Wyman & Bob: Why Seahawks’ pass rush can improve without major additions
After finishing 2020 seventh in the NFL in sacks thanks to a late-season surge, there were a lot of high hopes for the Seahawks’ pass rush entering 2021, especially considering they were set to return six of their top seven sack leaders.
Instead, Seattle finished a disappointing 22nd in the NFL in sacks in 2021, and the lack of pass rush played a part in the Seahawks 25th in turnovers, last in time of possession, 28th in yards allowed and 31st in passing yards allowed.
That was especially surprising as Seattle had re-signed defensive end Carlos Dunlap after he registered five sacks in eight games after a midseason trade, re-signed Benson Mayowa after he had six sacks, added Kerry Hyder Jr. after he tallied 8.5 sacks for the San Francisco 49ers, and also returned safety Jamal Adams as he was coming off an All-Pro nod and led the team with 9.5 sacks, which set an NFL record for sacks by a defensive back in a single season.
While Dunlap came alive late to finish with 8.5 sacks – eight came in the final six games of the year – Adams didn’t record a single sack in 12 games, Mayowa had just one in 15 games and Hyder had 1.5 in 15 games.
But according to Dave Wyman and Bob Stelton of 710 ESPN Seattle’s Wyman and Bob, there’s a good reason that Seattle’s low sack numbers could change in 2022, even if the team doesn’t add a big-name pass rusher.
“If they made zero personnel changes on that defensive line, assuming you bring in somebody (at defensive coordinator) who says, ‘This whole dropping (defensive tackle Poona Ford) into coverage, and especially Carlos Dunlap into coverage, I’m not with that, Pete, if I’m going to be your DC. I’m not going to do that.’ If somebody comes in maybe with that perspective, (shouldn’t we expect to) look at an improved level of production just based on that element alone?”
The Seahawks fired defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. after four seasons and are searching for his replacement. As Stelton noted, a common theme of the 2021 season was dropping defensive linemen into coverage, which neither he nor Wyman, a former NFL linebacker, were on board with.
“That was, you know, one of the most mysterious things last year,” Wyman said. “We had our five mysteries at the end of the year, and two of them were Jamal Adams and Carlos Dunlap and how those guys (were used) and why didn’t they get the same kind of production that they typically have gotten? Even for Benson Mayowa, coming into last year, his three previous years were four sacks, seven sacks and six sacks.”
Wyman made it clear that a lack of production from the Seahawks’ defensive line “wasn’t their fault” and was due to the scheme Seattle ran up front.
“So what you do is you make the most important piece that you add on your defense your defensive coordinator,” Wyman said of Seattle’s offseason priority.
Wyman doesn’t see any reason why Dunlap should be dropping into coverage when his best weapon is his power rush move, and Wyman believes he can have a big season next year at 33 years old.
“He’s lean, he’s in great shape and his best move is a power rush,” Wyman said. “So I felt like, can he get 10 sacks? … He got 8.5 last year playing like 30% of the snaps.”
Dunlap isn’t the only pass rusher Wyman expects to take a step forward in 2022 with a new defensive coordinator.
“Benson Mayowa (should get) four sacks because he’s gotten seven, six and four over the last three years,” Wyman said. “Darrell Taylor, you’re taking kind of a leap of faith here, but what we saw from him, he’s only going to get better. He finished with 6.5 sacks. Could he get 10? Can Rasheem Green get five? I mean, you start putting the numbers together – and this isn’t even talking about blitzing linebackers, or (cornerbacks) … And what about Jamal Adams and putting him in a position (to rush more)? But the point is it all adds up to around 40 sacks. Around 40 is pretty much what Pete Carroll’s defenses have averaged … These guys getting those numbers (should get them there) and (that’s) based mostly on the fact that you have a defensive coordinator that’s going to come in here and use these guys the way they should be used.”
Listen to the full discussion at this link or in the player below.