If the NFL wasn’t on notice about Seattle Seahawks rookie edge rusher Boye Mafe already, they should be now.
The Seahawks took on the Steelers in their first game of the 2022 preseason on Saturday night, providing an opportunity for the team and their fans to get their first looks at the 2022 roster in action. Of course, the quarterback battle between Geno Smith and Drew Lock dominated the conversation ahead of the game, but it was Mafe who demanded attention during the game with his stellar showing.
The rookie edge rusher simply dominated in his time on the field. In 44 defensive snaps, Mafe recorded two sacks, a forced fumble, and a tackle for a loss. Looking at the film behind the statistics, those results aren’t a surprise.
On his literal first play against NFL competition, Mafe recorded his first sack—a strip sack—against Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph near the end of the first quarter.
Didn’t take long for @boye_mafe. #Seahawks pic.twitter.com/dnjCp6QHsp
— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) August 13, 2022
There are a few things to take away from this play. For one, there’s Mafe’s first-step explosiveness off the snap. That explosiveness was one of his greatest strengths when he played at Minnesota, but it was limited by a bad false step habit on occasion that kept him from consistent dominance. There was no false step on this play, and the results spoke for themselves.
Mafe exploded out of his four-point stance, initiated contact with Steelers tackle Dan Moore to create some space, then ripped under the block, using his speed and a good angle to get to the quarterback. All that was left to do was chop down on Rudolph’s throwing arm to force the fumble. The speed and explosiveness he showed on that play were downright scary, but it was only a precursor for his best play of the game.
That, of course, was his chase down of fellow rookie Kenny Pickett, the quarterback whose strong night could have looked that much more perfect if not for Mafe’s elite athleticism.
What a clutch sack by the rookie @boye_mafe 😤
📺: #SEAvsPIT on @NFLNetwork (check local listings)
📱: Stream on NFL+ https://t.co/cINB23wRfG pic.twitter.com/vR40Lmynum
— NFL (@NFL) August 14, 2022
On a 4th-and-1 play with just over one minute left to go in a tie game, Mafe made what, at the time, looked like the play of the game. Left unblocked on a play-action pass, the rookie edge rusher had to take the right angle to, at the very least, prevent Pickett from gaining a yard with his arm on a short pass or his legs as he scrambled.
Well, Mafe’s lateral mobility is one of his greatest assets thanks to his short-area burst, acceleration, and agility, and as TDN’s Director of Scouting Kyle Crabbs noted in his scouting report for Mafe last season, “he’s going to be hard to get the edge on if you leave him unblocked by design and try to claim the edge on him.” Oops.
Pickett did not get the edge, and Mafe made an incredible play to not only chase him down but take him down eight yards behind the line of scrimmage for his second sack of the game. Considering Pickett’s solid mobility that he had showcased all game as well as the situation within the context of the game, Mafe’s play only looks that much more impressive.
Those were two excellent plays, but maybe (for some reason) you’re not moved yet. Well, what about this play Mafe made on special teams on a first-quarter punt?
Seahawks EDGE 53 Boye Mafe had himself a day yesterday for the Seattle Seahawks. Had 2 sacks on 44 total defensive snaps. Also had a touchdown saving tackle on Steve Sims during punt in the 1st quarter. Mafe played 15 snaps on special teams yesterday per PFF. pic.twitter.com/nWjYsE9zLp
— Russell Brown (@RussNFLDraft) August 14, 2022
When Steelers returner Steve Sims makes his cut to the left, Mafe is 15 yards downfield and has to run across almost the full width of the field to catch him and save a touchdown. He does. Mafe’s acceleration and angle are seriously impressive, and he manages to take down Sims even after the punter overruns him.
That’s a play that, in a preseason game as a second-round pick playing on special teams, can be an easy one to give up on. To see not only Mafe’s athleticism but the motor he has to want to make that play says a lot about him as a player. That only puts his stock higher in my book.
There really wasn’t much not to like about Mafe’s first game against NFL competition. You couldn’t ask for much more than a couple of big sacks from a second-round pick and rookie in his first NFL game, preseason or not.
Yes, it’s still early, but Seahawks fans have every right to get excited about this young addition to their pass-rush attack.
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