The Seahawks have put together a 90-man roster and have moved on to their offseason program. Although more steps will be taken in the coming weeks as they continue to shuffle their roster, the vast majority of the players currently under contract will be on the team when the training camp opens in late July.
As Seattle pushes ahead with preparations for a new season, the organization hopes the pass rush will take another notch after the signing of Carlos Dunlap and the addition of a pair of seasoned veterans to the free selection. How will the final defensive rotation formalize for the 2021 season?
Projected starters: Carlos Dunlap, LJ Collier
With teams across the league largely bypassing older veterans in the free hands, 32-year-old Dunlap returned to Seattle on a more team-friendly two-year deal and will try to pick up where he left off. He galvanized the entire Seahawks defense line, producing 5.0 sacks and 14 quarterback hits in eight regular season games, while the team ended up with the most sacks in the NFL from week 9. Across from him, Collier quietly had a solid sophomore season, starting all 16 games, recording 22 tackles, 3.0 sacks, and seven quarterback hits while going through multiple clutch games. The earlier round one election will have to fight back against new contenders this year to maintain his starting role as San Francisco’s Kerry Hyder was set to create an intriguing battle at training camp to start at the base endpoint.
Reserves: Kerry Hyder, Benson Mayowa, Rasheem Green, Alton Robinson, Aldon Smith, and Darrell Taylor
After rising to a career high of 8.5 sacks for the 49ers in 2020, Hyder should see action as both a 5-tech defensive end and a defensive tackle in handing downs for the Seahawks. At 270 pounds, he balances average athletic skills with excellent hand technique and a relentless motor, and uses these qualities to find his way into the backfield and harass opposing quarterbacks. After a strong end to the 2020 season, the nervous Mayowa should see sweeping action from Dunlap at the end of the LEO defensive, while Smith may also see time in that role if not suspended over his final legal issue. At the start of the final year of the contract, Green will compete in the 5-tech position alongside Collier and Hyder, while Robinson saw work on both spots during training camp after a surprising rookie season. Like Bruce Irvin before, Taylor can play SAM linebacker and occasionally fall off the edge in obvious overtaking maneuvers.
Wild cards: Robinson, green
Even if Taylor moves to the linebacker, the Seahawks are unlikely to be able to keep seven or eight defense targets on the 53-man roster, potentially putting Green and Robinson’s ranks at risk. Even so, both players have talent and advantages and shouldn’t be counted when training camp opens in July. Green has dealt with injuries for the first three seasons, throwing just a pair of sacks in 10 games in 2020. However, he’s only 24 years old and has shown that he’s a top-notch rotary defender who offers versatility to play multiple positions. Robinson was one of the biggest revelations in Seattle last year. He took on a bigger role as his rookie season progressed, producing 4.0 sacks in limited action. It’s not out of the question that one of these players might be ready for a breakout season, which would be an ideal development for Seattle in the short and long term.
Who is 53?
The Seahawks will open the camp with the greatest depth and talent they have had in the final defensive position since Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril and a young Frank Clark were together in 2017. Regardless of who starts at base end, Collier and Hyder will both see plenty of action across from Dunlap and Mayowa, while Taylor will start at SAM Linebacker and Moonlight as the LEO Edge Rusher. Behind those five players, Smith’s status will determine whether or not Robinson and Green both survive the cuts in the squad. No updates have been released about the veteran’s recent arrest, but given his long track record, he is likely to face punishment from the league. If so, he will either be released immediately or held in lockdown so Seattle can hold both young defenders at each end position for extra depth.