The Seahawks have waited for L.J. Collier to play like a first-round draft pick for his entire career. With the right DC, he could finally make it happen. Clint Hurtt certainly seems to think so.
There may be no more terrifying word in the English language than potential. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, it is “someone’s or something’s ability to develop, achieve, or succeed”. The problem truly arises when you add the word “expectation” to potential. When you’re selected in the first round of the NFL draft, the two go hand in hand. And that can be a problem.
L.J. Collier is only the latest member of the Seahawks to, shall we say, not quite live up to our expectations. And by “our” I mean the 12s, not the Seahawks organization. Before the draft, Lee Vowell saw Collier as similar to Michael Bennett.
He took time to develop, as Lee did indeed project. I predicted he’d have a great year in 2020. He did reach career highs, but no one would confuse three sacks, seven QB hits, and four TFL as a Michael Bennett stat line. Still, it was something to build on.
L.J. Collier could still come up big for the Seahawks
Except that didn’t happen, did it, 12s? Our intrepid leader of 12thManRising, Lee Vowell, has said many times that L.J. Collier’s 2021 campaign was…odd, to say the least. He was a healthy scratch in seven games, despite starting all 16 games in 2020. To clarify, Collier was a healthy scratch, not Lee. Lee’s never healthy. Anyway, not only did Collier sit for seven games, he got exactly zero starts.
That was really strange, considering that when Collier was on the field, he was quite effective. True, he didn’t register a sack, but he did apply pressure at a much higher rate than the Hawks team leader Rasheem Green. I have to believe that Collier’s relatively poor stat line is far better explained by Ken Norton Jr.’s poor usage than Collier’s own shortcomings.
Happily, we don’t have Ken Norton Jr. to kick around anymore. His replacement and potential Seahawks savior, Clint Hurtt, had a very interesting comment regarding L.J. Collier after OTAs. Fair warning, 12s, the quote is from The Athletic, which has a paywall. I’ll also say it’s truly worth the money. For now, here’s the quote, as reported by the great Michael-Shawn Dugar of The Athletic (subscription required):
"“Sometimes for young guys, particularly with defensive linemen, it’s such a technical position,” Hurtt said. “It takes time for those guys to learn things and figure it out, to come into this league and for things to kind of slow down for them. Out of the entire group of guys on defense, he’s had one of the better springs out of everyone. Really excited for him and where he’s going. Continue to be strong in the run game. He’s come in bigger, stronger and faster than what he has been in previous years. Been rushing the passer really well. Just want to continue to see him stack days.”"
I see three reasons to think that L.J. Collier could finally live up to his potential and pay off on our expectations. First, Clint Hurtt knows a hell of a lot more about football than I do, and probably more than you do. Even if you’re Joel McHale, Rainn Wilson, or Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Second, all 12s are quite aware of another Seahawks draft pick that initially disappointed, only to come through in spectacular fashion in his fourth season. Yes, I’m looking at you, Rashaad Penny, you magnificent beast.
The third and final reason I believe Collier could finally break through this year? The comparison to Michael Bennett is far more accurate than it appears at first glance. As 12s, we tend to see Black Santa as the three-time Pro Bowl monster that could decimate an offensive line. We forget that he was waived by the Hawks in his first season. We don’t recall that it wasn’t until his fourth year in the league that Bennett truly blossomed. Clint Hurtt, time to make your garden grow.