Final 2022 Seahawks first round mock draft: The OTHER kind of tackle
Seaside Joe 1150: Finally, Pete Carroll finds his own #99
In the entire time that I have maintained that “Pete Carroll is gonna Pete Carroll” during Seattle’s offseason plan, one aspect that I have overlooked is Carroll’s propensity to build a defense that stops the run. It is perhaps character trait numero uno for the veteran head coach. This ESPN article from Sheil Kapadia may be six years old, but it rings just as true today.
Stopping the run
Turn on any pregame show or read a trend piece about the NFL, and you'll almost certainly be reminded of one thing: It's a passing league.
But Carroll believes a defense which struggles to stop the run is a defense that lacks discipline. He prefers speed and athleticism over size and has described the Seahawks' defensive fronts as a 4-3 with 3-4 personnel.
"That really came out of all the way back to Fayetteville," Carroll said. "It was a one-gap principle defense way back then. Monte and I, when we were together in Minnesota with (former Vikings defensive coordinator) Floyd Peters, we were able to continue to build on and NFL-ize our scheme. And so, it’s been a way to get guys to attack and play aggressive so that you can get good pass rush and still fit on the run. That’s where the secondary fits and stuff like that really comes into play."
Carroll goes on to note that while he has more or less used the same defensive scheme for the entirety of his career, to be a great coach you have to find great players and then adjust your system to match their style.
"Probably over the years, I feel like I’ve stayed within the same scheme for all these years, so we’ve done everything you can think of, and we’ve had every type of player you can think of," Carroll said. "And so we have that in our backlog and reservoir of stuff so that we can compensate for special qualities and technique and style of players so that we can utilize them and put them in the best situation for them. We’ve had so much scheme, and we’ve done so many things that we just have a lot of choices, and that’s really helped us out."
When he was hired as the head coach of the Patriots in 1997, Pete Carroll added nose tackle Henry Thomas, a player who was drafted by the Vikings when Carroll was a defensive assistant in Minnesota. Thomas was one of the top nose tackles in the NFL during his 14-year career and with the Pats he was paired with Chad Eaton, a name familiar to many of you Seahawks fans.
Though Carroll was fired after three seasons, the Patriots always had a good, if not great, run defense under his tutelage. In addition, Thomas and Eaton were fantastic interior pass rushers for their time and during those seasons under Carroll.
Following his run in the NFL, Carroll guided USC back into contention… how? Carson Palmer and Reggie Bush are phenomenal football players, but run defense reigned supreme for the Trojans. In 2001, Carroll’s first at the helm, USC ranked 63rd in yards per carry allowed (3.8) and 59th in rushing yards (149) per game allowed.
In 2002, USC ranked 13th (2.8) and sixth (83.2).
In 2003, USC ranked 1st (1.8) and first (60.2).
In 2004, USC ranked 3rd (2.6) and first (79.4).
The run defense suffered in 2005, the year after consensus first-team All-American defensive tackle Shaun Cody was drafted by the Lions in the second round. But rebounded in 2006 and 2007 with the ascent of defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis, the seventh overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft.
The 2008 team featured future NFL defensive tackles Fili Moala and Kyle Moore (plus Everson Griffen and Jurrell Casey) and USC was again a top-five run defense and the Trojans finished with a 12-1 record.
Carroll had a similar thing happen when he returned to the NFL with the Seahawks in 2010: the focus for how those early teams succeeded tends to rotate between the Legion of Boom, Marshawn Lynch, and Russell Wilson. But in Carroll’s second year in Seattle, the defense improved from 15th in yards per carry allowed to fourth, and by DVOA they improved from 24th to 10th.
That year, Carroll signed underrated defensive tackle Alan Branch and traded for underrated defensive tackle Clinton McDonald to complement underrated defensive tackle Brandon Mebane. Seattle again ranked 10th against the run by DVOA in 2012; and they also drafted an immensely athletic defensive tackle in the fourth round named Jaye Howard.
When the Howard pick didn’t work out like Seattle had hoped, the Seahawks drafted Jordan Hill with their second pick and Jesse Williams with their fourth pick in the 2013 draft. That was after Carroll signed underrated defensive tackle Tony McDaniel.
So while we’ll talk forever about how great the secondary, linebackers, and edge players were for the legendary 2013 defense, the defensive tackles in that group were Brandon Mebane, Clinton McDonald, and Tony McDaniel, while Hill sort of emerged as a pass rushing threat, and Michael Bennett could play anywhere along the defensive line asked of him.
The Seahawks had the number one pass defense, but by Carroll’s own words that’s in large thanks to the fact that Seattle could first stop the run and play disciplined football.
Can we characterize the current Seahawks defense and roster as being ready to stop the run and play disciplined football?
Over the last four years, the Seahawks have ranked 16th, 23rd, seventh, and eighth against the run by DVOA. But perhaps more importantly, when looking at Seattle’s splits against the run, the Seahawks allowed 4.2 yards per carry on 261 first down rushing attempts. By comparison, the 2013 defense allowed 3.5 yards per carry on 217 attempts. The Seahawks allowed four rushing touchdowns in 2013, compared to 16 rushing touchdowns allowed in 2021.
And by ranking 31st in defensive plays per drive, Seattle’s defense was ill-equipped to withstand a brutal rushing attack over the long haul of the game; it’s fine to play the “bend-don’t-break” philosophy (the Rams did it last season) but the Seahawks were not good enough in the trenches to consistently get off the field against any half-decent offense.
The Seahawks allowed 3.1 YPC in the first quarter, 3.5 YPC in the second quarter, 4.1 YPC in the third quarter, and finally 4.4 YPC in the fourth quarter of games last season. Rushing touchdowns allowed by quarter, in order: 1, 3, 5, and 7.
2021 Seahawks Defensive Splits
I think Carroll was extremely bothered by his rushing offense, and then Rashaad Penny showed up. I think Carroll was extremely bothered by his rushing defense… but were they also being saved by Penny and the offense? Finally, Seattle’s offense could eat up some time and sure enough, after allowing over 110 rushing yards in each of the first six games, and between 82-152 in the next five, the Seahawks allowed the fifth-fewest rushing yards in the final six games.
But that correlates with Penny’s dominance as a running back. Carroll’s reaction on defense has been somewhat different than his approach on offense: he fired Ken Norton, Jr., cut Bobby Wagner, and has shown little interest in retaining Rasheem Green, who had the most snaps on the team (846) of any defensive lineman. Carroll has also parted with Carlos Dunlap, Kerry Hyder, Benson Mayowa, and Robert Nkemdiche. And yet he did retain two of his top three secondary free agents, and attempted to also keep D.J. Reed. He also re-signed Al Woods and brought back Quinton Jefferson.
I now think Carroll can live with what he has to work with in pass defense, but he can’t stand his team’s run defense.
The Seahawks promoted a veteran defensive line coach (Clint Hurtt) to defensive coordinator, and they have Damione Lewis, a 10-year NFL veteran at the position, coaching defensive tackles. When Seattle makes their pick in the first round of Thursday’s NFL Draft, it may be for a prospect who will report directly to Hurtt and Lewis next season.
And like Henry Thomas, Chad Eaton, and so many others to play the position for Carroll, he might also be able to flirt with 10 sacks every season. Maybe more. Because he could be that special, especially for a defense that desperately needs him and a head coach who would know how to appreciate his rare talents.
#9 Seattle Seahawks - DT Jordan Davis, Georgia
Three days after they traded Russell Wilson and acquired the number nine pick, I had Jordan Davis as the #6 player on my Seahawks big board. I then started dropping him because of concerns about his playing weight, his ability to disrupt the quarterback consistently, and whether the value was there to pick a nose tackle in the top-10. I’ve now circled back and would say that Seattle probably does have Davis around 5-7 on their big board.
I would still think that the players who would complicate the Seahawks taking Davis would be if Evan Neal and/or Kayvon Thibodeaux are available. But not one of the cornerbacks and not a second-tier edge rusher prospect. Certainly not a quarterback.
Jordan Davis would be the guy then who I think could be top-five on Seattle’s board and also available when they’re picking at nine. I also believe that John Schneider would need to be floored by an offer to trade down because Davis isn’t going to make it that far down the board. If Davis is off the board, Devonte Wyatt could be an equally intriguing defensive tackle prospect at that spot.
For a long time I’ve said that Bernhard Raimann is the ideal draft prospect for Carroll to target following a trade down scenario, built in a Seattle lab like he’s noted Washington State attendee Dolph Lundgren, but I now see an opportunity for the Seahawks to draft him in the second round. It’s not because of the reports of medicals really, but more of the fact that he’s almost 25 and yet still a project.
Jordan Davis, Georgia
6’6, 341 lbs, 4.78 40-yard dash, 1.63 10-yard split, 34” arms, 80.2” wingspan, 22 years old
Gif courtesy of YouTube channel Thinking Football, who called Davis “a snowplow with sports car handling.”
There’s a possibility here that Davis, who didn’t really play that much football in high school according to Dane Brugler’s The Beast scouting report, hasn’t even really tapped into his full potential yet… which is an amazing statement to make about a player who won college football’s award for the best defensive player in the country last year.
Davis was a freshman All-American in 2018 even though he was “only” a three-star recruit and he was a second-team All-American as a junior, then a unanimous All-American as a senior. There haven’t been many unanimous All-American defensive tackles over the last decade (Quinnen Williams, Derrick Brown, Christian Wilkins, Daviyon Nixon), but one who appeared in 2013 was Aaron Donald.
Donald was great his first three seasons at Pitt, but he dominated at another level during his final season… then he turned in the most insane combine performance for a defensive tackle that the combine had ever seen. His only “issue” was that he was only 6’ and 285 lbs and players of his size had rarely even competed at the NFL level at that position.
Davis’s issue is the opposite, that he’s too tall (bad pad level) and too heavy (340-385 lbs depending on the weigh-in). But he had the best combine for any defensive tackle other than Donald. Actually, Jordan Davis’s performance was better.
Donald ran a 4.68 at 285, but Davis ran a 4.78 at 341. Davis posted the same vertical as Donald (32”) and a longer broad jump (123” to 116”). But at an additional 56 lbs.
Ever since the Rams picked a defensive tackle now know as #99, the Seahawks have been absolutely doomed. It was like the universe saying, “Okay, you won the Super Bowl, now you suffer.” Aaron Donald has been the number one reason that the Rams have consistently beaten Seattle over the last eight years and given that’s not a player that the Seahawks will be able to stop next season no matter what they do… now Pete Carroll can go get his own #99.
First-year role in Seattle: The Seahawks are an incredible landing spot for Davis and vice versa, because they don’t need a defensive tackle who is going to play 800 snaps for them next season and he needs more time to develop parts of his game. Last season at Georgia, Davis had his playing time reduced on a talented defense and those breathers did help him dominate college football. Seattle has Poona Ford at nose tackle but he will be a free agent after 2022 and I don’t see a need to extend him.
Jefferson is a nice addition and a valuable role player, but still just a role player and one who has bounced around the league for the last four years. Woods is 35. Bryan Mone has reached his ceiling already. Jordan Davis is built immensely different from all of these guys and the 350 snaps that he would give to the Seahawks next year would be fun to watch.
Carroll, Hurt, Lewis, Jefferson, Woods, and Ford would also be there to guide his development from now until 2023, when Davis could potentially realize an even higher ceiling than we currently give him credit for with regards to his pass rush and ability to disrupt the quarterback; Davis is just so good with his feet, his hands, and his power that it’s hard to imagine a future in the NFL that doesn’t involve him consistently being around the ball in the backfield play after play.
In this particular class, Jordan Davis may well be the best player in the draft. He also happens to be a perfect fit for Carroll, fills a current need on the defense, and will somehow drop out of the top-eight and be available when the Seahawks are on the clock. If you want me to be right, please hit subscribe! If you want me to be wrong, please leave a comment and then hit subscribe!