The Seattle Seahawks are known to fill their roster with players who have a chip on their shoulder to build a winning team. Jermaine Kearse and Doug Baldwin were undrafted rookies and both caught a Super Bowl touchdown. Russell Wilson was a mid-third round pick and won a Super Bowl in his second year in the league. He also holds the record for most games won in the first two seasons for any NFL quarterback. Malcolm Smith won last year’s Super Bowl MVP and was a seventh round pick in the 2011 draft. This year’s offseason is no different.
After what seemed like forever, Texas Longhorns defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat got the telephone call he was waiting for. Jeffcoat’s name can be added to the list of Seattle Seahawk players who have a chip on their shoulder.
Jeffcoat has the genes to play in the NFL. Jim Jeffcoat, his father, was a defensive lineman for the Dallas Cowboys for 12 years and the Buffalo Bills the last three years of his career. It was assumed that Dallas was interested in selecting Jeffcoat due to his father’s legacy and being a Texas favorite during his college career. Jeffcoat was projected to be drafted between the second and fourth rounds, but as Dallas and the other 31 teams selected their picks, Jeffcoat was not drafted.
After the draft, Jeffcoat received a call from Seattle Seahawks linebacker coach Ken Norton Jr. Norton played on the same Super Bowl defense as Jeffcoat’s father in Super Bowls XXVII and XXVIII against the Buffalo Bills. The Cowboys won both games.
“It’s no longer a chip on my shoulder, it’s a boulder,” Jeffcoat said in a recent interview. He explained that he chose the Seattle Seahawks because of their strategy to “poke” at the chip to make it grow in a positive way.
In college, Jeffcoat proved he could overcome adversity. He suffered injuries including a sprained ankle and a right pectoral rupture. He was projected to leave Texas after his junior year and enter the 2013 NFL draft, but Jeffcoat decided to complete his four year college career and entered the 2014 draft.
The decision was a great one. He did not suffer any injuries his senior year and he led the Longhorns in tackles (86), tackles for loss (22), and sacks (13). He won the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Award and the Ted Hendricks Award which recognizes the top collegiate defensive end.
The 6-foot-3, 247-pound athlete excelled by running 4.63 seconds in the 40-yard dash, jumping 123.0 inches in the broad jump, running 4.18 seconds in the 20-yard shuttle, and running 6.97 seconds in the three cone drill at the combine. He also jumped 36.0 inches in the vertical jump and bench pressed 225 pounds 18 times.
Things looked up for Jeffcoat. So why didn’t he get called during the draft? Perhaps it was because of his previous injuries. It’s easy to say he had a good senior season, but that was one year out of four he played for Texas. For the first time since 1937, no Texas Longhorn players were drafted.
Because Seattle Seahawks veterans Bruce Irvin, Cliff Avril, Greg Scruggs, and Michael Bennett are returning, Jeffcoat will not be a starter this season.
Bennett signed a four year, $28.5 million contract extension in May the day before free agency. Last season Bennett played in every game and had 8.5 sacks, 18 total tackles, one forced fumble, and one touchdown.
Irvin and Scrugg’s rookie contracts expire in 2015. Irvin had hip surgery last week, but the coaches do not seem worried about it. Irvin said he would not have chosen surgery if it would affect his playing time this season. Last season Scruggs tore his ACL and underwent season ending surgery. According to Head Coach Pete Carroll, he feels good about Scruggs being able to participate this season.
Avril’s contract will expire at the end of this season. If Jeffcoat can show the Seahawks he can contribute this year, they will probably not extend Avril’s contract due to salary cap restrictions. If Seattle can get the same results from Jeffcoat as they have from Avril, they will likely let Avril go in order to save money to lock up Russell Wilson whose rookie contract expires after this season.
Jeffcoat will have to compete with fourth-round pick Cassius Marsh for playing time. Jeffcoat and Marsh will need to show they can play better than the veterans during OTA’s if they want to be starters. Most likely they will be backups or play on passing downs when Bennett moves inside to defensive tackle.
Jeffcoat will use the chip on his shoulder to fuel his NFL career. When he takes the field, it is plausible he will make the NFL regret not drafting him. There were 18 defensive ends drafted. Perhaps he will succeed as his father did in Dallas. Being an undrafted rookie could be a blessing in disguise.
When asked about being undrafted Jeffcoat stated, “It becomes motivation to be better than you thought you could be.”