Mike Macdonald’s Love For Defense In Full Display In 2024 NFL Draft For The Seattle Seahawks

By John Howard FreimarkOregon Sports News

Love at First Round

In a completely unprecedented fashion, the Seattle Seahawks have taken the second defensive player off the board at pick 16. After 14 straight offensive players were taken in the 1st round of the 2024 NFL draft, the Seahawks essentially had their pick of the field for selecting a defensive player or continuing the offensive trend. The pick came in as Byron Murphy II, a stud defensive tackle out of the University of Texas. Murphy was named to the Second-Team AP All-American team and the first-team All-Big 12 Conference for his junior season performance. Murphy was a major cog in the Longhorns’ respectably ranked 15th-best defense in the nation. We even got the chance to see Murphy play on the biggest stage in the College Football Playoff.

Now, how does Byron Murphy fit with the Seahawks’ current roster? In a word: perfectly. Murphy isn’t Aaron Donald in the way he can butterfly knife the offensive line with an array of moves and brute strength (Thank god Aaron Donald retired), but what he does have are insanely good athletic attributes that make him perfect in Mike Macdonald’s system. Murphy’s college counting stats don’t jump off the page, but that isn’t where we should be looking. Murphy clocked an explosive 4.87 forty-yard dash time (he’s 300 pounds. Just insane.) and an impressive 28 reps on the bench press that exemplify what kind of athlete he is. Murphy didn’t run the cone drill at the combine that measures lateral quickness, but if you were to turn on the film, you’d recognize how evident it is what kind of speed he possesses going sideline to sideline. You plug Murphy alongside Leonard Williams, and you’re going to be terrorizing the line of scrimmage and opening up lanes for each other to feast in the backfield. This kind of pressure put on opposing offenses is going to allow Seattle’s young and talented secondary to have a chance to go out and make plays.

Murphy’s first two years at Texas were stuck battling for playing time against equally talented players, but this allowed him to find flexibility all over the defensive line, which is huge in a modern NFL. The most popular comparison for Byron Murphy has been Grady Jarrett, the d-lineman for the Atlanta Falcons, but if he can reach his ceiling, I can see him being more akin to Christian Wilkins. In addition to being a potentially game-wrecking defensive player, Murphy is also a secondary offensive weapon. Murphy both caught and ran for a touchdown in his final season at Texas. The idea of trotting Murphy onto the field in the red zone and the defense absolutely losing their mind when he’s caught a touchdown in the back corner of the end zone makes me want to liken Murphy to Warren Sapp, and wouldn’t that just be amazing?

You didn’t know you wanted them till now. 

Seattle was left out of the second round of this year’s NFL draft, but that doesn’t mean they failed to acquire high-level assets at great value. With the 81st overall pick, Seattle took Christian Haynes, a hefty but impressively athletic guard out of UConn that, alongside Byron Murphy II, reinforces a “meat and potatoes” drafting philosophy in Mike Macdonald’s first year as head coach. Haynes may be limited in positional flexibility on the offensive line but more than makes up for it in competence at his natural position. If Haynes can hone the technique needed to succeed at the professional level, he more than has the potential to be a starter long-term in this league.

It’s always amazing how quickly people forget (or choose to forget) how teams and players can grow throughout the year. Tyrice Knight is going to be another example of this phenomenon. Knight is an off-ball linebacker that Seattle stole in the 4th round of this year’s draft. During his senior season at UTEP, Knight led the nation in total tackles, with 84 tackles in the year, while also ranking 6th in total tackles, with 140 (391 over his time in college). He has a keen sense of where the play is developing and showed the ability to impact the game when he gets the chance in multiple different ways with 15.5 TFLs, 7 pass breakups, and a forced fumble. I see a similar trajectory for Knight as I did for Patrick Queen when he came out of LSU. A ball hawk who, at times, can get outside the scheme of the defense, freelance, and still look like the best player on the defensive side of the ball. Until last year, Queen looked like a lost cause until, guess who? Mike Macdonald took over as the Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator, and he became an all-pro. See where I’m going with this?

A new era brewing in Seattle under Mike Macdonald and a new wave of draftees will usher in what I believe could be the start of a very dominant defense. From the defensive line becoming littered with first-round talent to the secondary with flashes of young brilliance, I’m starting to buy into the idea that this team could compete for one of the playoff spots in the suddenly young and exciting NFC. While the roster is still young and generally unproven, I can’t help but acknowledge the talent on both sides of the ball. What the team lacks in a proven track record, they make up for with talent and an innovative and young coaching staff. Don’t be surprised if the 12th man is still rocking come January of this upcoming NFL season.

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