As we near the start of training camp, the Seahawks will have many position battles that could decide whether or not this team is a legit contender, or another team that tears our hearts out. One of those battles rests at defensive end.
Defensive end will be a position to watch this training camp as we should see a fantastic battle for the starting left end position between Cory Redding, Lawrence Jackson and Darryl Tapp.
The right defensive end position will be anchored again by Patrick Kerney who returns from his season ending shoulder surgery. Kerney should (we hope) be healthy again and looks to repeat his 2007 season where he registered 14.5 sacks and won NFC Defensive Player of the Year honors
Where things get tricky is who is going to start at left defensive end between new-comer Cory Redding, second year man Lawrence Jackson, and fourth year veteran Darryl Tapp. Redding had been slotted in to start at RDE, but in the first official depth chart of the preseason, the Seahawks have him listed as Brandon Mebane's backup at the 3-Tech DT position. Lawrence Jackson will be playing with the first team come Friday, and it is largely his job to lose.
However, Jackson really disappointed as a rookie last season, recording only 29 tackles and two sacks. He often looked lost, missed gaps, and ultimately did not look like the 28th overall pick.
Darryl Tapp has been up and down since he started here in Seattle. He has had flashes of brilliance (four sack game against St. Louis in ’07) but has never been consistent. Tapp becomes a free agent after this season and could look to have a big year, but erratic play could signal his way out of Seattle.
As I prepare to go and see training camp first hand, I will keep an eye on this battle. Both players have the ability to be great defensive ends. Tapp has a great first move and can shed blockers very quickly on his way to the quarterback.
Jackson has strength and agility; he also has tenacity, but in watching him play last season, he looked like a player who got tired as the game wore on. This could also have something to do with the fact that most of his rookie campaign, Jackson played with an injured right foot.
Perhaps the NFL season wore on him as it did the entire defense. When your offensive has the lowest time of possession in the NFL, it wears on your defense tired, especially an undersized defense like the 2008 Seahawks.
If the Seahawks plan to return to the playoffs they will need to put pressure on the quarterback. That is why this camp battle is so important. Kerney could command double teams, and there are not too many outstanding right tackles in the NFC which leaves these players one-on-one.
Its sink or swim time for Tapp and Jackson.