RENTON -- With two sacks in Sunday's regular season finale against the Arizona Cardinals, Jarran Reed accomplished a rare feat in Seahawks history.
Reed finished the 2018 season with 10.5 sacks, making his just the third defensive tackle in franchise history to post a double-digit sack season. John Randle had 11 sacks in his first season with the Seahawks in 2001 and Cortez Kennedy had 14 sacks in his NFL Defensive Player of the Year season in 1992.
Both Randle and Kennedy are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
"John Randle and Cortez Kennedy. That’s good company," head coach Pete Carroll said on Tuesday.
It would have seemed ridiculous to predict such a year out of Reed before the season began. Reed had just three sacks combined in his first two seasons in Seattle. While he'd always been viewed as a terrific run defender, Reed wasn't considered to be much of a pass rushing threat. It's one reason the Seahawks were able to get him in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft as run stoppers aren't viewed with the premium value as pass rushers.
However, Reed vowed to change that perception this offseason. With the trade of Michael Bennett to Philadelphia and Cliff Avril's move to KJR prompted because of injury, there was a large number of pass rushing snaps available for the taking. Reed hadn't been involved much in the team's pass rushing packages in favor of Avril, Bennett and Frank Clark in past seasons. Someone now had to get those snaps and Reed set out to be that person.
“That was a major emphasis," Reed said. I went into last offseason to get better at my all-around game, to be more reliable, to be on the field more for the team.”
Said defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr: "You could tell the first day we started the offseason program he wanted to be on third down,. He wanted to be a dominant player that plays all three downs and he wasn’t shy about it and he was willing to work for it. He did all the things – worked with his coaches. Came in extra, watched the film, did all the things that the good players do to play every down. Now, you see the benefits of his hard work.
Reed had played 616 defensive snaps for Seattle in 2017, which accounted for 56 percent of all defensive snaps. This year, Reed played 773 defensive snaps, which represented a 22 percent increase to 78 percent of all snaps.
Naturally, Reed was going to get more sack opportunities because he was on the field more often this season. However, he still hadn't had more than 1.5 sacks in either of his two years in Seattle. He would have to prove he could do it when it mattered on Sundays.
Defensive line coach Clint Hurtt believed Reed has potential as a pass rusher when he evaluated him for the Chicago Bears coming out of the University of Alabama. Even though he had only been asked to be a run defender for the Crimson Tide, Hurtt thought there was more ability to tap into in Reed's game.
"At that time I was in Chicago and really, really liked him," Hurtt said. "And the guy that was his defensive coordinator at the time he was there, Mel Tucker, is a really good friend of mine (and former Bears defensive coordinator). We were together in Chicago and when I called Mel to ask him he said ‘if there’s anybody you want in a backyard fight you, it’s Jarran.’ When I remember evaluating him, I said this kid can play the run but he’s got better pass rush than what anybody is giving him credit for.
"Obviously getting the chance to get here and get my hands on him, he’s got very good feet, he can get off the ball. It didn’t shock me the fact that he can get to this point and I think he could be a guy that’s consistently around eight, nine sacks a year. Without question. And I’m not even going to put a limit on him. Who knows what he can get to."
The 1.5 sacks per season turned into 10.5 in 2018 in his first year as a full-time defensive lineman. Reed spent the offseason working on everything he could to take his game to the next level.
"Get off, leverage, using my hands, using different types of moves. Just really understanding it, pass rushing, running wind sprints, those type of things," Reed said.
Of the 22 players in the NFL to record 10-sack season in 2018, only six are defensive tackles: Aaron Donald of the Los Angeles Rams, Chris Jones of the Kansas City Chiefs, DeForest Buckner of the San Francisco 49ers, Fletcher Cox of the Philadelphia Eagles, Geno Atkins of the Cincinnati Bengals and Reed.
Donald and Jones are technically listed as defensive ends because they play in 3-4 defensive schemes, but the roles are more in line with Reed's than traditional 4-3 defensive ends.
Hurtt is effusive in his praise of Reed and the way he's played in 2018.
"Here’s how I feel… there’s certain guys that just rush the passer. And that’s great too," Hurtt said. "That’s a trait that everybody in this league will pay for. But this guy, to me, is a big-time run defender and he’s working his way to be in the elite pass rushers at the interior position. I think he’s one of the very best in the league and I think he’ll stay that way for a long time. So it’s not a surprise. I think he’s going to have a long career, a productive career, just like this. So it’s not a shock to me.”
Having reached double-digits sacks on Sunday, Reed was happy because it was a reflection of the time and effort he put in to becoming this type of contributor. However, he wanted to spread the credit around to Clark, Quinton Jefferson, Shamar Stephen and the rest of his defensive line mates as well.
“It means a lot man," Reed said after Sunday's game. "I worked my ass off to do that, but also I couldn’t do it without the other three guys that rush with me. It was a collective effort and I appreciate them.”
Reed and Clark have managed to answer the questions about where Seattle's pass rush would come from in 2018. As a duo, their 24.5 sacks ranks third in franchise history behind Jeff Bryant (14.5) and Jacob Green (13.0) in 1984, and Michael McCrary (13.5) and Michael Sinclair (13.0) in 1996.
While Clark and his 14 sacks were a big part of that number as well, Reed's leap to become a legitimate three-down defensive player is one of the biggest developments of the Seahawks 2018 season.
"He’s grown up into a well-rounded football player, not just in the running game like when we saw him in the first couple years," Carroll said. "He’s just expanded his game, he’s using his talents, he’s using his instincts and it’s really come through. He’s always been tough, always been a fantastic effort guy, but it just kind of didn’t get applied in the pass rush part of the game and he just has caught fire. It’s great to see."
-- Right guard D.J. Fluker and free safety Tedric Thompson both appear on track to play against the Cowboys on Saturday.
Outside of emergency duty against the Kansas City Chiefs, Fluker has missed the last month for Seattle with a strained hamstring. Meanwhile, Thompson has missed the last two games with chest and ankle injuries.
Fluker could have played against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday but was held out as a precaution with an eye ahead to the playoff meeting this weekend. The move appeared to have paid off for Seattle.
“Oh shoot, I feel a lot better this week than I did last week," Fluker said. “Ten times better."
Fluker strained his hamstring in the first meeting with the San Francisco 49ers the first weekend in December. He was visibly upset on the field after the injury occurred and seemed to be concerned about the injury being a significant one.
“It was probably a more scared moment because when I felt whatever happened, I felt some little pop or whatever, so I was like, ‘okay this may be it,’" Fluker said.
Ultimately, the injury wasn't as significant as it initially seemed and Fluker was active again three weeks later against the Chiefs
“But to go get the MRI and go get a full exam, I was okay, luckily. But I just had to take a little time out and rehab and get back, so it was something I could bounce back last week," Fluker said.
Thompson was listed with both chest and ankle injuries on the team's report ahead of the Chiefs game. Fluid in his chest was the primary reason he was unable to play against Kansas City. While that issues cleared up last week, the ankle problem sidelined him against the Cardinals.
“I’m feeling good, ready to play," Thompson said.
Thompson's availability is doubly important with Delano Hill being placed on injured reserve on Tuesday with a non-displaced hip fracture.
Photo Credit: SEATTLE, WA - DECEMBER 30: Jarran Reed #90 of the Seattle Seahawks sacks Josh Rosen #3 of the Arizona Cardinals in the third quarter at CenturyLink Field on December 30, 2018 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)