The Seahawks 7th round draft choice out of Oregon, Nick Reed, has appeared to have beaten the odds and played his way onto Seattle’s 53-man roster. The “undersized” (6 foot 1, 247 pound) right defensive end is frustrating opposing offenses with numerous big plays and creating some good problems for Seattle’s defensive coaches.
Despite setting a school record 29.5 career sacks at Oregon (4th most in PAC-10 history), Reed was overlooked in the draft primarily because teams felt he was not big or strong enough to be effective in the NFL. Seahawk fans should count themselves lucky that GM Tim Ruskell has a penchant for undersized defensive players, because it looks like he has found a gem in Reed, who nearly went undrafted.
At 6’1” Reed does look very small when he takes the field against 6’5” 300-pound offensive tackles, and ‘Hawk fans will notice #98 when he comes on. But the story of this preseason has been the dominant play of the second string defensive line, and Reed in particular. He seems to be everywhere this preseason, making big play after big play for the Seahawks.
He’s got 4 sacks in 3 games. He forced a fumble that was recovered by the defense. He read the QB’s eyes and dropped back in coverage to intercept a screen pass. In the KC game he beat 6’6” 320-pound Barry Richardson on consecutive plays, once to the outside and then once to the inside. The first play resulted in a sack, and the second forced a bad throw that was picked off by OLB Will Herring. He has even blocked a punt and looked good on special teams units.
This is not a fluke, and Reed is not merely an “effort” player. On the field he is not the scrappy underdog, he’s the snarling pit bull. His technique and instincts have allowed him to blow by left tackles repeatedly and make plays in the backfield, using spin-and-rip moves to neutralize his opponents’ significant size advantage. He has arrived with force when he reached the ball carrier and delivered punishing hits as well. Do not adjust your TV sets, Nick Reed is for real.
Nick Reed was not supposed to make this team, and he has forced himself onto an already crowded Seahawk defensive line. This makes the job of Seattle’s defensive coaches a little more difficult. The ‘Hawks normally carried nine defensive linemen while Mike Holmgren was coach. While Jim Mora may have different ideas about his roster, it is unlikely he will choose to carry more than nine defensive linemen.
Defensive tackles Brandon Mebane, Colin Cole, and Red Bryant will make the team and be in the center of Seattle’s run defense. Veteran defensive ends Patrick Kerney, Darryl Tapp, and LDE/DT Corey Redding are also locks to make the team. Last year’s first round pick, DE Lawrence Jackson, will also probably make it as the team waits on his potential.
Reed has joined this group and will make the 53-man roster, and that means the Seahawks probably have only one spot left to spend on the defensive line. That leaves veteran three-technique DT Craig Terrill competing against 2007 4th round choice DE Baraka Atkins and undrafted free agent DE/DT Michael Bennett for this final place on the roster.
It might be tempting to keep Terrill and cut the two younger players, but Atkins and Bennett have both looked very impressive in preseason competition and have not made this an easy choice. There is an outside chance that Mora will carry 10 defensive linemen, but it is unlikely that the team will sacrifice depth at other positions so that they can carry a 6th defensive end.
This will be one of the last remaining dramas to be played out in the final game of the Seahawks preseason, when they face their former arch-rivals, the Oakland Raiders, on Thursday, Sept. 3rd at10pm Eastern, 7pm Pacific.