Why you can be encouraged by Carlos Dunlap’s Seahawks debut

Nov 9, 2020, 12:42 PM

Seahawks Carlos Dunlap...

The Seahawks had a season-high seven sacks in Carlos Dunlap's team debut. (Getty)


Hidden somewhere in the Seahawks’ messy defensive performance in Sunday’s 44-34 loss to the Buffalo Bills was a promising Seattle debut by defensive end Carlos Dunlap.

Carroll Show: Loss was poor but Hawks have ‘big upside’ going forward

After clearing COVID-19 intake testing and getting a week of practice with the Seahawks under his belt, the trade acquisition from the Bengals registered a sack, three QB hits, three tackles for loss and five combined tackles, and Seattle set a season-high with seven sacks as a team.

“He played good, solid football,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Monday morning on 710 ESPN Seattle’s Pete Carroll Show. “He had a good power move on a sack that was just what you’d hope he would do. … It was a nice outing for him in his first game.”

Unfortunately for Dunlap and the Seahawks, his debut was marred by the fact that the Bills scored the most points by a Seattle opponent since Carroll started his coaching tenure in 2010. That shouldn’t stop you from feeling like Dunlap puts the pass rush in a better spot than before his arrival, though.

“I do find myself happy with what we saw out of Carlos Dunlap,” Paul Gallant, co-host of Danny and Gallant, said on Monday. “It’s why I don’t find myself entirely revolted – I am mostly revolted but not entirely. There’s something to build off here.”

And it wasn’t just extra pressure on the quarterback that Dunlap provided, either.

“I thought he was great – not just on the pass rush he won (against Buffalo’s) left tackle, but he made good plays in the run game,” responded Danny O’Neil. “It looks like someone who is going to fit and be effective (in Seattle’s defense), and the defensive line I think benefited.”

That may end up being what’s most important about Dunlap joining the Seahawks – what it will mean for the other players in Seattle’s defense. The two-time Pro Bowler is a new weapon that opponents have to consider when they play Seattle, freeing up his teammates to be more effective. It already happened against the Bills, with defensive tackle Jarran Reed registering 2 1/2 sacks in a game where Seattle entered with no players over more than two sacks for the season.

“You saw guys win one-on-one matchups. That part’s really encouraging,” O’Neil said.

“We’ve been waiting for someone to unlock Jarran Reed,” added Gallant, “and we didn’t see it last year. That’s my hope going forward, that Dunlap can be that guy. Dunlap was there all game long, and Reed was also there all game long. That’s the one thing I take out of this.”

The big question, though, is even with Dunlap’s impact on the defensive line, will the Seahawks be able to figure out their problems in the secondary? They gave up over 415 passing yards to Bills quarterback Josh Allen, including nearly 300 in the first half alone. Seattle is also allowing a league-worst 362.1 passing yards and 455.8 total yards of offense per game, numbers that are bad in a historical way.

“How do you reconcile that they had seven sacks – and could have had a couple more – with just how easy Josh Allen threw the ball downfield?” asked O’Neil. “… Allen did most of his damage in the first half, but I don’t want to make it seem like Seattle was suddenly much more effective on defense in the second half, because the Bills just had to not turn the ball over. That was the most important thing that they did in the second half.”

You can hear the full conversation in the final segment of the podcast at this link or in the player below from Monday’s edition of Danny and Gallant.

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Why you can be encouraged by Carlos Dunlap’s Seahawks debut