It’s the dead portion of the offseason after OTAs have concluded, several weeks remain until the start of training camp in late July, so it’s the season of speculation and optimism. On Saturday fans were treated to a way too early projection for what the 53 man roster could look like for the Seattle Seahawks in 2022, which means it’s now time to move on to the defense. So, without wasting further time, here are those projections.
Defensive Line (6)
Keep: LJ Collier, Shelby Harris, Poona Ford, Quentin Jefferson, Bryan Mone and Al Woods
Cut: Myles Adams, Matt Gotel and Jarrod Hewitt
The changes to the defense make the defensive front seven the most difficult of the position groups to predict. For simplicity, the players in the defensive front seven have been grouped by weight, with those players checking in above 280 as defensive linemen and those coming in below that threshold as linebackers. It’s not perfect, but it works.
That then allows the defensive linemen to be broken down into the massive nose tackle types like Woods (330 pounds), Mone (345) and Gotel (341), with the remainder of the linemen listed between 288 and 310. So, while the Seahawks are reportedly set to use more of a 3-4 base defense with bigger defensive ends than they have used in the past, they seem likely to play a lot of 4-2 nickel. When they do shift to a 4-2 nickel, it seems likely that the 3-4 ends like QJeff, Ford and Harris will reduce inside as defensive tackles, allowing for players who have been categorized as linebackers by this grouping, like Darrell Taylor, Alton Robinson and Boye Mafe, to line up as a hand in the dirt defensive end.
That is why this group is so light at just six players, as about half of the defensive players listed as linebackers are likely to log defensive snaps as part time members of the defensive line. Thus, this group is not actually as shallow in terms of depth as keeping just six defensive linemen would make it appear.
Keep: Jordyn Brooks, Darrell Taylor, Uchenna Nwosu, Boye Mafe, Cody Barton, Nick Bellore, Tyreke Smith, Alton Robinson and Joel Iyiegbuniwe.
Cut: Aaron Donkor, Levi Jones, Tanner Muse, Jon Rhattigan, Lakiem Williams, Joshua Onujiogu and Ben Burr-Kirven
As noted in the section on the defensive line, even though the lists team Taylor and Robinson as defensive ends, due to their build, they’re included in the linebackers group. That said, the big questions at the linebacker position will be the returns of BBK and Rhattigan from season ending knee injuries. Both could potentially start the season on the PUP list, which would mean they’re not on the initial 53 man roster, so for the sake of simplicity they have been included in the cuts section.
The name many fans would love to see excluded from that list is Bellore, but he is the reigning special teams captain and snaps leader for the special teams, so it seems unlikely they would move on. In addition, with the team likely to give Barton more defensive snaps, it’s possible they could look to reduce his special teams snaps, which would mean needing to replace more than 600 special teams snaps between the two. Muse and Iyiegbuniwe are obviously in the running to potentially fill those snaps, and the bottom of the linebacker group will be very interesting to watch through training camp and into the early part of the season.
Donkor, as a member of the International Pathway Program, seems very likely to once again occupy the additional practice squad spot and to make his NFL debut when the Hawks travel to Germany to face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 10.
Keep: Sidney Jones, Artie Burns, Coby Bryant, Tariq Woolen, Ugo Amadi, Tre Brown and Mike Jackson
Cut: Josh Turner, John Reid, Elijah Jones and Justin Coleman
Very large portions of the fanbase are excited about the youth in the secondary, including Bryant, Woolen and Brown, but don’t be surprised if not a single one of those players is a Week 1 starter for the defense. Pete Carroll has traditionally kept his rookie corners as depth, as even Richard Sherman, Byron Maxwell and Shaquill Griffin needed injuries or suspensions in order to move into the starting lineup. Sidney Jones and Burns bring the experience that likely gives Carroll the most comfort initially, but it won’t be a surprise to see the youngsters gain the trust of coaches and earn a starting nod as the season progresses.
That said, the battle between Amadi and Coleman at nickel could be interesting, and if the battle is close, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the team were to use Coleman’s presence as leverage to offer Amadi the opportunity to stick around if he agrees to a pay cut.
One of the biggest questions fans will want to see answered is how Brown’s knee is progressing following a season-ending injury suffered against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 11. The last update from Pete Carroll indicated that Brown was still rehabbing, and that his status for the start of training camp remained uncertainbut that could simply be Carroll being vague.
Keep: Quandre Diggs, Jamal Adams, Ryan Neal and Bubba Bolden
Cut: Deontai Williams, Scott Nelson, Josh Jones, Marquise Blair, Joey Blount,
Diggs and Adams are two of the highest paid safeties in the NFL, so they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, and Ryan Neal is the only experienced backup among the rest of the bunch. Many fans will likely be upset to see 2019 second round draft pick Blair on the chopping block, but coming back from a second consecutive season ending injury into a crowded depth chart in a new system could be too much.