Massive DT Al Woods Helps Seahawks Survive Jarran Reed Suspension
For a second straight offseason, the Seahawks underwent a significant roster transformation, watching star safety Earl Thomas bolt for the Ravens in free agency and trading defensive end Frank Clark to the Chiefs.
With a divorce inevitable, Thomas’s departure had been expected for quite some time, but trading the 26-year old Clark came as a bit more of a shock. And the decision to move him suddenly became much more questionable when defensive tackle Jarran Reed was slapped with a six-game suspension by the NFL in late July.
But while Seattle still waits for defensive ends Jadeveon Clowney and Ziggy Ansah to break out and replace Clark’s pass rushing production, the organization couldn’t have asked for better results replacing Reed in the short term.
The Seahawks will certainly welcome Reed, who registered 10.5 sacks in 2018, back with open arms next week when he’s eligible to be activated to the 53-man roster. His ability to pressure opposing quarterbacks from the interior has been sorely missed during the first five weeks of the season.
However, Seattle has been able to survive his absence in large part due to the gigantic presence of Al Woods, who has thrived in the starting lineup alongside budding star Poona Ford.
Starting four of the Seahawks first five games, the 6-foot-4, 330-pound Woods has already produced 14 tackles, putting him on pace to surpass his previous career high of 44 tackles with the Colts in 2017. That season, the former LSU standout earned a stellar 87.7 grade from Pro Football Focus, 10-best among defensive tackles.
In his return to the Pacific Northwest, Woods hasn’t just been productive. He’s come up with clutch plays in critical moments seemingly each week for the Seahawks, including stuffing quarterback Jared Goff at the goal line on a two-point conversion attempt in last Thursday’s 30-29 win over the Rams.
Earlier in the season against the Bengals in Week 1, immediately following a Chris Carson fumble deep in Seattle territory, Woods burst through the line and snagged what looked to be his first career interception against Andy Dalton. The result was eventually changed to a fumble recovery, but it erased three points off the scoreboard.
Later in the fourth quarter, Woods stood up Bengals guard John Miller on a fourth down play and stonewalled running back Gio Bernard at the line of scrimmage, leading to a turnover on downs. The Seahawks wound up winning by just one point and those two stops proved to be crucial in a season-opening victory.
"We brought him in here to play." Carroll said after the Week 1 win. "We brought him in with the thought that, like we have been in the past, we’ve always liked him in the big three technique and he’s huge. His spirit for the game, his willingness to run around and chase the football with the big man is all you can hope for."
The following week, Woods continued to shine as a disruptive gap plugger for Seattle’s defense, making two excellent tackles for no gain against Steelers running back James Connor. He finished with four total tackles in the win at Heinz Field.
The only blemish on Woods’s resume so far came in a loss to the Saints in Week 3, as he covered the long snapper on a field goal attempt and the Seahawks were flagged for an illegal formation. The penalty extended the drive for New Orleans, who eventually scored a touchdown to extend its lead.
Tossing that lone play aside, Woods has made a substantial impact that can easily be seen on film and reflects on the stat sheet. Even when he isn’t making tackles, his ability to eat up blocks makes life easier for Seattle’s linebackers, which has helped the team surrender just 80 rushing yards per game so far.
With Reed’s impending return to the starting lineup alongside Ford, Woods will likely see a dip in overall playing time starting in Week 7 against the Ravens. But he’s proven himself far too valuable not to see extensive reps in a rotational role and will continue to be a key contributor setting anchor in the middle of the Seahawks defense.