First-round draft picks for the Seahawks in recent years have been unable to turn their high draft status into roles as starring players in the NFL.
But linebacker Jordyn Brooks may be well on his way toward changing that trend.
When Brooks was drafted this spring, the move may have seemed a bit curious on the surface. The Seahawks had two star linebacker in Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright. Were the really drafting a player that wouldn't start for them this season? While it took a couple games for Brooks to work his way into the starting lineup, the rookie from Texas Tech is starting to show his skills and potential for Seattle.
"Jordan Brooks really showed up. I think this was his by far his best game," Carroll said of his performance against the New York Giants.
Brooks matched Jamal Adams with 11 tackles to lead the team in the loss to the Giants. His 43 snaps played represented the most he'd seen all season for Seattle.
"He had some great plays in this game," Carroll said. "There's four or five really, really beautiful tackles at the line of scrimmage and coming off blocks and fitting into the running game. He played like a real veteran in this game. He was confident and physical. He and Bobby were banging folks and it was really great to see. This was just his best game but that's how he's gonna play, I think. I don't think this is like he won't be able to attain this level again. This is just who he is. And we've been really excited about him and those plays show you why."
Brooks said Wednesday that he's just starting to feel more comfortable in what he's being asked to do.
"That comes with no more games, more reps, practice. And then obviously the guys in the room that's been helping me, and then my coaches. So all that in one, it's just been allowed me to play a little bit faster," Brooks said.
Seattle's most recent run of top draft picks haven't had standout tenures with the team. L.J. Collier had a rough rookie season after a bad ankle injury in training camp set him back for the year. Rashaad Penny has split time with Chris Carson and is working his way back from a torn ACL. Germain Ifedi moved on to Chicago this offseason after four seasons of inconsistent play at guard and tackle for the team. Before that, the Seahawks hadn't even made a pick in the first round since 2012 with Bruce Irvin, who coincidentally is also out for the year with an ACL tear after re-signing with the team this offseason.
Brooks is still finding his footing but his play is starting to match the projection the team had for him when they drafted him this spring. Defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. said you can tell when a linebacker is starting to have things come together by the decisions the make and the speed it allows them to play with.
"Well, it's all about the decision-making," Norton said. You have so much information in your mind. You have so many different techniques, so many different voices, and you want to do so well because you understand that he's a first-round pick and he's played a certain high level for so long. He has such high expectations for himself and he wants to prove to everybody exactly who he is.
"So it comes down to gathering information, being able to get confident in what you're learning, have the guys around you trust you, and then decision-making. Making the decision to shoot a gap when you're suppose to, making a decision to play the pass when it's actually a pass and not run and go back and make the play, catching the ball when you're supposed to catch it.
"But the main thing is you see clear decision-making. It won't be a puzzle. It won't be a situation where he's not quite sure. When you see clear run forward, run back, shooting gaps, covering the right guys, you'll see his speed show up. He's a guy that's so explosive. You feel that explosiveness and you see it jump off the tape and off the screen. It'll be undeniable."
Wagner and Wright still serve as the two linebackers on the field in nickel situations,. The two have been cornerstones of Seattle's defense for a decade and are still playing at a very high level. But Wright doesn't have a contract beyond this season. If he's not back with the team in 2021, the Seahawks have an option that should be ready to step into a full-time starting role.
"In the beginning, maybe he was trying to make sure he was doing everything right and kind of making sure he's in the right space, and I feel like now it's more so trusting that you're in the right space, trusting you are making that right decision and just pulling the trigger. I think that's what you saw last game. He just came downhill and he's making a lot of good plays," Wagner said.
Wagner said there was a play last week against the Giants where Brooks was able to shed the block of a guard to make a tackle. He also noted a play against the Arizona Cardinals where Brooks slipped under the block of a guard to tackle a running back.
"Some things like that you just don't teach," he said. "That's just natural ability. And so just trying to get him to the point where he trusts that natural ability that he has that's in him is going to take them a long way. He's gonna be a great player in this league."
Rashaad Penny and Quinton Dunbar return to practice, Alex McGough added to practice squad:
The Seahawks saw the return of running back Rashaad Penny and cornerback Quinton Dunbar to practice on Wednedsday.
Penny has missed the entire season on the physically unable to perform list while working his way back from an ACL injury sustained last December. Meanwhile, Dunbar has missed the last three weeks while on injured reserve due to a knee injury the team is hoping has managed to quiet down.
Carroll didn't rule out the chances of Dunbar being able to bounce back this week and return to the lineup. Penny likely will need more time in practice to get up to speed.
The team also signed former seventh-round quarterback Alex McGough to the practice squad.
McGough will drafted by the Seahawks in 2018 and spent the year on the team's practice squad. He joins Russell Wilson, Geno Smith and practice squad option Danny Etling as the quarterbacks on the roster. The team is keeping Etling distanced away from Wilson and Smith now after seeing the calamity that happened to the Denver Broncos two weeks ago having to start a wide receiver at quarterback because of COVID-19 high-risk contacts.
Photo Credit: INGLEWOOD, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 15: Tyler Higbee #89 of the Los Angeles Rams carries the ball against Jordyn Brooks #56 of the Seattle Seahawks in the first quarter at SoFi Stadium on November 15, 2020 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)