Calais Campbell has piled up 11.5 sacks against the Seattle Seahawks during his career — more than he’s had against any other opponent.
He’s had a tremendous nine-year career and signed a four-year, $60 million deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars this offseason.
John Schneider, Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson have seen first-hand how disruptive Campbell can be. And in second-round pick Malik McDowell, they hope they’re getting a player who can make a similar impact.
“Similar to what Calais Campbell looked like coming out of University of Miami,” Schneider said. “Just long, gets off the ball, can get skinny, uses his hands, covers a lot of ground.”
Added Carroll, “John had a great example of Calais. He plays real long and tall and will affect the passer in those ways, whether he gets there or not.”
If the Seahawks can get McDowell to reach his potential, this pick will be considered a home run. He’s 6-foot-6, 295 pounds and can line up at multiple spots on the defensive line.
But clearly, there’s risk. McDowell had just 1.5 sacks last year. His motor and consistency were questioned during the pre-draft process.
One personnel executive told Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that McDowell would have been the No. 2 overall pick had he been without character concerns. Eight of the 16 personnel people that McGinn polled said McDowell had the biggest chance to fail out of the defensive linemen in this year’s class.
“Worst interview in our room at the combine,” an NFL personnel man told McGinn. “Completely sucked the life out of the room.”
Schneider and Carroll admitted that the concerns are legitimate.
“He had some inconsistencies,” Schneider said. “He had some close buddies leave, fellow defensive linemen. He was banged up. I think he would tell you that there were a couple games he would want back.
“But from a motor standpoint, he knows that he needs to keep going, and those are part of the discussions we had with him when he visited.”
Even after trading back three times, the Seahawks could have gone with what would have been considered a safer pick like Western Kentucky guard Forrest Lamp. But instead they decided to swing for the fences.
The Seahawks’ message with this pick was clear. They believe Carroll and his staff will be able to get the most out of McDowell.
“We see a lot of flexibility in him,” Carroll said. “He’s a unique player. He’s a very young man — 20 years old — who has a lot of growing. We think he has great upside. He had a fantastic sophomore season that we weighted heavily. And we think we have a really special player. We’re really happy to get him.”
McDowell might not start right away. But the key will be how he’s able to contribute in sub packages.
The Seahawks are not a team that likes to blitz a lot. Their projected pass-rush package on third down next year could be: Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett, McDowell and Frank Clark. If everyone’s healthy, and the light bulb goes on for McDowell, that has the potential to be one of the best units in the NFL.
Asked why the Seahawks felt compelled to take the risk, Schneider said, “He’s too unique. We’ve been looking for a pass-rushing three-technique like Pete talked about. We’ve talked about this a lot since we’ve been here together.”
One of Carroll’s greatest strengths as a coach has been his ability to manage different personalities and situations. He doesn’t mind when players speak their minds or cross the line with their competitiveness.
But taking on a player whose effort has been in question is unusual for Carroll. It’ll now be up to him to make sure McDowell reaches his potential.
“We really think he’s so young that we can develop the things that aren’t quite right yet,” Carroll said.
“It’s always starting to get to know the guys and figure them out. It’s the term ‘learn the learner.’ We have to figure out who the kid is, dig into him and then make the connections that will really hit home. There’s a number of different ways. It just depends on the individual, but we will not stop. We compete like crazy to figure the kid out, and you have to communicate, you have to be straight up. And once you do that, then we kind of develop the strategy of how we’re going to work with them.”