Clayton: Why Seahawks may be better off they didn’t make big offseason moves at pass rush
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson finally gets his first chance Sunday to play in Buffalo, the only city on the road he has never visited.
This comes at an interesting time. The Buffalo game is expected to be the toughest non-division game the Seahawks have to play.
As it turned out, the New England Patriots, who Seattle beat in Week 2, are in rebuilding mode because of the salary cap and the departure of Tom Brady. The Dallas Cowboys, who the Seahawks defeated in Week 3, entered the season as a Super Bowl contender but whether because of coaching or bad play, they have been one of the worst teams in the league.
A victory over the 6-2 Bills could give the Seahawks the chance to go 9-1 or 10-0 in non-division games, which could set up for a 12- or 13-win season. This is the middle of the tough schedule of five games that includes the trip to Buffalo and four NFC West games. Wilson has been the MVP of the league in the first half of the season, but Pete Carroll and everyone else knows the Seahawks have to straighten out their defense or they might fall short of going to the Super Bowl.
The defense made progress last Sunday when it held the San Francisco 49ers to 125 yards of total offense before quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo had the high-ankle sprain knocked him out of the game. Carroll needs to get that good start going so he can then work on getting the Seahawks to do better in the fourth quarter. Overall, the Seahawks are giving up 472.2 yards a game and 6.26 yards per play. Their pass defense is giving up 368.7 yards per game, on pace for the most in NFL history.
Carroll continues to talk about the need to get better on third downs on defense. Believe it or not, the Seahawks aren’t the NFL’s worst defense on third downs. Their 48.4% conversion rate is actually the 10th worst, allowing opponents to convert 45 of 93 third downs. Want to know the worst? It’s the Tennessee Titans, who are giving up an incredible 61.9% of conversions on third down.
That brings up an interest point. Many Seahawks followers thought the offseason was Jadeveon Clowney or bust. The thought was if the Seahawks didn’t re-sign Clowney, it was going to a be a bust for the defense. Well, Clowney went to the Titans, and neither he nor fellow free-agent signing Vic Beasley haven’t had a single sack this season. The Titans have just a total of seven sacks in seven games, while the Seahawks have 12 in seven games. The pass rush is so bad in Tennessee, Beasley ended up getting cut this week.
As it turned out, this wasn’t the offseason to acquire edge rushers to make sacks. Only three edge rushers who joined new teams in the offseason have ended up getting more than five sacks in the first half of the season. The best, believe it or not, is Emmanuel Ogbah of the Miami Dolphins with six. Aldon Smith of the Dallas Cowboys has five making his return after missing four seasons by suspension. Yannick Ngakoue had five for Minnesota before his trade to Baltimore.
After that, Kerry Hyder of the 49ers has 4 1/2, Dante Fowler has two after signing for $15 million a year with the Atlanta Falcons, and Robert Quinn has one sack after getting $14 million a year to go to the Chicago Bears. Meanwhile for Seattle, Alton Robinson, Bobby Wagner, Benson Mayowa (who has been ruled out for Sunday) and Jamal Adams are all tied for the Seahawks’ lead in two sacks each.
Overall, there have only been 532 sacks this season in the NFL. That’s down 12.5% from last year. The lack of holding penalties and prevalence of mobile quarterbacks are a few of the reasons.
The Bills will be a good test for the Seahawks’ pass rush, which will see the debut of defensive end Carlos Dunlap after his trade from Cincinnati last week. Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen was playing at an MVP level in September but wasn’t as good in October because the Bills had a tougher schedule, losing to Kansas City and the Titans. Should be interesting.
More from John: Seahawks have officially leapfrogged the battered 49ers
- Tune in to 710 ESPN Seattle weekdays at 10am for John Clayton's show.
The Professor’s Notes
John Clayton hosts a daily video breaking down the latest NFL news.