Where Will the Seahawks' Churn Hit? Defensive Line Edition


"Are you not entertained?"

This is the third in a series of posts designed to build on Davis' theory of the Green Bay Roster Model and its concepts therein. In his theory, there will be a roster churn every year, averaging about 13 players a year. This series expands on those hypothetical concepts and asks, where will the churn hit?

In my first two installments one and two I talked about the wide receivers and the offensive line. We will flip the page now and talk about the defense, focusing on "The Line." The traditional 4-3 set has two big husky guys in the middle to run stop, and two faster guys on the outsides to pressure the QB but that are big and strong enough to also "set an edge" or funnel a play back inside to the linebackers.

We are not a traditional 4-3. This hybrid called the 4-3 over shifts the linebackers to the strong side, because of the shift it calls for different types of linemen than a traditional 4-3. Personnel wise it appears closer to a 3-4 with three husky guys and four linebackers. For us we play with that type of personnel, only one of our linebackers is effectively a down lineman who is a dedicated rusher. That rusher, as most know, is the Leo.

Beyond that, Pete Carroll loves to use substitution packages to "cover" any weaknesses left by base packages and special teams. This can sometimes make for extraordinary play, but often times results in the churn. Also because of the blending that occurs on the line I will only separate Leos from other linemen. A typical 3-4 team may only keep 6 or 7 linemen, sometimes as few as 5, but the typical 4-3 carries anywhere form 8 to 10 linemen. You can add into that number that generally one or two will find a spot on the practice squad and you can have up to 12 defensive linemen on a team at any given time. Generally speaking though, the average is 8 and 2, for a total of 10 linemen.

Defensive line is also one of those places that has been severely churned over the last few years, this does not in any way eliminate the need to acquire new talent, in fact it may be one of the spots Seattle needs to focus on most.

In 2011, the Seahawks were, depending your point of view, either the top of the worst, or the bottom of the middle in both sacks and pressures. Most of that is because the scheme calls for a penetrating 3 tech, and on passing downs having two effective ends who can get to the QB. We had one DE who performed and none of the other components.

Lets start with the Leo position, since it is extremely critical in generating pressure.

Chris Clemons- Chris Clemons is a shot from a sniper rifle. Quick, penetrating, and destructive, these are the words that best describe how Clemons plays, he has an exceptional motor, and drive to get to the QB, he has great penetration off the snap and is fast around the corner, traits you expect to find from a 240 pound DE.

Clemons is not one dimensional though, he sets a hard corner and is surprisingly strong with good leverage against guys that are on average at least 60 pounds heavier. Back to back seasons with 11 sacks each and several of them being strip sacks makes him a lock to come back. The fact that we get premier pass rush for only $3 million a year is even more reason to celebrate, Clemons is now 30 and having the best years of his career, but because of age concerns, the Seahawks may be reticent to sign him to a long term deal.

Raheem Brock- Raheem Brock is 33 and will be 34 before the next season starts so age is a big reason Brock might be churned. Another reason Brock could be churned is that he is looking at facing a suspension for "player misconduct" concerning an unpaid restaurant bill. In 2010 Brock had a career year getting 9 sacks, but even then the Seahawks were slow and reluctant in getting him resigned, this year he had 3 sacks and generally disappeared in most games, All the stars are lining up to Mr Brock walking away, only to be replaced by a younger, more dependable DE.

Dexter Davis- is a 25 year old, 7th round draft pick defensive end and is in his 3rd year In his rookie year, he had 13 tackles and a sack, this was mostly in limited situational pass rushing or garbage time. He was injured very early in the season and hit the injured reserve this season.

Dexter started a school record 50 games in college, so injuries are not a general concern, though the chronic hip injury that sidelined him is. Davis is 6'1 and 244, he fits very closely to the PC ideal Leo size but has yet to prove he can be a force in the NFL. It should also be stated that he was one of the players that Pete Carroll said he was excited to have back. Dexter will have every chance to hang onto at least a back up, special teams spot and he has two more years on a rookie contract. Expect him to remain.


Anthony Hargrove is more of a proto-typical DE, at 6'3 275 he is a tad bit light for the position as the actual proto-typical DE is 280-285. Hargrove is a veteran, and heading into his 8th season, in those first 7 season Hargrove has never been particularly good at the pass rush, his best years were 6.5 and 5 sacks and were far between. He did how ever get some pass rush this year with 3 sacks and a beautiful safety. Even with his experience, Hargrove is only 28, and still young enough for the Seahawks to bring back, but being a free agent could make him part of the churn. Considering our lack of penetration, Hargrove could comeback and play as a passing-situational-3-tech.

Red Bryant- If Chris Clemons is a shot from a sniper rifle, then Red Bryant is and RPG fired from the barrel of a bazooka. At 334 pounds, and I think that might be a few pounds lighter than he really is, and 6'4 Bryant used his massive strength to rag doll tight ends and tackles alike. In 2010, the Seahawks were second in run defense, then Red went down, and so did the whole defense.

Red has proven to be a valuable, if not unique, run stopper. Several 3-4 teams might look at Red this off season, and how the hawks handle this signing will determine the defense going forward. At 27, Red still hypothetically has several years of football ahead of him. One point is to say that Clemons has proven he isn't a huge liability in the run, so a proto-typical DE like Mario Williams, could be a better fit.

Brandon Mebane- Mebane is a trench warrior. He is low and powerful, and he is locked up for the next 4 years. While Red and Clemons get a lot of recognition, Mebane is the heart and soul of the D line. He is only 27, and Mebane is considered to be a very good player in almost every category, though the experiment at the three tech shows that he has a lack of penetration moves (though, the defensive strategy dictates a more 'wait-and-see' approach). That being said he is one of two rocks that don't get pushed around. He is a lock to stay.

Alan Branch- Branch is the other Rock in the line, and is as stalwart against the run as Mebane and comes with the added ability to bring pressure. Branch is not the ideal 3 tech, but 3 sacks shows he has ability, even in a run first defense that has him waiting and reacting rather than penetrating. He is signed through this season, after that he might be churned, but he should not only make the team but also start again next year.

Jimmy Wilkerson- Wilkerson was brought in to add depth and at 31 he probably wasn't going to be in the league for a whole lot longer, but a major knee injury could send him into retirement. He is a free agent, and with doubts about his knee I would be surprised if he was even asked to training camp. Almost a lock to be churned.

Clinton McDonald- at 25 Clinton was last in a long line of talented defensive tackles in Cincinnati, so the Seahawks shipped Jennings for McDonald and laughed all the way to the bank, some media outlets said that the Bengals go the better end of the deal. Well, Clinton not only made the team, but contributed major playing time, racking up 35 tackles and a recovered fumble and several QB pressures. He has some serious pop, and gets off the line with incredible violence, he needs to show he can get to the QB better. He is an exclusive rights free agent, and expect the Seahawks to make the minimum qualifying offer. We should resign him to a multi-year cheap deal.

Pep Levingston- being a rookie might by him some time, but pep was already cut once, and only grabbed one tackle for the season. Pep is a smaller version of Red Bryant as a DE, or a slightly small 3 tech. PCJS expect rookies to be competing for playing time and grow quickly. though his playing time was limited, he really needs to show something in training camp. Being a 7th round pick, the Seahawks have not committed a lot of draft capital nor have they committed a lot of cap space, and Pep is a strong candidate for grow or go roster churning.

Pierre Allen was a training camp body and even played in a preseason game, recording a tackle and a sack. He was injury waived and then brought back in November to the practice squad. Allen is a Hargrove type, slightly undersized at 272 and 6-4. He was an all-big 12 player, little is know about his performance in the pros, he could fight for a roster spot next year or drift away into obscurity.

John Graves has proto-typical size at 6-3, 286. that is where it ends, Graves had 2.5 sacks in his collegiate career. Those are not promising numbers, and could be a sign of how dry the DE scene is in the NFL. Even with his futures contract, I don't expect him to last past the draft, where he could easily be cut for several rookie linemen.

A quick re-cap, the keepers, for me, are Clemons, Davis, Mebane, Branch, McDonald, Levingston.

The Bubble players due to free agency: Hargrove, Bryant

Developmental talent: Pierre Allen.

Likely Going: Brock, Wilkerson, Graves

With a turn over ratio of 1 person every 4 players, and since we had 12 linemen we could see 3 players go, though, because we were completely swollen with linemen we may not replace any of the churn, instead filling in on other positions.

With some very big name free agents set to hit the free agent market still, we could make a splash in free agency and turn around and make another in the draft. Though Clemons is very good, his replacement also needs to be groomed, be that Dexter Davis, a free agent, or a rookie. A 3 tech has been in the cards for a few years now and looks like churning hasn't been able to fill the void.

What do you think? Who are your winners and losers?

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