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Who is even on the Seahawks’ defensive line anymore?

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With so much circulation going on amongst the front four, taking stock of who’s coming and going and still on the team

Seattle Seahawks v New Orleans Saints Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Lost in the discussion after the Seattle Seahawks said “goodnight” to Christine Michael last Tuesday was that Seattle in the same round of roster moves waived Sealver Siliga and replaced him with John Jenkins. Jenkins is a fourth-year veteran out of Georgia who started 12 games for the New Orleans Saints in 2015 and might be the biggest player in pro football: The Seahawks list Jenkins at 359 pounds, which is heavier than any other active player according to current rosters (the next closest are both offensive linemen, Trent Brown of the 49ers and Denzelle Good of the Colts, each 355 pounds, but who knows when these measurements were made or updated?).

That doesn’t mean Jenkins will be a big deal for Seattle, of course. The only player in the league heavier than Jenkins last year is already out of the NFL, and neither late addition discarded from the Saints stuck around very long. But it’s the second time the Seahawks have cut Siliga already since the end of training camp, when he was waived-injured with a calf strain, and the front office has been shuffling the defensive line depth ever since. Seattle has played 12 guys in its front four rotation this year, and five of them (plus Jenkins, who will be the 13th when he gets any action) weren’t on the team when camp broke August 16.

I feel like many of us—myself for sure—pay close attention to the roster during the offseason because that’s all there is to follow and during the final days of preseason cutdowns everything gets scrutinized down to the last roster positions, but then once the season starts there’s so much else happening it becomes hard to keep track of who’s coming and going and still on the team. It seems as if I’ve been hearing about Justin Hamilton and Quinton Jefferson since eighth-grade U.S. History class, neither of whom is on the 53-man team right now, but I barely know who Damontre Moore or Malliciah Goodman are—and couldn’t remember which one was active for the Seahawks last week.

Turns out it’s Moore. Seattle signed defensive end Goodman before the New Orleans Saints game when it became apparent Michael Bennett’s knee issues were going to cost him some time, but then released him a week later in favor of Moore. Combined, in three weeks the two have already contributed 63 snaps, which is 10 percent of the Seahawks’ defensive downs for the season.

Barring future injury (which, I know, is as dumb as saying in college football, “if all the teams win out”) Moore will likely join Goodman on the transaction pile again as soon as Bennett is ready to go—or maybe like Goodman he gets sent home anyway, his spot taken by another ghost player.

At the nose tackle and 3-technique spots, Ahtyba Rubin and Tony McDaniel have been sturdy, each playing all nine games and contributing more than half the snaps in the rotation. McDaniel, of course, counts as at once a familiar standard and also a surprise supplement, since he wasn’t in the organization’s plans until he parlayed a leisurely visit to the mountains into a leap out of retirement in August. Rookie second-rounder Jarran Reed has also made a solid influence here, with 243 total snaps and only one game lost to injury, but next to him is the source of most churning on the defensive line.

A nagging hamstring for the once-promising Jordan Hill and the first loss of Siliga were what prompted Seattle to reconnect with McDaniel. The Seahawks placed Hill on injured reserve before the September 3 deadline and also made defensive tackle Garrison Smith a last-minute addition to the roster. Smith didn’t see any game action until week 3, after fifth-round pick Jefferson started suffering knee damage that eventually landing him on IR. Smith played in three games before an injury (that still hasn’t been disclosed) ended his season, making the opening to bring Siliga back.

If Siliga’s replacement Jenkins doesn’t work out, there’s always a chance Hill could be an option to come back again: After reaching a settlement with the Seahawks, Hill got healthy enough that the Washington Redskins signed him up two weeks ago, yet Hill never played for Washington which got rid of him Saturday for a backup long snapper so Hill is now available but who can say what kind of shape he’s in? Hamilton, by the way, has been on and off the practice squad several times and his current status is ON, so it’s perhaps telling that the young tackle hasn’t been called up to the big club at any of these opportunities.

That’s a lot of names and sort of a timeline, but it doesn’t really put into perspective what the shape of this unit has been. Here’s a portrait of who has played on Seattle’s defensive line so far in 2016, and how much they have contributed in aggregate:

Player Position Snaps % (635 total) Games played (by game number)
Cliff Avril* DE 524 83 1-9
Frank Clark* DE 384 60 1-4, 6-9
Michael Bennett* DE 347 54 1-6
Ahtyba Rubin* DT 330 52 1-9
Tony McDaniel* DT 300 47 1-9
Jarran Reed* DT 243 38 1-3, 5-9
Cassius Marsh* DE 212 33 1-9
Sealver Siliga DT 93 15 6-9
Garrison Smith DT 61 10 3-5
Damontre Moore* DE 50 8 8-9
Quinton Jefferson DT 20 3 1-2, 4
Malliciah Goodman DE 13 2 7
(John Jenkins)* DT n/a

*indicates a player currently on the 53-man roster

For most of the season, the Seahawks have kept nine defensive linemen on the roster and used eight of them in each game. The exception is the game against the Atlanta Falcons, when Jefferson had been placed on IR during the bye week and then Frank Clark also was deactivated with a brief hamstring issue, so Seattle went with just seven men. That puts into greater relief the strain on this unit when Mike Bennett hyperextended his knee in the third quarter—and then Smith also got hurt in this game, limiting a typically-eight man rotation to five guys during parts of the third quarter. No wonder the Falcons scored 21 points in such a hurry; they thought they were gonna get served some hamburgers.

As a result of Bennett’s injury, Cliff Avril and Clark have played the most snaps on the Seahawks’ defensive line, but Bennett had played 347 of a possible 407 before having surgery, which led the team at 85 percent. Obviously he figures to get his starting spot back in a week or two, but it’s nice to see Clark getting such regular run after questions about his usage in 2015.

I’m surprised to see how little Cassius Marsh is used, especially since I was unable to determine how many of his snaps were while filling in for Mike Morgan and Kevin Pierre-Louis at SAM—so he’s played even less with a hand in the dirt than these numbers suggest.

Mainly though, you can notice how much movement there’s been at the depth spots behind Marsh and Reed, but it’s incredible to see how well the truly big guys at the front of the rotation have held up in the middle—especially McDaniel considering he was nearly out of football. Hopefully that health can keep up, and Jenkins can have better luck than his predecessors as a replacement.