RENTON, WA - When Seattle's name flashed across the screen for pick No. 27 of the 2020 NFL Draft, many Seahawks fans had a myriad of players they preferred the team to select. Players like defensive ends Yetur Gross-Matos and Marlon Davidson were still on the board, as well as several talented receivers and offensive lineman.
It's doubtful many, if any, slated Texas Tech linebacker Jordyn Brooks to be Seattle's pick, and yet he was—to a surprised and confused reaction. Stoking the flames of scrutiny even further, the Ravens took a linebacker of their own following Brooks' selection: LSU's Patrick Queen, projected to be the superior option at the time.
Making matters worse, Brooks' pro career got off to an unideal start. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the entire 2020 class of rookies were unable to participate in normal offseason activities with their respective teams. Speaking to reporters following the Seahawks' eighth OTA session, Brooks admitted this in particular contributed to his slow start in the regular season.
"Last year with no offseason, and then jumping right into training camp, it was a little bit fast for me," Brooks explained.
The 23-year old played a grand total of 29 defensive snaps in Seattle's first five games, and didn't suit up at all in Weeks 4 and 5 due to an MCL sprain. Grinding through it in practice, he worked on his craft with hopes of slowing the game down mentally.
From Week 6 to the end of the season, he played at least 30 percent of the team's defensive snaps—a significant uptick from the 17 percent he posted prior to his injury. He topped out at 77 percent in the Seahawks' gruelling defensive struggle with the Giants in Week 13, making a career-high 11 tackles.
What is most encouraging is how Brooks finished. In his last three games, which includes the Seahawks' wild-card loss to the Rams, Brooks totaled 25 tackles, including a tackle for loss.
"I finished pretty strong. I got some momentum heading into year two."
Brooks attributes some of that to better health, a more structured offseason and spending the entire spring and summer honing his craft with sights set on becoming Seattle's next great linebacker.
"Everything needed to be improved. Definitely the nutrition side, I'm eating a lot better. I slimmed down, trimmed down a lot. I'm feeling good."
With a full and healthy offseason, Brooks looks to ride the wave of momentum he built into a strong start in 2021. Now, with the void left by free agent K.J. Wright's absence, Brooks is in line to take on an expanded role as a pure three-down defender.
And there's no reason to think he won't be a proper heir after the second half he put together, especially with the All-Pro guidance of Bobby Wagner who, as Brooks reveals, maintains that the Dallas, Texas native is still a rookie until Week 8 of this year.
"I don't know, he won't tell me," Brooks said with a smile when asked what that means.
As he soaks up the knowledge of his future Hall of Fame counterpart, Brooks feels comfortable and confident heading into his second year in the NFL. And even with a potential reunion with Wright looming, the floor is all his to break out in 2021.