Pete Carroll praises Seahawks pass rush that leads NFC in sacks

Dec 26, 2023, 3:47 PM

Seattle Seahawks Bobby Wagner...

Seattle Seahawks LB Bobby Wagner sacks Titans QB Ryan Tannehill on Dec. 24, 2023. (Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

(Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

With two games remaining in the regular season, the Seattle Seahawks’ defense ranks in the middle or toward the bottom of the league in most statistical categories. Seattle is 26th in total yards allowed (358.6 per game), 23rd in points allowed (23.5 per game), 19th in pass defense (229 yards per game) and 27th in rushing defense (129.6 yards per game).

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Not exactly numbers that evoke memories of the Legion of Boom.

But the pass rush? Well, that’s been downright dominant at times. On the weekly Pete Carroll Show on Seattle Sports, the Seahawks’ head coach was quick to praise a unit that is tied with the San Francisco 49ers for first in the NFC with 45 sacks. That mark is also tied for sixth best in the NFL.

“First in the NFC is what I like,” Carroll said Tuesday morning. “That’s a cool number, man. These guys work really hard for that. This last game was a game we really thought that we had pass rush opportunities. And we really made a big deal about it during the week and we emphasize the heck out of not jumping offsides and screwing up our chances to rush the passer.”

Carroll’s defensive philosophy has never relied heavily on blitzing, and that hasn’t changed this season. But the Seahawks have managed to get more pressure on opposing quarterbacks than any year in recent memory. They tied a franchise single-game record earlier this season with 11 sacks in a blowout win over the New York Giants.

In Sunday’s 20-17 win over the Titans, the Seahawks recorded six sacks, including two on the final drive to seal the victory. Boye Mafe led the way with two sacks against Tennessee’s porous offensive line, pushing his team-leading season total to nine.

Carroll also said using defensive lineman Dre’Mont Jones on the interior and edge after acquiring Leonard Williams in a midseason trade to play inside has helped Jones improve his production. Jones had a sack and tackle for loss against Tennessee.

“We brought him in and figured that we’re gonna have to use him inside because we just had space available there as a pass rusher, and he started there,” Carroll said. “But when (Williams) came around, it changed the opportunity.”

“We were able to move (Jones) outside, which he’s done some throughout his career,” he added. “I think he’s really come to life mixing in and out as opposed to just being strictly an inside guy. He’s played really hard. He’s given really consistent effort. He’s been available for making some big sacks… He’s been a very consistent player here for the last six, eight weeks.”

Carroll said Jones reminds him of former Seahawks star Michael Bennett, a versatile defensive lineman that could play inside or outside and routinely harassed opposing offenses.

“They’re both really good natural athletes and the flexibility is good in the hips and the feet… They can slip and slide and duck and dodge underneath guys and things like that,” he said. “There’s a real similarity in that regard.”

Carroll quotes Wooden on benching as a benefit

Carroll spent nine seasons at USC before joining the Seahawks after the 2009 season, but he surprisingly evoked a quote from legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden when asked about in-season competition for starting spots.

Carroll benched cornerback Riq Woolen for the start of the Eagles game on Dec. 18 after Woolen struggled in a loss to San Francisco. Woolen bounced back on Sunday against Tennessee, making the game-clinching tackle along the sidelines against wide receiver Colton Dowell (watch here). The big hit prevented Dowell from getting out of bounds and stopping the clock, sealing the win for Seattle.

“Coach Wooden used to say that the bench is a coach’s best friend, and there’s that competitive part of it,” he said. “Sometimes when you can have the availability of it, ain’t nothing like it, you know? Guys want to play. And when you have really good guys fighting for spots, they just get better, and they play better. Coach Wooden knew what he was talking about.”

The Pete Carroll Show airs live at 9:30 a.m. during Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk on the first non-holiday weekday after each Seahawks game. Listen to this week’s full edition at this link or in either the video or audio player near the top of this post.

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