Once ‘Mr. Irrelevant,’ Kalan Reed trying to make new name for himself in Seahawks secondary

By Adam Jude

The Seattle Times

RENTON — The good-natured nickname that came with being the last pick in the 2016 NFL draft — Mr. Irrelevant — never bothered Kalan Reed.

The distinction actually brought some unexpected perks: a free trip to Southern California for a banquet and a parade; a trophy (of, yep, a player fumbling a ball); and a year’s supply of Skittles, which Reed promptly donated to former teammates at Southern Mississippi.

“It was all fun to me,” he said.

Originally drafted by the Tennessee Titans, Reed is now in his first training camp with the Seahawks. As pick No. 253 in the draft, Reed knew he was going to have an uphill climb to make a name for himself in the NFL — a name besides Mr. Irrelevant, anyway — and it indeed appears he remains a bit of a longshot to win a tight competition as Seattle’s nickel cornerback.

“Competition is everywhere,” said Reed, listed at 5 feet, 11 inches and 199 pounds. “Just trying to get better every day out here. Just trying to make the defense better, trying to make the team better, and that’s an every-day-type deal out here.”

Reed, Jamar Taylor, Akeem King and rookie Ugo Amadi split time as the nickel corner during the first three weeks of camp.

Taylor, a seventh-year veteran who signed with Seattle as a free agent this spring, was the first nickel on the field Sunday in the Seahawks’ second preseason game at Minnesota. But Taylor also allowed the go-ahead touchdown pass in coverage during the third quarter — and he was called for an illegal-use-of-hands penalty on the play.

Defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. said after practice Thursday that it was still too early to pinpoint a front-runner at nickel, but coaches figure to have a better sense of the depth chart following the Seahawks’ third preseason game Saturday against the Charges in Los Angeles.

“I see a lot of great competition,” Norton said. “With that being the central theme of our program, it’s really good to see the guys really fight it out, guys are fighting for reps, fighting for chances to get on the field and play in these games. It’s a great competition, I’m really excited about it.”

A former second-round pick out of Boise State, Taylor is confident he’s shown Seattle coaches enough to ultimately win the job.

“I don’t talk to the coaches too much about (the competition),” Taylor said last week. “I’m just like — the tape doesn’t lie. And I know I consistently make plays every day. We’ve got great coaches and great teammates helping me pick up the playbook and allowing me to play fast.

“I wouldn’t say it’s not frustrating — being a competitor, it is — but you’ve got to understand the dynamics, you know,” Taylor added. “They drafted a guy (Amadi) and another guy (King) was here last year, so I know for me I just have to keep on digging. And if I continue to make plays at practice, then hopefully it shows, you know what I mean.”

The Seahawks like the versatility of King, who at 6-1 and 215 has played both outside corner and nickel in camp (and, for what it’s worth, is listed as the backup to Shaquill Griffin at left corner on this week’s depth chart).

Amadi, a fourth-round pick out of Oregon, has played mostly free safety in camp, and he looks like a sure contributor on special teams (see his monster hit on punt coverage in Minnesota).

A year ago in Tennessee, Reed broke his foot during camp and was released a couple weeks later. The Seahawks signed him last October, which was a welcome fresh start for Reed, who had studied the Legion of Boom when he was playing cornerback at Southern Miss.

“I loved how they were intimidating everyone, hitting everyone, high energy,” he said. “That’s what you want to be on defense.”