RENTON — Jordyn Brooks is going to do what no Seattle Seahawks top draft choice has done since 2016.
Coach Pete Carroll announced before practice Wednesday that Brooks will start at outside linebacker Sunday when Seattle (2-0) hosts Dallas (1-1) at empty CenturyLink Field.
The speedy first-round draft choice and tackling machine at Texas Tech for four years is starting because Bruce Irvin officially went on injured reserve Wednesday.
“This is an opportunity for Jordyn Brooks to start,” Carroll said. “He is going to take the opportunity to step up and be part of the three-linebacker situation. So we are looking forward to it.”
The Seahawks’ top pick in 2019, defensive end L.J. Collier, got a serious ankle and foot injury in his first days of training camp last year. Then he was a healthy scratch for five games as a rookie. He is starting now in Year 2, as Rasheem Green remains out with a pinched nerve is his neck that Carroll indicated is not improving.
Seattle’s top rookie in 2018 was Rashaad Penny. The running back broke a bone in his hand in his first training camp. He is now on the physically-unable-to-perform list until at least mid-October. He is trying to come back from reconstructive knee surgery last winter.
The Seahawks’ first pick in the 2017 draft was Malik McDowell. The defensive end sustained serious head injuries in a mysterious ATV accident and never played a game for the team.
Brooks backed up K.J. Wright at weak-side linebacker in the base 4-3 defense during Seattle’s training camp last month. He has played sporadically at weak-side linebacker in the first two games, and some next to All-Pro Bobby Wagner as the two linebackers in the team’s nickel defense. Seattle has used nickel the majority of the time while Atlanta and then New England passed on the Seahawks the first two games — for almost 850 yards.
Irvin had been playing strong-side linebacker, with Wright, the 10-year veteran, at his usual spot on the weak side next Wagner in the middle.
Wright, 31, is in the final year of his contract. It would make sense for Seahawks coaches to put Brooks now at the side he’s been learning the last seven weeks and is likely to be playing in 2021 and beyond: weak side, because of his speed and ability to make plays in the open field on runners and receivers alike. That would move Wright to strong side. Wright played some there in his first two season in Carroll’s defense, in 2011 and 2012, his first NFL seasons. After a decade in Carroll’s system, he knows strong-side responsibilities better than anyone on the active roster, and certainly better than Brooks, who has six weeks of NFL practice time.
Yet Carroll wasn’t about to give us that Brooks was starting and exactly where four days before the game. He’ll leave that for the Cowboys to have to guess about.
“We’ll let you see what’s going on at game time, if you don’t mind,” Carroll said.
The Seahawks are likely to play more base 4-3 Sunday against Dallas than they have in their first two games. Quarterback Dak Prescott is the NFC’s offensive player of the week for the 450 yards passing he had in Dallas’ win over the Falcons last weekend. Prescott had to throw that much after the Cowboys fell behind by 15 points with 6 minutes left and were still down 39-30 with 2 minutes to go. The Cowboys passed their way to a 40-39 victory after recovering an onside kick late.
Before that desperation, new Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy ran the ball with do-it-all back Ezekiel Elliott 22 times. That’s the same number of carries Elliott had in Dallas’ opener, a loss at the Los Angeles Rams.
As Wagner said Wednesday, referring to Elliott’s jersey number: “At the end of the day, 2-1 is going to get the ball at some point.”
Wagner said McCarthy’s Cowboys are doing more “11 personnel,” one back and one tight end with three wide receivers, than previous head coach Jason Garrett ran in Dallas. But Carroll noted the Cowboys kept the same offensive coordinator through their coaching change this offseason: Kellen Moore.
Wagner is expecting the Cowboys to run Elliott, as they usually do. Seattle’s game plan is first to slow him.
“We want to do our best to make this team one-dimensional,” Wagner said.
That means likely more base 4-3 from the Seahawks — and more for Brooks in his first career start.
“His speed,” Wagner said, “is going to pop off the tape, for sure.”