Seahawks snap counts: As planned, Frank Clark playing more
A few things that stood out during a bye-week review of the Seahawks’ snap counts over the first four games:
• Defensive end Frank Clark has had a significantly bigger role, as expected. Clark has been on the field for 142 of Seattle’s 245 defensive snaps (58 percent). That ranks third among Seattle’s defensive linemen, behind Michael Bennett (90.6 percent) and Cliff Avril (81.2 percent) and ahead of Ahtyba Rubin (43.7 percent), a starter. That Clark has played more than Rubin is partly a product of how often the Seahawks’ defense has been in nickel based on matchups over the first four games, but it was Seattle’s plan all along for the 2015 second-round pick to have a larger role in his second season. Coach Pete Carroll said multiple times that he wished he had found a way for Clark to play more as a rookie last year, when he was on the field for about 35 percent of Seattle’s defensive snaps over the 15 games he played (so, excluding the one he missed due to injury). Bruce Irvin’s departure in free agency opened up some pass-rushing opportunities for Clark off the edge. He’s also rushed from the inside in nickel situations, something he did as a rookie and perhaps has more of an opportunity to do now with Jordan Hill no longer in the mix. Before the season, Bennett predicted eight sacks for Clark, which seemed like an ambitious number for a player who doesn’t start. But now that Clark already has three (tied with Bennett for the team lead) and is playing more than half of Seattle’s defensive snaps, it seems much more attainable.
• The disparity in playing time between nickelback Jeremy Lane and strong-side linebacker Mike Morgan shows how frequently the Seahawks have been in nickel this season. Before he was injured, Morgan was a starter in Seattle’s base defense but would come off the field in nickel in favor of Lane. Morgan played only 26.3 percent of Seattle’s defensive snaps over the first four games compared to 73.7 for Lane, meaning Seattle has been in nickel almost three times as often as base. Matchups largely dictate that, so it’s possible that the Seahawks won’t remain as nickel-heavy as they face teams that less frequently employ more than two receivers at once. But the disparity nonetheless provides some perspective on how Morgan going on Injured Reserve will impact Seattle’s defense. The Seahawks would prefer to have him at strong-side linebacker over Cassius Marsh or Kevin Pierre-Louis, but some of the dropoff is mitigated by how infrequently they figure to be on the field.
• Luke Willson (60.2 percent) has a slight edge over starter Jimmy Graham (57 percent) in playing time among tight ends. One reason is that Graham only played 17 snaps in Week 1 as the Seahawks wanted to ease him back in from his serious knee injury. Another reason is that Willson has been doubled as a fullback the last two games. The Seahawks haven’t had a traditional fullback on their roster since releasing Will Tukuafu after the second game, so Willson has taken some of those snaps. Brandon Williams (14.3 percent) is a distant third among Seattle’s tight ends while rookie Nick Vannett has yet to play due to a high-ankle sprain.
• Marsh and linebacker Brock Coyle (81.3 percent each) lead the way on special teams followed by Pierre-Louis (72.9 percent) and safety Kelcie McCray (67.3 percent). Cornerback Neiko Thorpe has been one of Seattle’s leading special-teams players since he was signed after Week 1 (he’s sixth at 50.5 percent but has played in only three games). Morgan is eighth at just over 42 percent and has been one of Seattle’s special-teams mainstays for several years, so his absence could be felt there as much as it is on defense.
• Five Seahawks have played every defensive snap: defensive backs Richard Sherman, DeShawn Shead, Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas and linebacker Bobby Wagner. Offensive linemen Mark Glowinski, Justin Britt and Garry Gilliam are the three players who have not missed an offensive snap.