The great thing about the NFL is that there are so many positions that every year, there is almost always at least one player who has a breakout year on every team, no matter how good or bad the team is. This is one part in a 32 part segment detailing one potential breakout player (rookies don’t count) for the 2013 NFL season on each NFL team. For the Seattle Seahawks, that player is defensive end Michael Bennett.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers invested two 1st round picks and two 2nd round picks into their defensive line in the 2010 and 2011 drafts combined, taking Gerald McCoy at Brian Price at defensive tackle in 2010 and Adrian Clayborn and Da’Quan Bowers at defensive end in 2011. However, their best defensive lineman over the last two seasons combined was a player by the name of Michael Bennett, an undrafted free agent out of the 2009 draft class who lines up at both defensive end and defensive tackle.
Bennett is incredibly versatile and well rounded, lining up at two positions and grading out well above average both against the run and as a pass rusher. In 2011, he graded out as ProFootballFocus’ 7th rated 4-3 defensive end in a more limited role, excelling against the run at 6-4 274, but also accumulating 4 sacks, 6 hits, and 28 hurries on 338 pass rush snaps. In 2012, he led the defensive line in snaps, grading out 7th among 4-3 defensive ends again. Along with Cameron Wake, he was one of two 4-3 defensive ends to grade out in the top-10 as a run stopper and pass rusher and he accumulated 9 sacks, 14 hits, and 48 hurries on 600 pass rush snaps.
Bennett was a free agent this off-season and concerns about his shoulder forced him to settle for a 1 year, 4.8 million dollar deal with the Seahawks, but he may have ended up in the best possible spot for him. He’ll be primarily a defensive tackle on passing downs, but he can also play left end, right end, and even some defensive tackle in base packages for the Seahawks. Interestingly enough, the Seahawks were the team who first gave him a chance out of college, signing him as an undrafted free agent in 2009, before cutting him mid-season.
Given his versatility, they’ll find ways to get him on the field and creative ways for him to get at the quarterback. He’ll also be surrounded by an incredible amount of talent on Seattle’s defensive line, which will definitely help him. Now in the national spotlight in Seattle, in a scheme he fits perfectly, he could easily get the recognition he deserves and breakout with his first 10+ sack season. Something tells me free agency will be a little bit more lucrative for him the 2nd time around in 2014.