There are several wild cards along the Seattle Seahawks defensive line – Ezekiel Ansah and L.J. Collier chief among them. But one of the more intriguing names to watch is 2018 third-round pick Rasheem Green.
He's been on a roll lately, stringing positive practices together over the last week. Green also showed well in the preseason opener last Thursday against the Denver Broncos with three total tackles, including one tackle for loss.
"He's popping out now, his quickness is there, he's more powerful than he was (last year), obviously his awareness and his timing is better because he's more experienced," Pete Carroll said of Green on Sunday.
Green had a fantastic preseason as a rookie but saw his season derailed by an ankle sprain in Week 3 against the Dallas Cowboys. He missed more than a month and never got back to full strength. Beyond that, Green was behind from a mental standpoint.
Rookies often fall victim to "paralysis by analysis," which essentially means that young players tend to overthink everything instead of just playing. Pressing and a lack of overall comfort in the scheme are two common causes. Green finished with just nine tackles and one sack in 10 games in 2018.
"I was trying to do too much, and I ended up not doing much at all," Green told NBC Sports Northwest.
But now he's healthy and better understands the objectives of Seattle's defense. Green said he's working on pre-snap recognition and the ability to read cues from the offense, two aspects of the mental game that will allow him to play faster.
Green remembers overcoming similar hurdles in college at USC. He spent his freshman year getting used to the speed of the game as well as the size and athleticism of his opponents. Green took off his final two years with the Trojans, posting a combined 16 sacks and 19 tackles for loss. He hopes to make a similar jump from Year 1 to Year 2 in the NFL.
The Seahawks do, too.
"We need him to be a factor, to play end for sure on early downs and to be an inside rusher would be really something and he's competing to be on the first rush group and it's good to see him," Carroll said. "He's shown up."
And that's the goal: to be a three-down player from the jump. Green's college stats indicate he is a capable pass rusher. Now he's just got to prove those skills will translate in the NFL.
"(It's) about being quick, making sure your hands on point and having a plan," Green said of his strategy as a pass rusher. "I'm not trying to be a guy who has to leave the game on third down. I like to think of myself as a player who can do run and pass. I want to be a complete overall player."
The combination of potential and opportunity is the equation for a breakout season. Green can feel the progress he's made as a player, but he's also in a prime spot to claim the role he desires. Jarran Reed (suspension) will miss the first six games of the season, which leaves a massive void on the interior of Seattle's defensive line, specifically from a pass rush standpoint.
Green and Poona Ford are the Seahawks best bets to produce in Reed's absence.
"I just have to go out and play the football that I know I'm capable of playing," Green said.