Poona Ford says he has a pair of goals entering Year 2 – to be a Week 1 starter and have more production than his rookie season.
The former is likely, especially with Jarran Reed facing a six-game suspension to open the season. The latter remains a mystery, one that has the potential to make or break the Seattle Seahawks' defensive line.
“I’m feeling pretty good about my chances to be the starting nose guard,” Ford said. “I’ve been putting the work in, and I’m looking forward to the outcome this season.”
Ford appeared in 11 games in 2018 and made one start. He posted 23 combined tackles (three for loss), no sacks and two quarterback hits. It was a fine rookie year, but put simply, the team needs Ford to take a big step forward.
Frank Clark is no longer in the building. Reed will be out nearly two months. Ezekiel Ansah, while he may be ready for Week 1, remains a wildcard as he returns from a shoulder injury. Every other name on the defensive line has had limited to minimal success as a pass rusher.
That means Seattle is expecting a few guys to break out in 2019. From an interior standpoint, Ford is the most likely candidate to emerge.
“I know what I can bring to the table,” Ford said. “I know I can rush.”
There is some precedent to suggest Ford is capable of becoming a pass-rushing force despite posting just four sacks at the University of Texas. Reed, a player who had just three combined sacks through his first two seasons, broke out for 10.5 in 2018.
Pete Carroll not only sees the parallels between Ford and Reed, but hopes Ford can expedite his learning curve as a pass rusher.
“We are hoping to see that kind of progress,” Carroll said. “We’d like to see it earlier than two or three years. We are really after it and hoping he can do something for us.”
Ford compared the art of rushing the quarterback to a game of chess. He studies film to understand which sets he’ll see from a given offensive lineman. That helps him determine which moves will work.
“You’ve got to set up the next move,” Ford said. “That’s what I’ve learned this camp, and I feel like I’ve taken a step in the right direction.”
Seattle’s starting offensive line has taken note of Ford’s potential. Center Justin Britt didn’t mince words when discussing the 5-foot-11, 310-pound defensive tackle.
“He has a chance to end up being one of the best nose tackles that could have played,” Britt said. “He’s got that God-given leverage and knows how to use it. He knows how to control everything with his size and what not. He’s quick. He’s great with his hands. I don’t know a lot of people that would be better to practice against than Poona Ford to get me ready for Sundays and what not. I’m very appreciative that I get to go against him.”
Ford spent much of his summer break working out with Reed in Seattle. The hours spent honing his craft did wonders for Ford’s confidence coming into training camp.
“I got a high ceiling, man, and I’m taking all the advice I can along the way,” Ford said.
As far as the Seahawks are concerned, the quicker he can get there the better.