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State of Defense: Tackling the Shuffling at Defensive Tackle

Mar 26, 2021 12:02PM PDT

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EDIT: Literally five minutes after this article was posted, Ian Rapoport announced that the Seahawks signed Al Woods (34) to a 1-year $3.0M deal with $750K guaranteed. Woods is primarily known as a run-stuffer and should serve as depth behind Poona Ford, who could ultimately be moved to 3-tech, as detailed below. Stay tuned for updates.

While the Defensive Line was a big question mark for the Seahawks heading into the offseason, the focus was primarily geared towards Edge Rushers, as the Seahawks were largely expected to keep their two starting DTs.

Much has changed since then. The pass rush is starting to seem like a position of strength while the impending release of Jarran Reed leaves a (very) large hole to fill at 3-tech.

Notable Defensive Line Moves:

-Poona Ford: RE-SIGNED (2-years $14M)

-Benson Mayowa: RE-SIGNED (2-years $7.6M, 2021 cap hit $2.3M)

-Carlos Dunlap: RE-SIGNED (2-years 16.6M)

-Kerry Hyder Jr.: SIGNED (3-years 16.5M)

-Jarran Reed: RELEASED ($5M dead money, $9.0M cap savings)

Patience paid off for the Seahawks as they were able to re-sign Dunlap at a much lower APY and for a 2-year deal, bringing back their best pass rusher in 2020. Mayowa certainly saw the benefits of having Dunlap on the Seahawks, as 4 out of his 6 sacks in 2020 came after Dunlap came to Seattle. Hyder led the depleted 49er defense with 8.5 sacks and looks to bolster depth at 5-tech.

Currently, the presumed starter at LEO is Carlos Dunlap, followed by Benson Mayowa, Alton Robinson, and 2020 second-round pick Darrell Taylor. At 5-tech, the presumed starter is Kerry Hyder, followed by Rasheem Green and LJ Collier. Overall, the Seahawks look to have decent starters along the edges combined with quality depth.

However, the interior Defensive Line will undergo a major shakeup with Jarran Reed expected to be released. This leaves just Poona Ford as the lone DT currently with ample starting experience and Ford primarily has been used as a 1-tech, whereas Reed has primarily played 3-tech. Other DTs currently on Seattle’s roster include Bryan Mone (2019, undrafted) and Cedrick Lattimore (2020, undrafted). A common theme among DTs on Seattle’s roster is that ALL 3 players are undrafted, including Ford who was undrafted in the 2018 draft class. All of this poses a question: what will the Seahawks do about Jarran Reed’s departure?

Can Poona Ford become the next Jarran Reed?

While Poona Ford has primarily played and succeeded at 1-tech, could he possibly make the move over to 3-tech to replace Jarran Reed?

First, let’s look at the physical makeup of Seattle’s 2020 starting DTs:

Jarran Reed: 6’3” 306lbs 38.2 BMI

Poona Ford: 5’11” 311lbs 43.4 BMI

While Reed and Ford are roughly the same weight, Ford is substantially shorter (part of the reason he went undrafted, despite solid college production) and has a significantly higher BMI, which makes sense considering he’s played 1-tech for the past 3 seasons.

However, physical traits are from the only things to consider. Profiled as primarily a run-stuffer coming out of college, Reed has surprisingly shown a prowess for pass rush, amassing 19.0 sacks the past 3 seasons. To truly replace Reed’s production, Ford must be able to generate solid pressure upfront. Below are the duo’s pass rushing stats in 2020.

Jarran Reed: 561 pass rush snaps, 6.5 sacks, 1.2% sack%, 2.6% hurry%, 3.3% hit%, 5.7% pressure%

Poona Ford: 385 pass rush snaps, 2.0 sacks, 0.5% sack%, 4.0% hurry%, 3.4% hit%, 5.5% pressure%

Despite the noticeably lower sack production and sack rate, Poona Ford bested Reed in hurry rate and hit rate, while producing a pressure rate that was just 0.2% less than Reed. While sacks are certainly important, applying consistent pressure from the interior is something that is more stable and dependable, something Ford has proved that he could do.

Of course, being dependable in run defense is extremely important in Carroll’s defense, and Reed has interestingly only amassed a measly 3 TFLs over the past 3 seasons, considering he was labeled as a run-stuffer coming out of college. Ford, however, has fared MUCH better as a run defender, something that should be considered when comparing the two DTs. Below are stats pertaining to run defense in 2020.

Jarran Reed: 37 TKL 1 TFL 5.1% missed tackle%

Poona Ford: 40 TKL, 6 TFL, 9.1% missed tackle%

Poona Ford’s TFLs jump off the page, especially when compared to Jarran Reed. In fact, Ford has never had less than 3 TFLs in any of his 3 seasons, including back-to-back seasons with 6 TFLs. For context, Ford’s 6 TFLs in 2020 was the same number Aaron Donald had. Reed has only had one season with 6 TFLs and has had less than 3 TFLs in every other season.

While Ford’s pass rush production certainly indicates that he could replicate most of Reed’s production if given the chance, his dominance in run defense certainly makes the case for Ford to remain at 1-tech. The flexibility is certainly there for Seattle to shuffle Ford around between the two positions and certainly having Ford replace Reed on passing downs is something to consider.

Who else could replace Jarran Reed’s production?

As aforementioned, Seattle has two other notable DTs on their roster and possibly LJ Collier as well, who has often filled in as a 3-tech. We’ll take a look at each defender below.

Physical Traits

Jarran Reed: 6’3” 306lbs 38.2 BMI

Poona Ford: 5’11” 311lbs 43.4 BMI

Bryan Mone: 6’3” 344lbs 43.0 BMI

Cedrick Lattimore: 6’3” 295lbs 36.9 BMI

LJ Collier: 6’2” 291lbs 37.4 BMI

While both Lattimore and Collier are slightly underweight compared to Jarran Reed, the 3 certainly have comparable BMIs, while Ford and Mone are more comparable. From a physical standpoint, an argument could be made that Lattimore and Collier are best suited to replace Reed while Mone is likely the backup to Ford at 1-tech.

Pass Rush

Jarran Reed: 561 pass rush snaps, 6.5 sacks, 1.2% sack%, 2.6% hurry%, 3.3% hit%, 5.7% pressure%

Poona Ford: 385 pass rush snaps, 2.0 sacks, 0.5% sack%, 4.0% hurry%, 3.4% hit%, 5.5% pressure%

Bryan Mone: 112 pass rush snaps, 0.5 sacks, 0.4% sack%, 2.7% hurry%, 2.7% hit%, 4.5% pressure%

LJ Collier: 309 pass rush snaps, 3.0 sacks, 1.0% sack%, 4.9% hurry%, 2.9% hit%, 6.5% pressure%

Cedrick Lattimore: DNP

Collier most similarly replicated Reed’s production, but one must consider that a portion of Collier’s pass rush snaps were coming off the edge, not the interior. As a result, Collier’s pressure rate is the best among the four. Mone’s sack rate is most similar to Ford’s, but with a much lower pressure rate.

Run Defense

Jarran Reed: 37 TKL 1 TFL 5.1% missed tackle%

Poona Ford: 40 TKL, 6 TFL, 9.1% missed tackle%

Bryan Mone: 9 TKL, 2TFL, 10.0% missed tackle%

LJ Collier: 23 TKL, 2 TFL, 0.0% missed tackle%

Reed’s lack of TFLs really stands out, especially considering Mone had 2 TFLs in just 108 snaps in run defense. It’s also important to note that LJ Collier surprisingly had 225 run defense snaps, far more than any other Seahawks edge defender (Green 102, Mayowa 176, Dunlap 86) and the difference in pass rush snaps to run defense snaps ratio is quite significant (Collier 1.37, Green 2.48, Mayowa 2.13, Dunlap 2.57), as Collier was the only edge defender to have a ratio less than 2.0, possibly signaling that the Seahawks see him as a more as a DT than an edge rusher. Similarly, Kerry Hyder played 285 run defense snaps and had a pass rush to run defense snap ratio of 1.44.

While Collier has certainly been used as a smaller DT this past season and could be Seattle’s answer to replacing Reed, he is about 15lbs undersized and given Seattle’s focus on run defense, the Seahawks could look elsewhere to replace Reed. Lattimore is listed as a true DT on the roster and has the physical makeup to replace Reed but didn’t play meaningful snaps for the Seahawks last season.

Notable free agent Defensive Tackles

Considering that Seattle does not currently have an adequate successor to Jarran Reed, the Seahawks could look elsewhere to find a pass rushing DT to fill in. The Seahawks have minimal cap space, thus leading to the imminent release of Reed, so Seattle’s front office could look to signing cheap players off practice squads to minimum deals or taking a chance on a veteran with a 1-year deal close to the veteran minimum, similar to their approach with Snacks Harrison.

Veteran Free Agent DTs

Geno Atkins (33) – The Seahawks could poach yet another Bengal defensive staple (with the help of Dunlap) and take a chance on Geno Atkins. Atkins played half the season for the Bengals but was unproductive with 0 sacks and just a 3.0% pressure rate. In 2019, Atkins posted 4.5 sacks and a pressure rate of 7.1%. Historically, Atkins has averaged a pressure rate ABOVE 10% and the Seahawks would be happy to get anything close to 2019 Geno Atkins on a deal near the veteran minimum considering his age and injury history.

Kawann Short (32) – Short has been injured the past 2 seasons and has not been fully healthy since 2018 but posted 3 sacks and a pressure rate of 8.4%. Short could be worth a shot to see if anything is left in the tank, as his extensive injury history the past two seasons should allow the Seahawks to sign him to a minimum deal.

Jurrell Casey (31) – Casey also only played in 3 games last season and posted no sacks and a 4.4% pressure rate. However, Casey was productive in 2019, posting 5 sacks and a pressure rate of 6.2%. As an older defender coming off a season-ending injury, Casey could

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