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Seahawks’ improved pass rush has been a group effort

By Danny O’Neil

The sacks are coming in bunches, just like Pete Carroll hoped when Seattle restocked its pass rush this offseason.

Just don’t say those sacks are coming easy. At least not to Bruce Irvin.

“I’ve never had this much trouble getting a sack,” Irvin said.

Cliff Avril is one of four Seahawks with at least three sacks. “It’s competition,” he said. “Everybody wants to get theirs.” (AP)

Never? Because Seattle had seven sacks last Thursday, Bruce. That’s the second most the Seahawks have totaled in any game going back to the start of the 2009 season. There’s just one small issue with that total, according to Irvin.

“I didn’t get one,” he said. “That’s crazy, isn’t it? It’s a good thing, though. It keeps it competitive. I think it’s a good thing. Do you think it’s a good thing?”

It’s absolutely a good thing. Last year, Seattle’s pass rush was a two-man operation as Chris Clemons led the team with 11.5 sacks while Irvin had eight, most among all NFL rookies. No one else on the team had more than four.

There are already four different Seahawks with three or more sacks this season, and eight different players had at least a share of a sack in that seven-sack total in Arizona.

It’s the kind of strength-in-numbers approach Carroll envisioned after last season when he referenced the need to add pass rushers – plural – in his season-ending press conference. Seattle did just that, first signing Cliff Avril and then Michael Bennett in free agency before drafting Jordan Hill out of Penn State in the third round.

The result was a jump start for a pass rush that just might be the most improved in the league.

The Seahawks had 38 sacks last season, which ranked a decidedly average 18th. Seattle is currently tied for fourth in the NFL with 23. That’s more sacks through seven games than any Seahawks team since 2007, and the pass rush is only getting warmed up, according to Carroll.

“I think we’re scratching the surface of where this can go,” he said.

Seattle has one of the biggest defensive lines in the league with three different starters listed at more than 300 pounds, but it now is one of the speediest on third down. In the last game, Seattle’s third-down pass rush package featured Clemons, Irvin, Avril and Bennett.

The result is a race to the quarterback.

“There’s been numerous times where I was just a split second too late,” Avril said, “and somebody was hitting the quarterback or got the sack.”

Bennett leads the Seahawks with 4.5 sacks while Clemons has 3.5 despite missing the first two games as he recovered from knee surgery. Avril has three.

“It’s competition,” Avril said. “Everybody wants to get theirs. Who can get there the fastest?”

Count Irvin among those who knows he must hurry up. There’s no time to waste. Not after he missed the first four games serving a league suspension for a banned substance, and certainly not with the competition he has to get to the quarterback.

“It’s just getting started,” Irvin said. “This is my third game back. Once we all start working with each other more and getting a feel for each other, it’s going to get even more scary.”

Irvin had a sack in his first game back, and he can’t wait to add to that total. Not amid this pass rush that is getting to the opposing quarterback faster and more frequently than at any time since Carroll became the coach.