Friday afternoon offered our first chance to see the Seahawks first-year players in action during the team’s rookie minicamp. However the most notable participant was 2020 second-round pick Darrell Taylor.
Taylor, a heralded pass rusher out of Tennessee whom Seattle traded up to select with the 48th overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, missed his entire rookie season due to complications from leg surgery. Taylor had surgery prior to the draft, a procedure that included putting a titanium rod into his leg. Throughout the 2020 season, Carroll hinted that Taylor was nearing a return that was continuously pushed back.
Taylor confirmed that he never needed a second procedure, but he did undergo a stem cell injection late in the season that finally helped him get over the hump. He finally appeared in practice for one week leading up to the Seahawks Wild Card Round matchup against the Rams, and Pete Carroll said Taylor would have had a chance to play in the Divisional Round had Seattle advanced.
Now, four months later, Taylor’s leg appeared to be fully healed on Friday. Carroll said the team is approaching things like the injury is a thing of the past. Taylor confirmed that he finally feels healthy, but he acknowledged that the leg injury will always be a part of his story as a football player. He’s still plenty confident that he can be a productive NFL player.
“I don't think that leg will ever be behind me because, you know, it's just gonna be a part of me because I had surgery on my leg,” Taylor said. “But I'm definitely looking forward and you know, it’s a fresh start for sure.”
Taylor’s comments sounded a bit like Tyler Lockett’s a few weeks back when Lockett said that he lost a half-step when he broke his leg back in 2016. However, there’s a pride that comes with being able to overcome such a sizeable setback. Lockett has gone on to enjoy a tremendous career thus far and was just rewarded with a lucrative contract extension. Taylor will look to carve a similar path.
“It’s gonna fuel me,” Taylor said. “I feel like my injury from last year is gonna fuel me. Not being able to be on the field last year is gonna fuel me. Not being able to share those 16 games my teammates, you know it's gonna fuel me to get out there with them, so they can you know see how I play and see how I conduct myself as a professional.”
Those opportunities to prove himself will come in time. In the short term, there’s a peace of mind that comes with just being out on the practice field with some of his teammates.
“I honestly didn't want to get off the field but you know we had to go lift and do all that stuff,” Taylor said. “I just wanted to soak it in because I hadn't been on here in a long time, and just felt really, really, really good out there. The sun, the helmet, everything just felt good.
“I don't think about my injury at all it's just like, especially when I hit the field the first time it’s just like I football, here we go, just time to lock in. It's time to get ready for the season.”
Carroll shared on Friday that Taylor will work at SAM linebacker as well as at LEO. Both spots require some pass rush ability with the SAM being asked to drop in coverage a bit more frequently. Taylor played some SAM in college which should ease the learning curve. He’s currently down to 245 pounds but plans to bulk up to 260 by the time the season rolls around.
"He's such a good-looking athlete. He looks like he can do whatever you need him to do," Carroll said. “There's no question that Darrell can do both things.”
Cody Barton is the current favorite to start at SAM barring a K.J. Wright return to Seattle. Carlos Dunlap, Benson Mayowa and Alton Robinson will be Taylor’s top competition to get reps at LEO.
The depth chart will be sorted out in August during training camp and the preseason. More importantly than finding out which position fits him best, Taylor will need to show that he can remain healthy for the entirety of camp in order to give himself a shot at gameday reps in Week 1 against the Colts.