Clock Ticking for Rookie DE Darrell Taylor to Make Impact for Seahawks
When it comes to injuries, the Seahawks haven't had much luck with their top picks over the past several seasons.
Starting in 2016, first-round pick Germain Ifedi missed three games with a high ankle sprain. Then the next season, second-round pick Malik McDowell suffered undisclosed injuries in an ATV accident and never played a down for Seattle. Over the next two years, first-round selections Rashaad Penny and L.J. Collier suffered injuries in training camp and missed multiple regular season games.
This run of misfortune has continued into the 2020 season, as both of Seattle's top two picks - linebacker Jordyn Brooks and defensive end Darrell Taylor - have missed time due to injuries. While Brooks has a great chance to return to action this weekend against Arizona, Taylor has yet to practice for his new team nine months after having a titanium rod inserted into his leg to address a stress fracture.
According to coach Pete Carroll, there's still not a time table for when Taylor will be able to return to the field.
"It's not clear yet," Carroll said about the potential return of Taylor and running back Rashaad Penny. "They're still on a good arc here to get them back, and we've waited this long, we're going to make sure that these guys come back and then there's no question about the return."
There's no question the Seahawks could use Taylor's athleticism off the edge right now. Though the team has improved in some regards rushing the passer compared to last season, they are still near the bottom of the NFL in sacks (9) and only seven of those have come from the defensive line. Benson Mayowa and Jamal Adams are tied for the team lead with a pair of sacks apiece.
Starring at Tennessee, Taylor produced 16.0 sacks against elite SEC competition over the past two seasons. If there's a player who could jump in and compete for playing time right away under such circumstances in an unprecedented season, he may be the one capable of doing it.
At this point, however, after already missing all of training camp and the first six weeks of the season, it's worth wondering if Taylor will make it back at all this season. When posed this very question on Monday, Carroll offered a somewhat positive response about the rookie defender's status.
"I've watched him run, I was out there with him a couple times this week," Carroll responded. "Looks like he's running hard and fast and pushing it. He's really strong right now. Anything can happen from this point forward, but he's working really hard. The docs are taking really good care of him and making sure we don't force the issue too soon, but just judging from what I'm seeing, he looks like he's made great progress. It's not like he's waiting to start getting in shape and all that, he's fit and strong - he hasn't done as much change of direction stuff that's really hard on him at this point - but he's really running hard and it looks good."
There's plenty to unpack from Carroll's comments. Taylor started running a couple of weeks ago and it's certainly great news he looks fast in sprints. That's a key stepping stone to his eventual return to the practice field.
But as encouraging as that development is, Carroll's last sentence could be interpreted as the exact opposite. Changing directions is pivotal for any football player and that's especially the case for a pass rusher like Taylor who thrived at the college level bending around tackles to chase down quarterbacks. If he's having a hard time doing much change of direction work right now, that's problematic and could signal he's still several weeks away from being able to play again.
There's an incredible learning curve jumping from college football to the NFL, even for a player with SEC pedigree like Taylor. As Collier illustrated in a lost rookie season coming off injury last year, the longer he remains on the NFI list and unable to return to practice, the reality is that the likelihood of him making any sort of impact for the Seahawks this year diminishes by the week.