Heaps: Seahawks’ use of Carlos Dunlap ‘is like Jamal Adams’
For the third season in a row, the Seahawks have had major issues when it comes to rushing the passer.
Seattle was 31st out of 32 NFL teams in sacks in 2019, and ahead of Week 17’s clash with the Detroit Lions, the Seahawks are tied for 25th in 2021.
The Seahawks finished seventh in sacks in 2020, however, thanks to a late-season surge after the team really struggled to rush the passer to start the year. A big reason for that turnaround? A trade for veteran defensive end Carlos Dunlap, who had five sacks in eight games for Seattle a year ago.
Dunlap has 6.5 sacks this season, which is tied for the team lead, but five have come in the Seahawks’ last two games and six have come in Seattle’s last four games. Notably, the 32-year-old Dunlap has only played 38% of the Seahawks’ defensive snaps.
— NFL (@NFL) December 22, 2021
“Well, to be fair to the Seattle Seahawks, Carlos Dunlap did not start out that way. He did not start strong for this season,” Heaps said. “And you look at the way that they tried to build this roster, they tried to build that defensive line. And ultimately, it is something that did not work out well for them.”
The Seahawks brought back Dunlap and Benson Mayowa in the offseason to help anchor the pass rush, and they also signed Kerry Hyder Jr. But Dunlap is the only one of those three to produce this season in terms of registering sacks.
With Dunlap’s slow start, the Seahawks utilized him less and less as the season wore on, including a stretch where he played just 28 total snaps from Week 11 to Week 13.
Heaps called the Seahawks’ decision to use Dunlap less a “rash conclusion.”
“You limited (Dunlap) to only third-down rush situations and you missed out on the opportunity for Carlos Dunlap to be the type of player that he is capable of being,” Heaps said.
Heaps did note that Dunlap’s five sacks over the last two weeks have come against a backup Los Angeles Rams right tackle and the Bears’ Germain Ifedi, a former Seahawks lineman, and that Dunlap should have had good production against those two.
“But Carlos Dunlap is one of your most impactful players and you have limited his role,” Heaps said. “And instead of getting the most out of them, you have shrunk his role, shrunk his opportunities to have an impact on the game.”
The Seahawks’ utilization of Dunlap reminds Heaps of how Seattle has used another star on defense.
“Carlos Dunlap is like Jamal Adams to me,” Heaps said. “I have no idea and can’t fathom the utilization that they’ve had for Carlos Dunlap and Jamal Adams this season.”
Adams, who is done for the season due to shoulder surgery in early December, set an NFL record with 9.5 sacks from the safety position in just 12 games in 2020. The Seahawks limited Adams’ snaps around the line of scrimmage in 2021, though, and he played deep in coverage far more and had no sacks this season.
With Dunlap, the Seahawks have limited his snaps but have also dropped him back into coverage as well. Heaps thinks the team is finally putting him in the right position to make an impact.
“When you finally put Carlos Dunlap in a position to do what he does best, which is rush the passer and do it on a consistent basis and have more opportunities, you’ve seen impact from him,” Heaps said. “And that to me has driven me insane all season long. I love seeing that they’re finally using him in the right way. Still not using him in the high percentage that I would like to see snap count-wise, but this is what Carlos Dunlap has been capable of doing. I think they’ve really missed out on not playing him more throughout the season.”
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