The Seattle Seahawks are counting on some of their younger defensive linemen to improve what was one of the NFL's least effective pass rushes last season. One of them, 2019 first-round pick L.J. Collier, is eager to prove himself after a disappointing debut.
On a Zoom call with reporters Friday, Collier struck tones of indignation and resolve while saying he feels disrespected by those who have already written him off.
"I am chomping at the bit to get out there because it's one of those things where you didn't have the year everybody wanted you to get, so they just kind of shift you off to the side as if you can't play," Collier said. "It's disrespectful and I feel very disrespected, but I'm the type of person there's no need for talking; just showing. Go out there and you run through a couple people, you run through people's faces, you make noise, and people, they'll remember who you are very quickly.
"I'm excited to get back out there and show people who I am. I don't really care about the first-round-pick stuff. I'm a football player at the end of the day and I can play football at a high level just like everybody else can, and I'm out there to prove that, that I'm one of the best and I can do what I need to do. I can rush the passer; I can stop the run. I'm out there to prove that, that I'm one hell of a football player and I'm going to show that this year."
Collier, drafted 29th overall out of TCU, missed all of the preseason and the regular-season opener after badly spraining an ankle early in training camp. The defensive end produced next to nothing when he returned: three tackles and zero sacks on 142 defensive snaps over 11 games. Including the playoffs, he was a healthy scratch on game day six times.
Collier said he was having a strong camp when he hurt his right ankle. Although he eventually felt good enough to play, he said he "definitely wasn't 100 percent" at any point last season and has wondered whether he should have waited longer before returning. He has been living and training in Frisco, Texas, and said his ankle is no longer an issue.
"I just realized that missing those reps ... was a big thing, especially when you're new to the league," said Collier, who was a full-time starter at TCU for only one season. "So I needed preseason to knock off the rust and things like that. I came in against the Steelers [in Week 2] and hadn't practiced anything in a very long time, no pad work. So I was a step behind everybody, and when I did catch a stride, there was times where I didn't play and things like that. So it was very difficult, but I learned a lot last year about myself and about the league and I had great guys around me, great coaches. I learned a lot from them and [about] what I can bring to the game this year."
Collier is in line for snaps as one of Seattle's 5-technique defensive ends. That position in Pete Carroll's defense is often asked to move inside in passing situations. The Seahawks' only other veteran 5-technique ends are Rasheem Green and Branden Jackson. Free-agent addition Benson Mayowa plays the Leo end, as do draft picks Darrell Taylor and Alton Robinson.
Green, a 2018 third-round pick, led the Seahawks with four sacks last season while playing the third-most snaps among their defensive linemen. That was after a nondescript rookie season of his own. The Seahawks believe Collier can make the same kind of second-year jump they just saw from Green.
"At the end of the day, all I can do is stay focused, keep the tunnel vision and grind," Collier said. "Last year taught me to always stay humble. I've been down before. I was down in college before. It's what you do when you're down. I can choose to stay down, or I can choose to come out of this and do what I know how to do, and that's be great. So I'm focused on being great. Last year is last year. I'm getting my body right. I'm getting my mind right. I'm doing everything I need to do to be great this year and go out there and have a great season, and I plan on doing that."