The Seattle Seahawks won the Super Bowl last year partially because of a ferocious pass rush from their front four, while the other seven were able to play man-on-man pass defense. Pete Carroll kept rotating fresh defensive linemen and sending them at Peyton Manning.
Two of the most notable departures from that Super Bowl roster are defensive linemen Red Bryant and Chris Clemons. If Seattle wants to continue playing defense the same way, they need to rebuild their defensive line depth.
If you count Bruce Irvin as a linebacker, Seattle had nine defensive ends and tackles on its active Super Bowl roster. Now seven remain. Fifth-round pick Jesse Williams was on injured reserve, and Michael Brooks, Dewayne Cherrington and D’Anthony Smith were on the practice squad for the game.
Despite the losses of Clemons and Bryant, lots of talent will be returning, including a few young players the Seahawks are developing. They also added veteran Kevin Williams and rookies Jackson Jeffcoat, Cassius Marsh and Jimmy Staten. Overall, Seattle has 15 defensive linemen on the squad, though it’s likely only nine will stay on the active roster. Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett and Brandon Mebane are locks to stay. After that, what will happen?
I believe the Seahawks won’t waste the time they spent developing last year’s rookies. That gives Jordan Hill, Jesse Williams, Cherrington, Brooks and Benson Mayowa advantages over the others. Third-year player Greg Scruggs missed all of last year with a knee injury, but he has been recovering nicely. As a 6-foot-3, 310-pound DE, he has “Red Bryant” written all over him.
Williams is a curiosity as well. He is the oldest and most experienced man on a team built with youthful energy. Will his experience have value for the numerous young linemen? Or do the Super Bowl champions get enough leadership from players with a few years of experience like Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas?
My call? Seattle goes with a balance of 300-pound pillars and 250-pound speed rushers. They reward intensity and aggression, and they want youth with upside. So, here we go, the nine defensive linemen who will be on the active roster in September:
Big guys: Avril, Bennett, Mayowa, Marsh
Really big guys: Mebane, Scruggs, Hill, Jesse Williams, McDaniel