat of a similar trajectory as Brooks in some sense, but is certainly not the second coming of C.J. Mosley. Not that he can’t improve, just the Queen isn’t off to the hot start that Mosley had in 2014 and there are concerns with his ability to stay on the field for all three downs, same as Brooks.
But like Mosley, Brooks would seem to be capable of many splash plays as a run defender. The fact that he could become a great cover linebacker only amplifies the reason for optimism as Brooks now transitions into a new role as one half of an inside linebacking tandem in Clint Hurtt’s 3-4 … and we can’t rule out that he won’t start rushing the passer, as Mosley used to do with the Rvens.
According to the SIS DataHub, new Jaguars linebacker Foyesade Oluokun led he NFL with 89 tackles short of the first down in 2021, followed by Mosley at 84, and Brooks at 80.
Part of this can be attributed to opportunity. Because the Seahawks’ defense had such a hard time getting off the field (and the offense had such a hard time staying on it), Seattle played an inordinate amount of defensive snaps in 2021. The most in the league, actually. That led to 451 run defense snaps for Brooks, the fourth-most in the NFL.
Thankfully, Brooks only had five missed tackles on his 189 opportunities (another website says that Brooks had nine missed tackles, but splitting the difference doesn’t change the outcome much) and that’s one of the best rates in the league.
Brooks also had 11 tackles for a loss, third-most for any linebacker with at least 50 tackles, and his 99 assisted tackles were the most in the league according to SIS. While his 109 solo tackles were the most in the league according to Pro-Football-Reference. I’m not sure which of those is most true but all roads lead to Jordyn Brooks being as good of a tackler as his numbers would indicate.
SIS even credits Brooks with the second-highest run defense “WAR” in the NFL, behind only Darius Leonard.
The question with all off-ball, inside, non-pass rushing linebackers is this: What else can you do? Most linebackers in Brooks’ position don’t get that kind of recognition unless they’re literally getting recognition: All-Pro lists, Pro Bowls, and especially the Super Bowl.
Even in the case of C.J. Mosley, that wasn’t always enough. If we don’t see a different version of Brooks this season, Seattle will again have one of the best run-stopping linebackers in the NFL. However, if we don’t see a different version than Brooks, will that be good enough to keep him with the Seahawks past his rookie contract?
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