Seahawks’ plan is becoming clearer, with John Schneider, Mike Macdonald in lockstep

RENTON, Wash. — Mike Macdonald is the youngest head coach in the NFL, but the first two draft picks given to him as a head coach are rooted in an old-school way of thinking: It all starts up front.

One day after using the 16th pick on defensive tackle Bryon Murphy II, the Seattle Seahawks drafted Connecticut guard Christian Haynes with the No. 81 selection. Seattle entered the 2024 draft with only two picks within the top 100. Using both of them in the trenches is a statement about what brand of football general manager John Schneider and Macdonald want to play as they begin a new era.

“Huge,” Schneider said of using the first two picks on interior linemen. “We really wanted to put an emphasis on it, and the board ended up going that way for us.”

Haynes was a six-year college player, taking advantage of a redshirt season and an additional year because of the pandemic. He appeared in 51 games and made 49 starts, all at right guard. Haynes was an All-American in 2022 and a two-time team captain. Experience was among the traits that made Haynes attractive to Schneider and Macdonald.


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“He’s played a lot of football,” Schneider said. “He’s (allowed) 48 pressures in 1,687 snaps. The guy is really, really experienced.”

When evaluating Haynes, play style was just as important as playing time, and Haynes’ film showed a tough, physical guard with an attitude and eye discipline that he developed from all those snaps in college.

“Initial quickness, length, he can get under people, he can roll his hips,” Schneider said, rattling off Haynes’ top traits. “The pass protection stuff is legit. Lateral movement, stays in front of people, he’s got strong hands. He’s got anchor. He’s just a really good football player. So experienced. He knows the nuances.”

Haynes described himself as athletic, dominant at the point of attack and “somebody that is smart and nasty at the same time.” His head coach at Connecticut for the last few seasons was former Seahawks coach Jim Mora Jr., who used some of the same words when telling Schneider what type of player Seattle was drafting.

“You’re getting a classy, highly intelligent, nasty football player,” Schneider recalled of his conversation with Mora.

It remains unclear what Seattle will look like schematically with Macdonald calling the plays on defense and first-year coordinator Ryan Grubb running the show on offense. Consider these draft picks to be clues. The point of attack is the priority. Even though more of the spread elements of the college game trickle into the NFL, Macdonald is trying to build two physically dominant front lines.

“A style of play that no one wants to play,” Macdonald said. “That’s what we’re aiming for. That’s our standard. That’s how we play football. If you want to play here, you’re going to have to play a certain way. Those are the types of guys we’re bringing in.”

Macdonald flashed as big a smile as we’ve seen over the last two days when he was asked what he’s searching for in offensive linemen.

“I like the guys that knock ‘em off the ball,” he said. “That’s me. We kind of figure out the rest later. I think Christian brings that to the table.”

Building through the trenches is not a novel concept by any means, but because we’re still learning about Macdonald, what he’s all about and what the Seahawks will look like under his leadership, every nugget he reveals and every player they acquire is notable.

It’s also important that Schneider and Macdonald are on the same page from the jump, as far as acquiring players who fit the coach’s vision. That’s part of what made Schneider and Pete Carroll so effective in the beginning of their partnership. Schneider was able to find the ideal offensive linemen to execute their zone-based blocking scheme, along with a running back who liked to run through faces. On defense, Carroll wanted a ball-hawking middle-field safety and cornerbacks built like shooting guards, so Schneider went and got everything he needed.

The on-field product will determine whether this is a successful marriage, but so far, it appears Schneider and Macdonald are off to a good start in terms of drafting what the coach needs up front.

The final day of the draft will be about filling out other key spots with players who fit Macdonald’s vision.

Seattle has pick Nos. 102 and 118 in the fourth round, 179 and 192 in the sixth round and 235 in the seventh round. Neither of Seattle’s top two inside linebackers is signed beyond this season, and both are on team-friendly deals that don’t necessarily guarantee starting spots. So, the Seahawks will likely take a look at what’s left at that position on Saturday.

There were several linebackers drafted Friday: Edgerrin Cooper (Packers), Junior Colson (Chargers), Trevin Wallace (Panthers), Marist Liufau (Cowboys), Ty’Ron Hopper (Packers) and Payton Wilson (Steelers). Some notable names remaining on the board include Tommy Eichenberg, Jeremiah Trotter Jr., Cedric Gray and Jaylan Ford.

Seattle replaced safeties Jamal Adams and Quandre Diggs with Rayshawn Jenkins and K’von Wallace this spring. Wallace is on a one-year deal, while Jenkins is signed through 2025, which will be his age-31 season. Julian Love’s deal expires after this year. Safety is a position that could benefit from competition both for the present and the future.

Tyler Nubin (Giants), Javon Bullard (Packers) and Cole Bishop (Bills) were drafted in the second round, and Calen Bullock (Texans), Tykee Smith (Buccaneers) and Kamren Kinchens (Rams) were selected in the third round. Three names stand out for the Seahawks among the remaining safeties: Jaden Hicks (Dane Brugler’s No. 1 safety), Malik Mustapha (No. 6 on Brugler’s board) and Beau Brade (12th on Brugler’s board).

“We’re excited for tomorrow,” Schneider said. “We have a lot of work to do, and (there are) still some darn good football players on the board.”

The goal is to continue finding players that match the new coach’s culture. They certainly have in that Haynes, a Maryland native who said he was a Seahawks fan growing up.

“And I’m a big Geno (Smith) fan as well,” he said. “I used to watch him a lot when he was at West Virginia. I’m ready to come out there and dominate. There’s a lot of different cultures with Marshawn (Lynch), Russell (Wilson). (I’m) trying to come back and bring a Super Bowl back. We’re going to take it day by day. I’m really excited to do that.”

Explaining the depths of his Smith fandom, Haynes said: “​​You don’t understand, I used to watch his highlight tape to get hyped for my games. He doesn’t know that, but I’m going to talk to him and we’ll get it right.”

(Photo of Christian Haynes: Vasha Hunt / USA Today)

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