If the Seahawks bosses were to sip a snifter of truth serum, then answer the question, the player they want to see the most out of, who has done the least, is Darrell Taylor. If he isn’t a significant contributor this fall, the failure would be a big log on the fire that posits the Seahawks over the past several years have been largely daft drafters .
The Seahawks traded up to No. 48 to choose Taylor, a rush end from Tennessee, in the second round of the 2020, despite the fact that he revealed on Instagram in February that he was damaged goods. Somehow he managed 8.5 sacks in his senior season despite playing with a stress fracture in a shin.
The surgical insertion of a titanium rod did not go well enough to allow him to play a single minute in 2020, although after a stem cell treatment in November, he said, he returned to practice a little in the week ahead of the playoff gane.
Though he’s no longer a rookie, he qualified to attend the rookie camp the Seahawks held over the weekend because he hasn’t played. He became the camp’s largest curiosity, particularly because the Seahawks were working him at the strongside linebacker spot that had been occupied by K.J. Wright. At 32, Wright remains an unsigned free agent, and barring injuries, may remain so, despite his popularity inside and outside of team headquarters.
One of the great natural cheerleaders in sports history, coach Pete Carroll was in full sales mode regarding Taylor’s upside.
“Just in the first couple days, Darrell looks very much the part,” Carroll said. “I know coming off the field today (defensive line coach Clint Hurtt) was really fired up about getting a chance to work him in his pass-rush drills. We liked him as a rusher first, which we still do. He’s got all of the athleticism, he’s a real natural athlete, he’s real light on his feet. He’s got burst, explosion, his change of direction is really good.
“This is not going to be a challenge for him to learn the position. We need to see how he feels when we mix in some dropping (into pass coverage) and rushing. We want to see him as an outside rusher as well in passing situations. We’re double-teaching him. He’s such a good-looking athlete, he looks like he can do whatever you need him to do.”
Regardless of position, Taylor’s success can relieve some of the urgency for the pass rush that prompted the Seahawks to sign in mid-April the once-great, still-undisciplined Aldon Smith, an intriguing idea that went bad in two days when he was arrested and charged with assault in Louisiana.
There’s been no update, but knowing how much fun the Seahawks had as the Quinton Dunbar saga played out last year in national headlines (he was never charged), Taylor’s swift development would be a helpful workaround.
Taylor, of course, is off-the-meter amped.
“I just wanted to soak it in because I hadn’t been out here in a long time and it just felt really, really, really good to be out there,” he said Friday. “I feel like my injury from last year is going to fuel me. Not being able to be on the field last year is going to fuel me.
“Not being able to share those 16 games with my teammates, it’s going to fuel me to get out there with them so they can see how I play and see how I conduct myself as a professional.”
If Taylor makes the transition to starter sometime in the season, it would give the Seahawks three starters from the 2020 draft class, along with LB Jordyn Brooks and OG Damien Lewis. That would be the most in any of the five recent draft classes.
The Seahawks have two from 2019 in WR DK Metcalf and DE L.J. Collier; two from 2018 in TE Will Dissly and P Michael Dickson; two from 2017 in RB Chris Carson and C Ethan Pocic, and, with the departure of DT Jarran Reed this off-season, none from the 2016 draft.
Other draftee contributors, such as Marquise Blair, Ugo Amadi and Tre Flowers, will get snaps this fall, but whether for reasons of health or talent or both, they haven’t had much impact so far.
The meager results from the five drafts have forced the Seahawks to improve the roster in mid-season via trades. From Marshawn Lynch to Carlos Dunlap, the strategy has mostly served Carroll and general manager John Schneider well, but the price for emergency hires is always high. Usually in draft picks.
So the idea of getting a top draftee like Taylor to join Brooks in sometimes flanking defensive captain Bobby Wagner makes more palatable the decision to move on from Wright.
“We’re evaluating the guys that are playing both positions to see how much of a crossover they are able to make, and see how much flexibility they give us,” Carroll said. “There’s no question Darrell can do both things. There’s no doubt.
“His attitude and want-to is so good right now. He’s in a great space. It’s good to get him out there just to get some turns and some reps. He’s got some catching up to do.”
It’s also good to allow Schneider to feel he’s contributing.