The Seahawks were hoping to get contributions from a rookie pass rusher in 2020 after all of the struggles the squad had last year chasing down opposing quarterbacks. The front office selected two pass rushers in the NFL Draft back in April, starting with the decision to trade up to No. 48 overall in the second round and select Darrell Taylor.
It looks like the Seahawks will get their wish, just not from the rookie they expected.
Unfortunately, Taylor will start the season on the Non-Football Injury List due to surgery related to a stress fracture in his shin he suffered during his last season at Tennessee. This means he cannot return to action until Week 7 at the earliest. Once Taylor is able to play, the coaches are excited about his athletic ability at the LEO spot, as he was one of the best pass rushers in the SEC the last two seasons.
If there's a silver lining, Taylor's delayed recovery opened the door for fellow rookie pass rusher Alton Robinson, a fifth round selection out of Syracuse, to get significant snaps in practice and he has not disappointed.
Clearly impressed by what he has seen from the day three selection thus far, coach Pete Carroll raved about Robinson throughout training camp.
"We haven’t seen him play in a game yet, so we don’t know," Carroll said about expectations for Robinson to open the season. "But he’s made a really good impression. And so, probably, we are more excited than we thought we could at this time, this early in camp."
Robinson collected 19.0 sacks in three seasons with the Orange. He arrived in camp heavier than anticipated, about 10 pounds more than his last season in college, now well into the 270s after playing college ball at 259. While Carroll and the Seahawks initially were surprised to see him at that size, it's proven to be beneficial for the rookie.
"The advantage was the power I was able to gain to help me anchor down and be with those big old guys," Robinson told reporters last Thursday.
Robinson definitely will need to anchor down with the brute strength offensive linemen possess in the NFL. He may be counted on early and often to summon a pass rush and stuff the run while playing at either defensive end spot. He credits the veterans around him for his ability to learn the defense quickly and make a case to play Week 1.
While Seattle mainly brought in Benson Mayowa and Bruce Irvin to lead the pass rush after many departures, including former Pro Bowler Jadeveon Clowney, a side benefit to their presence is exposing them to the young players such as Robinson who can learn a great deal from them. So far, the rookie has been pleased with the chemistry developing in a group featuring a blend of veterans and youngsters.
Robinson also mentioned how much he has gained from working against Duane Brown, Seattle's All-Pro left tackle, indicating he has yet to beat him in a pass rushing drill. The good news? He will likely not face many offensive linemen better than Brown during his rookie season, which should prepare him well for actual game action starting this week.
Taylor's delayed recovery is unfortunate since the Seahawks traded up in the second round to take him and they desperately want to sack the quarterback more than 28 times this year. Where the Seahawks thought they might have Taylor for Week 1, it will likely be Robinson taking significant snaps in his NFL debut in Atlanta and he will have his first chance to show he's the next day three steal for the franchise.