JOHN CLAYTON

Clayton: Numbers show Seahawks’ pass rush should be in for a big year

Aug 5, 2021, 1:18 PM
Seahawks Carlos Dunlap...
The arrival of DE Carlos Dunlap in 2020 coincided with an improved Seahawks pass rush. (Getty)
(Getty)

If you remember two years ago, the Seahawks’ defense was destined to have a bad season for sacks.

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They didn’t have enough pass rushers with numbers. Sure, they brought in Jadeveon Clowney and Ziggy Ansah for the 2019 season. The two had combined for 77 career sacks before joining the Seahawks, but that didn’t show up on the stat sheet.

Ansah was hurt and not a factor. Clowney was great at creating pressure but kept missing the quarterback before he got rid of the ball. Clowney had only three sacks all year while Ansah had 2.5.

Three other key defensive linemen for that team – Quinton Jefferson, Rasheem Green and Brandon Jackson – had combined for just 7.5 career sacks before 2019, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the 2019 Seahawks only had 28 sacks, one of the worst totals in the league.

Last year, though, the Seahawks made a trade for Carlos Dunlap that ignited the pass rush. The number jumped to 46 sacks after an incredible second half of the season in regards to putting pressure on the quarterback.

Few around the league are giving the Seahawks much of a chance to rush the quarterback in 2021 because they still have the first half of last year and the 2019 season in the back of their mind. Well, if you look at the numbers, there should be great hope for the pass rush.

Totalling up their top seven pass rushers – and that doesn’t include Darrell Taylor, who didn’t play last season – the Seahawks have 198.5 career sacks entering the season. If Aldon Smith makes it on the field and is not suspended for his assault charge, the defensive end position is better than anyone could have expected. Dunlap has 87.5 career sacks, Smith 52.5, Benson Mayowa 26, Kerry Hyder 18.5, Rasheem Green seven, Alton Robinson four and L.J. Collier three.

The big challenge for the coaching staff is figuring out the rotation to get the most out of the pass rush. Defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. may find that a big challenge, but he has more options than he’s had since coming back to Pete Carroll’s coaching staff in 2018. He shouldn’t have to blitz as much as last year, though clearly he still needs to use the strength of strong safety Jamal Adams, who set the NFL record for most sacks by a defensive back in a season with 9.5 last year.

Some around the league think Robinson could be the sleeper of the group, and watching the DEs in practice has been pretty impressive. They are in great shape and showing plenty of speed.

Having close to 200 career sacks as a team is pretty amazing.

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