For the second time in four years, the Seattle Seahawks had a rookie defensive lineman selected in the second round of the NFL Draft miss the entirety of his rookie year due to injury.
While Darrell Taylor‘s inability to play last year for Seattle is far from the same as Malik McDowell‘s ATV accident in 2017, the absence of a highly-touted young player was significant for the 2020 Seahawks.
Since he missed all of last year, Taylor had been able to take part in the team’s rookie mini-camp last month and was around through the OTA season for Seattle. Head coach Pete Carroll said Thursday he’s been very encouraged by what Taylor has been able to show so far this spring.
“Darrell’s a real highlight to this time,” Carroll said. “He worked out with the rookies the whole time, which was great for him. He is probably, of the guys coming back, is the best-prepared guy on the football team right now because of all of the time he spent. He invested in it. He came with a great attitude, work ethic and all of that.”
Taylor struggled to recover from surgery after his final season at the University of Tennessee that involved inserting a rod into his leg to correct ongoing stress fracture issues. However, he kept hitting a ceiling in his recovery that he couldn’t find a way to push through until a stem-cell treatment late last year. But by the time he was approaching a return to action, the Seahawks season ended with a loss to the Los Angeles Rams in the playoffs.
With Taylor’s debut delayed and their pass rush flailing early last year, the Seahawks made a trade to bring in Carlos Dunlap that helped fix their rush issues. Now with Dunlap re-signing this offseason and Taylor set to debut this fall, Carroll is excited about what he could bring to their defense.
“He’s an exciting football player,” Carroll said. “His edge-rush ability, his athleticism, he’s got a really good burst off the football. The ability to play in space, as well as rush the passer. You can maybe see why we were frustrated last year that we didn’t have him. But now we’ve really seen him. We hadn’t really seen them with much to go on and really he had one of really the brightest camps.”
Taylor will also get a chance to play in Seattle’s strong-side linebacker role and has been working their this spring. K.J. Wright took over that role for Seattle last year after Bruce Irvin was lost to an ACL tear in September. Taylor could ultimately take over Irvin’s intended role as a strong-side linebacker in Seattle’s base defense and a pass rusher in passing situations.