Undergoing a substantial transformation on both sides of the football this spring, the Seahawks roster looks far different than it did following their season-ending win over the Cardinals in January.
But while much has changed elsewhere, including the departures of quarterback Russell Wilson and linebacker Bobby Wagner, one of the best interior defensive line groups in the NFL was not just kept intact. With the same cast of characters led by Poona Ford, Al Woods, and Bryan Mone set to return for an encore, additional reinforcements were brought in by acquiring Shelby Harris and bringing back Quinton Jefferson in free agency to further bolster the unit.
From new defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt's perspective, those veteran additions should help boost Seattle's pass rush along with providing leadership for a front line featuring plenty of youth, particularly off the edge. He's looking to Jefferson specifically to enhance communication from the group with the goal of seeing an uptick in sacks and pressures without relying on the blitz.
"Just the rush games, the protections, who's rushing where, being able to cover guys when they're going to rush their one-on-ones is a high level of unselfishness that has to come with rushing the passer so you can take care of the guy next to you knowing he's going to do the same for you when that opportunity arises for him. So Quinton is able to kind of share that knowledge with Uchenna [Nwosu], with D.T. [Darrell Taylor] and [Boye] Mafe and those young guys, even for the young D-tackles, because we got to get back to that."
In the midst of their annual six-week moratorium between organized team activities and training camp, how does the Seahawks defensive tackle group look? Diving into the depth chart, here's an updated look at the projected starters, a sleeper to watch, a potential wild card to keep an eye on, and a player squarely on the roster bubble.
Projected Starters: Poona Ford, Al Woods, Shelby Harris
While his fourth season may not have been his best in the league in terms of overall disruption, Ford remained a stout run defender anchoring Seattle's interior defensive line, helping the team finish second in the NFL in yards allowed per carry. The quick, athletic defensive tackle set a new career-high with 53 tackles and tied his previous high with 2.0 sacks. Putting his improvements as pass rusher in better perspective, per Pro Football Focus, he produced 33 quarterback pressures, eclipsing his previous personal best by five pressures. Entering the final year of a two-year extension signed prior to the 2021 season, he's poised to take another step forward hunting down quarterbacks as he continues to evolve as an all-around defender.
Proving age is only a number, after sitting out the entire 2020 season as a COVID-19 opt out, Woods showed no signs of rust at 34 years young. Starting in 16 out of Seattle's 17 games, he served as a one-man wrecking crew at the line of scrimmage seeing action as a nose tackle and a big end, racking up 50 tackles, four tackles for loss, three pass deflections, and 1.5 sacks. Functioning like a brick wall in short yardage situations, opponents struggled to move the chains on the ground in such situations and the massive defender exhibited underrated interior pass rushing chops as well, putting together arguably the best year of his career. After being rewarded with a two-year contract, he'll look to replicate his outstanding play as the starting nose tackle in a 3-4 scheme with recently-extended Bryan Mone spelling him.
One of the most overlooked defensive tackles in the NFL over the past decade, Harris should be cemented into a starting role after being acquired by the Seahawks as part of the blockbuster Russell Wilson trade. Excelling in coach Vic Fangio's 3-4 system over the past three years, the veteran has stuffed the stat sheet with 130 tackles, 14.5 sacks, 18 pass deflections, 28 quarterback hits, and 19 tackles for loss. Along with being regarded as a quality run defender who holds his own mirror stepping and two-gapping, he's a viable interior pass rushing threat. In three of the past five seasons, he's produced at least 5.5 sacks and should add some potency to Seattle's rush up front.
Sleeper: Myles Adams
Coming into the league undrafted out of Rice, Adams had to patiently wait for his turn to see the field for a regular season game and spent all of the 2020 season as well as most of last season on Seattle's practice squad. But when injuries and COVID wrecked the Seahawks' line depth, he finally received a chance to show what he could do and the 290-pound defender maximized on his opportunity. Dressing in losses to the Rams and Bears, he registered five tackles and a quarterback hit while also blowing up a screen. Due to his size, questions about how he will fit into a 3-4 scheme are warranted, but if he can handle taking on double teams and flashes as a rusher, he could push for the final roster spot on the depth chart.
Wild Card: Quinton Jefferson
It may seem strange calling a known commodity like Jefferson, who was drafted by the Seahawks and started 24 games for them in 2018 and 2019, a wild card. But his decision to return in free agency this spring could prove to be a real coup for Hurtt and his coaching staff, as the veteran offers excellent versatility to line up in numerous alignments out of even or odd fronts. While Ford and Harris will likely start at the two base defensive tackle spots, the former Maryland standout should see plenty of snaps in a rotational role. Coming off a season with the Raiders in which he produced a career-best 50 pressures, his presence should be especially impactful in pass rushing situations where his athleticism can give guards major fits.
On The Bubble: L.J. Collier
Only two years ago, Collier started all 16 games for the Seahawks and came through with several crucial clutch plays, including blowing up Patriots quarterback Cam Newton on a goal line stop to secure a home victory. But everything unraveled for the former first-round pick in 2021. Falling out of the team's defensive line rotation in favor of Robert Nkemdiche, he sat out seven of the first 10 regular season games as a healthy scratch and recorded eight tackles the entire season. Bulked back up to nearly 290 pounds to play exclusively inside, he's down to his last chance to force his way back into the franchise's plans and will be aiming for a Rashaad Penny-style renaissance. If he isn't able to stand out in camp, however, it's not out of the realm of possibility the team could decide to move forward without him and elevate Adams or Jarrod Hewitt onto the roster instead.
Seahawks Post-Offseason Depth Chart Reviews