Unable to live up to his third-round draft status over his first three seasons, Rasheem Green entered the final year of his rookie contract without a guaranteed spot on the Seahawks' 53-man roster. But after a solid preseason, in which he put together a pair of sacks on seven pressures, he earned the opportunity to further his professional playing career in the Pacific Northwest.
Though he hasn't necessarily become the player Seattle hoped it was getting back in 2018, Green has been one of its most underrated players this season. Playing the second-highest snaps of any Seahawks defensive lineman (541), he currently finds himself tied atop the team's leaderboard with Darrell Taylor in pressures (23) and is second on the team in sacks (3.0). From LEO to "big end," 3-technique and 1-technique, the fourth-year man out of USC has done it all.
As Seattle went on to lose its eighth game in 11 tries on Monday night, Green served as a rare bright spot in Washington. Credited with just two tackles and a pair of pressures, his final box score won't necessarily "wow" the average viewer. However, he managed to generate decent penetration in the trenches and ultimately made what was arguably the team's best highlight of an otherwise disappointing night.
Capping off a nine-play, 73-yard scoring drive with a touchdown reception by former Seahawk J.D. McKissic, Washington was primed to head into halftime with a 10-7 lead. Green had other plans, however, blocking the ensuing extra point attempt, scooping it up in stride and outrunning Washington's kicking unit to the end zone for the two-point conversion, tying things up at 9-9.
“We put such pride in that group taking their shots every chance we get. It’s really important to us to show great effort," head coach Pete Carroll reflected on the play in his post-game media appearance. "He's [Green] been phenomenal all year long and always going and always making the effort. He’s been close so many times and it’s just fitting that he finally got one. But to pick it up and run and do it all, what a great moment. It was a great play for the game. It gave us that chance to tie the thing up. It’s a rare play that happens but it was a great effort, and the guys were so fired up for him.”
In a way, the block was a form of vindication for Green. Prior to the play, Washington's drive was greatly assisted by a pair of questionable penalties—the biggest of which being called on Seattle's defensive end. Beating Washington tackle Charles Leno off the edge, Green delivered a blindside hit on Taylor Heinicke a split-second after the ball left the quarterback's hand. But what looked to be a clean play was instead ruled roughing the passer after it was deemed Green landed on the quarterback with his weight, tacking on an additional 15 yards to a 16-yard catch by receiver DeAndre Carter and setting Washington up at the Seahawks' 13-yard line.
Two plays later, McKissic scored.
"I know Rasheem was trying not to land on the guy, which is exactly the way we practice it," Carroll noted. "... The last couple of years the landing on the guy, we work on it. Our guys know, we show them all the time. That’s why he did it. I need to look at it again to see how clean he was getting off and if he did it soon enough. But I know he made the effort to demonstrate that we get the rules. We get it. And so, here’s what he’s trying to do in the situation. Sometimes things happen that you can’t avoid in the hits. But if you’re mindful enough to demonstrate that you get it. I wish they would give us the benefit on that, but it didn’t happen. I don’t know if it’s a bad call. I don’t even know if it is. I just know what he tried to do.”
Penalty aside, Green quietly had another strong night for the Seahawks—the story of his 2021 campaign as a whole. For many, his contributions have flown entirely under the radar; and while this may say more about the state of Seattle's defensive line, he's been one of the team's most unsung defenders this year.
If they haven't already, teams are bound to take notice. Having flirted with falling into NFL irrelevancy, Green has seemingly turned his career around for the better with the year he's had. Set to become an unrestricted free agent in March, he's put himself on a trajectory to land a respectable payday.
Whether that comes from the Seahawks or not remains to be seen, though the entire makeup of the organization could change this offseason. So perhaps Green, like many of Seattle's impending free agents, will head elsewhere, departing the "Emerald City" just as he appears to be coming into his own.