The Seattle Seahawks’ defensive line is another group that is staring uncertainty in the face for 2018. Gone are Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, and Sheldon Richardson. No one knows whether or not Malik McDowell will ever return from injury and suit up again. There is only one sure-fire starter locked in and plenty of players battling it out for the other spots. With major changes in store for this season, we take a look at the defensive line depth chart and project how it will look come week one.
#55 Frank Clark, 6-3, 260 pounds, Defensive End:
With 22 sacks, 84 quarterback hurries and 15 quarterback hits over the last three seasons, Clark is the only proven pass-rusher of the entire defensive line group. Now in the last year of his rookie contract, the former second-round pick will look to have a monster season in order to cash in. So long as his apparent holdout during this summer’s OTAs and concerns about his pending contract doesn’t distract him too much, expect Clark to make the jump to being an elite pass-rusher in 2018. The one true lock to be a starter on the line, Frank displays great short-area quickness. This allows him to beat tackles to the outside and then set up a solid inside-counter. Another double-digit sack total is in the cards.
#90 Jarran Reed, 6-3, 306 pounds, Defensive Tackle:
Reed will be entering his third season in the NFL and should see his second year as a starter at the nose tackle spot. A run-stuffing, solid defensive tackle out of the University of Alabama, Reed totaled 45 tackles and 1.5 sacks in 2017. Jarran played 617 snaps on defense last year and will be a two-down player in 2018. Though he has improved as a pass-rusher, Reed’s role is stopping the run. Seattle badly needs Jarran to play like he did at Alabama, where he posted the highest-run stop percentage in the nation for 2016.
#98 Shamar Stephen, 6-5, 310 pounds, Defensive Tackle:
Coming to the Seahawks on a one-year, $2.1 million contract, the 27-year old Stephen provides Seattle with another big-bodied, run-stopping presence. Per ESPN’s Brady Henderson, Shamar is in line to replace Sheldon Richardson as the starter at the 3-technique spot. A former seventh-round pick out of Connecticut by the Vikings, Stephen has 93 tackles and one sack in four seasons. If he’s fully recovered from a knee injury suffered in last year’s Divisional Round, he will pair with Reed to make up a formidable run-stopping duo in the middle.
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#95 Dion Jordan, 6-6, 275 pounds, Defensive End:
Returns to the Seahawks after signing a restricted free-agent tender. The 28-year old Jordan will look to become a full-time starter after a strong finish to 2017. Playing in only five games for Seattle last year, Dion posted 18 tackles and four sacks while still recovering from a 2016 offseason knee-surgery. That sack total was good for third on the team last year, behind Frank Clark and Michael Bennett. In his time with the ‘Hawks, Jordan displayed the above-average strength and athleticism off the edge that made him the third overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft by the Miami Dolphins.
Dion clearly still has the talent to be a force at defensive end, but durability continues to be a major concern for the former Oregon Duck. According to Pete Carroll, Jordan had another surgery on his knee this past offseason (his third since 2015). Carroll claims it was a minor procedure and he fully expects Dion to be ready for the start of training camp. If so, Jordan will get the first crack at replacing the spot vacated by Michael Bennett.
— Samuel Gold (@SamuelRGold) November 10, 2017
#91 Tom Johnson, 6-3, 288 pounds, Defensive Tackle:
Johnson was a starting tackle for the Minnesota Vikings in 2017 and will be a situational pass-rusher for Seattle this season. After signing a one-year deal with the ‘Hawks worth $2.1 million, the 33-year old will bring a much needed inside rushing presence with 21 career sacks. Will battle with Shamar Stephen to replace Sheldon Richardson at the three-technique. Likely to be a role-player, Tom provides veteran depth with the ability to start if needed.
Tom Johnson was an absolute steal during his tenure with the #Vikings. Played in 62 of 64 games, 25 starts and 16 sacks while being an impact rotational DT. Made a grand total of $7.845 million over four years.
— Eric Thompson (@eric_j_thompson) March 23, 2018
#92 Nazair Jones, 6-5, 304 pounds, Defensive Tackle:
A combo defensive tackle, Jones has the size and athleticism to stop the run as well as provide an inside pass-rushing force. In 2017, his promising rookie year ended after just eleven games when he was placed on season-ending IR with an high-ankle sprain. Prior to his injury, Nazair posted 19 tackles, two sacks, and an interception. Armed with a very quick first step, Jones will see plenty of snaps in 2018, even if he isn’t a starter. Nazair will push Stephen for the starting job next to Reed. Expected to be the primary interior sub on passing-downs.
— PFF SEA Seahawks (@PFF_Seahawks) June 18, 2018
#94 Rasheem Green, 6-4, 275 pounds, Defensive End:
A developmental prospect whom the Seahawks view as having high upside, the rookie out of USC should be one of the top backups along the line in 2018. The third-rounder will likely line up as a run-stopping five-technique end on early downs. Green can also slide inside to rush on passing downs, where his above-average quickness and length helped him post ten sacks last year for the Trojans. A versatile athlete who can play all four spots along the line. Green spent two years in college at defensive end before making the switch to tackle. Barring injuries, Rasheem will have a limited role this year, but he has the talent to become a dominant force in 2019.
Seahawks select DE Rasheem Green with the No. 79 pick pic.twitter.com/oDcHBQJjh4
— B/R Gridiron (@brgridiron) April 28, 2018
#97 Marcus Smith, 6-3, 258 pounds, Defensive End:
Once viewed as a bust with the Philadelphia Eagles, the former first-round pick experienced a rejuvenation of sorts with the Seahawks in 2017. Playing as a rotational pass-rushing end, Smith finished the year with 15 tackles, 2.5 sacks and two forced fumbles in 14 games. Smith has been working with both the defensive line and linebackers throughout this offseason but is likely to see most of his time at rush end. He could be considered questionable to make the roster in 2018. He does, however, offer enough versatility to find a role.
Players on the bubble:
#93, Branden Jackson, 6-4, 273 pounds, Defensive End:
Branden Jackson was promoted to the active roster in week six and became a useful part of the rotation at the end of 2017. He chipped in eleven tackles and a half a sack in eleven games. Offered an exclusive rights free agent contract this offseason, the third-year pro could make the team as their fifth defensive end. Offering good length and athleticism as a former collegiate linebacker, Jackson has upside as a pass-rusher. A bit of a ‘tweener lacking the strength to hold up as an end against the run. Branden will be a situational player in 2018.
#99 Quinton Jefferson, 6-4, 291 pounds, Defensive Tackle:
A fifth-round pick by the Seahawks in 2016, Jefferson has bounced back and forth between the street and the active roster since entering the league. After waiving Quinton at the beginning of 2017, Seattle re-signed him later in the year following his release from the L.A. Rams. Jefferson wound up playing 129 snaps for the ‘Hawks in 2017 and finished the year with seven tackles and one sack in six games. Has the ability to play inside and out, but is best suited as a one-gap penetrating tackle. A long-shot to make the roster again.
#59 Jake Martin, 6-2, 240 pounds, Defensive End:
An undersized edge player, Martin was a 2018 sixth-round pick by the Seahawks out of Temple. Known as a hard-nosed player, Martin was tough enough to line up at nose tackle for the Owls. With 4.59 speed, Jake had 8.5 sacks and 11.5 tackles for a loss during his senior season. Due to his lack of size, Martin projects as a situational rush-end who may see some time at weak-side linebacker. A practice-squad candidate.
Long shots to make the team:
#97 Poona Ford, 5-11, 312 pounds, Defensive Tackle:
One of 15 undrafted free agents Seattle added this offseason, Ford faces a tough road ahead to make the team. The 2017 Big-12 Lineman of the year, Poona is a compact nose tackle whose forte is stuffing the run though he did flash some pass-rush ability at the Senior Bowl. Will likely enter training camp as the sixth defensive tackle on the roster. A sub-par athlete who is able to win with power. Unlikely to make the 53-man roster due to the depth in front of him. Ford is an intriguing prospect who could spend this year on the practice squad.
#94 Malik McDowell, 6-6, 299 pounds:
Still recovering from an offseason ATV accident in 2017, Malik has yet to suit up for Seattle since being drafted in the second round. Unlikely to make the roster, he could spend another year on the Non-Football-Injury list or may be cut.
#60 Eddy Wilson, 6-3, 301 pounds, Defensive Tackle:
A two-year starter at the University of Purdue, Wilson went undrafted after declaring for the pros as a junior this past season. An underwhelming athlete, Wilson nonetheless has the size worth taking a shot on. He finished his time as a Boilermaker with 8.5 career tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. One of 15 free agents Seattle signed in May. Eddy will have to make some big plays throughout training camp if he hopes to make the roster.
David Rogers covers the Seahawks for Full Press Coverage. Follow him on Twitter.