Testing and interviews continued at the NFL Scouting Combine on Sunday, as defensive tackles, EDGE defenders, and linebackers participated in the 40-yard dash, 3-cone drill, and several other drills.
The Seahawks managed to finish in the middle of the pack with 43.0 sacks as a team last season, led by defensive end Frank Clark and defensive tackle Jarran Reed, who each posted double-digit sacks. But away from those two stalwarts, Seattle struggled to pressure quarterbacks, as no other players finished with more than 3.0 sacks on the year.
Along with re-signing Clark, Seattle will need to find another quality pass rusher or two to compliment him at the other defensive end spot through free agency and/or the draft. With K.J. Wright set to test free agency, the team also may have a significant hole to fill next to Bobby Wagner at weakside linebacker.
Which six standouts from a defensive-centric Sunday workout at Lucas Oil Stadium could Seattle have its eyes on heading towards April’s NFL Draft?
Justin Hollins, EDGE Oregon
Standing 6-foot-5 and weighing 248 pounds, Hollins will enter the NFL as a bit of a “tweener” and whoever picks him will need to find a position for him at the next level. He played defensive end as a full-time starter for the Ducks in 2016 before moving to linebacker, where he earned Honorable Mention All-Pac 12 honors as a senior. He stuffed the stat sheet with 64 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, and five forced fumbles, tied for second-best in the nation.
The Seahawks have a history of plugging in “position-less” players like Hollins into the lineup and helping them thrive. Most notably, Michael Bennett allegedly lacked the athletic ability to rush off the edge or the size to compete in the trenches as a 3-tech defensive tackle, and yet, he made three Pro Bowls and started for two Super Bowl teams in Seattle. With room to add a bit of muscle to his frame and plenty of athleticism (4.5 40-yard dash, 4.4 20-yard shuttle), Hollins would be an intriguing fit in Seattle’s 4-3 defense as an edge rusher or SAM linebacker.
Ben Banogu, EDGE TCU
Similar to Hollins, Banogu won’t be on the draft board for some teams because it remains to be seen what position will be the best fit for him given his size. But playing in the high-scoring Big 12 conference, the 6-foot-3, 250-pound defender earned First-Team All-Conference honors during each of his last two seasons with the Horned Frogs, recording 17.0 sacks and 34.5 tackles for loss in 27 games.
In Indianapolis, Banogu may have bolstered his stock more than any other EDGE prospect, finishing near the top of his positional group in nearly every drill. He didn’t show the top-speed Hollins did posting a 4.62-second 40-yard dash, but he displayed impressive explosion with a 40-inch vertical jump and 134-inch broad jump. He also finished third among EDGE defenders with a 4.27 20-yard shuttle and lifted 225 pounds 23 times on the bench press. With those athletic traits and his past history of wreaking havoc in backfields, pass-rush needy teams such as Seattle could pull the trigger on day two of the draft.
Trysten Hill, DT UCF
Any team who considers selecting Hill will need to look into character red flags after he barely played in the team’s Fiesta Bowl matchup with LSU and openly complained about playing time after the contest. But from a talent standpoint, Hill showed he can be productive as both a run stuffer and pass rusher at the college level. He earned Second-Team All-AAC honors as a sophomore during UCF’s undefeated 2017 season and managed to post career-highs in tackles, tackles for loss, and sacks last year despite only starting one game.
At 6-foot-3, 315 pounds, Hill has more than adequate size for a 4-3 defensive tackle and after an impressive showing at the combine, he may be one of the fastest risers in a deep positional group heading towards the draft. Along with running a respectable 5.04-second 40-yard dash, Hill excelled in the long jump (35 inches) and 3-cone drill (4.38 seconds), finishing in the top-10 among defensive linemen in all three drills. If the Seahawks don’t have any concerns about his maturity, he’d project as a fun day two addition to play alongside Jarran Reed and Poona Ford in the interior.
John Cominsky, DT Charleston
Once an option quarterback at the high school level, Cominsky transformed himself from a 218-pound defensive end recruit into one of the finest defenders in NCAA Division II. After a necessary redshirt season, he became a starter for the Golden Eagles in 2015 and never looked back, recording 218 tackles, 48.5 tackles for loss, and 16.0 sacks in four collegiate seasons. He wrapped up his career by garnering All-Mountain East Defensive Player of the Year accolades.
Trying to make the ever-so-difficult jump from Division II to the NFL, the 286-pound Cominsky held his own at the scouting combine against prospects from bigger schools. He showed off his elite athleticism running the 40-yard dash in a sizzling 4.69 seconds, third in his positional group behind Rashan Gary and Maxx Crosby. He also finished third overall in the 3-cone drill (7.03 seconds) and posted top-10 performances in vertical jump, broad jump, and the 20-yard shuttle. He will need to add some bulk to his frame, but as a high-ceiling project with rare athletic attributes, Seattle should have him on their short list for late round options at defensive tackle.
Blake Cashman, LB Minnesota
As shown by the success of receiver Doug Baldwin and other undrafted signings who have thrived with the organization, Seattle loves players who carry a big chip on their shoulder. As a former walk-on who had to wait two years before finally earning a scholarship and didn’t start until his senior year at Minnesota, Cashman’s story sounds like one that belongs to a future Seahawk. Despite being lightly-recruited, he became a key reserve by his sophomore season and concluded his college career at a Third-Team All-Big 10 selection after registering 104 tackles and 15 tackles for loss.
The well-built 237-pound Cashman earned everything he achieved with the Golden Gophers and all of his hard work has paved the way for him to now become an NFL draft pick. Scouts questioned if he had enough athletic ability to make it at the next level, but he proved otherwise during a productive combine showing, finishing fourth overall among linebackers by running his 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds and posting top-five performances in the vertical jump, broad jump, and 20-yard shuttle. Seattle values speed and quickness at linebacker, but more importantly, they love players who play with an edge and Cashman checks off all of those boxes.
Gary Johnson, LB Texas
Making his way to Austin via Dodge City Community College, the undersized 226-pound Johnson started seven games in his first season with the Longhorns, producing 60 tackles and six tackles for loss. Building off a strong finish to his junior year, he became a full-time starter in 2018 and received Second-Team All-Big 12 recognition, recording 90 tackles, 16.5 tackles for loss, and 6.5 sacks.
In earlier eras, Johnson would’ve had a tough time making it as an NFL linebacker given his lack of size, but his athleticism should give him a chance to contribute on special teams and sub packages defensively right away. Running faster than most of the running backs at the combine, he ran a blazing 4.43-second 40-yard dash, which instantly will add to his draft value. Some teams will be concerned by his slow time in the 20-yard shuttle (4.57 seconds), but he did enough to put himself in position to be drafted on day three and the Seahawks could have interest.