Losing key defenders Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett, and Sheldon Richardson, the Seattle Seahawks entered this season with a major leadership void along the defensive line.
The Seahawks anticipated great things from fourth-year defensive end Frank Clark and he has taken his next step towards stardom, earning NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors after registering 2.5 sacks against the Raiders. He's on pace for a career-high in sacks despite battling complications from food poisoning in recent weeks, positioning himself nicely for a lucrative long-term contract.
But somewhat unexpectedly, defensive tackle Jarran Reed has emerged as a bona fide pass rusher for Seattle from the interior in his third NFL season. And most importantly, he's helped Clark fill the leadership gap left following the departure of Avril and Bennett.
A strong argument can be made that Reed has been the Seahawks' defensive MVP thus far, as he's consistently been disruptive in the trenches and generated big play after big play through six games. He's already recorded 25 combined tackles, sitting among league leaders at his respective position, and he's also doubled his previous career-high in sacks.
Though unlikely, if he continues his torrid pace through 16 games, he'll finish the 2018 season with 66 tackles, 10.5 sacks, 13 tackles for loss, and 16 quarterback hits. Those filthy numbers emulate Hall of Fame defensive tackle Warren Sapp in his prime with the Buccaneers.
Given his current production and dominant play, does Reed have a legitimate shot at earning All-Pro distinction this season?
While Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald remains in his own class and it's not even close, it's not out of the question Seattle's budding star could earn the NFL's highest honor alongside him come February.
Donald, who won the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award last season, already has 26 tackles and a whopping 8.0 sacks through seven games. He could miss the rest of the season and probably would still be selected to the All-Pro squad, so that spot already seems locked up.
But away from Donald, a rare generational talent, Reed stacks up quite well against the rest of his competition.
Among qualified defensive tackles, only Jurell Casey of the Titans, Damon Harrison of the Giants, Kenny Clark of the Packers, Larry Ogunjobi of the Browns, and Donald have more combined tackles. Breaking this group down even further, only Ogunjobi, Donald, and Reed have 25-plus tackles and four or more sacks, putting Seattle's standout defender in elite company.
There's still a ton of football left to be played. Reed will need to prove he can play at an All-Pro level for an entire season and Seattle's schedule won't get any easier moving into the final 10 game stretch run hoping to return to the playoffs.
As long as he continues to wreak havoc against opposing run games and provides a bit of bite in the pass rushing department, however, Reed should at the very least earn his first Pro Bowl invite and will be in the discussion to enter rarefied air as an All-Pro selection.