This isn’t a newsflash: the Seattle Seahawks’ pass rush is a big issue.
After Dion Jordan reportedly suffered a similar injury to that of Kevin White, he may now miss the entire season. That leaves Frank Clark and Branden Jackson as Seattle’s first-string edge rushers. It’s a dire situation at the second-most important position in football.
The Indianapolis Colts pre-season game offered hope though, mainly coming from two of the Seahawks’ 2018 draft picks. Third-round pick Rasheem Green and sixth-round selection Jacob Martin were all over the field last Thursday, flashing performances that hinted at regular season contributions.
Of course, there is a danger of putting too much emphasis on this showing. They were indeed playing against second and third stringers for most of their snaps. They were matched against a strong contender for the worst offensive line in the NFL. BUT, they were still in their first NFL game.
Contextual disclaimers addressed, the first preseason game of the year still provided some much-needed optimism over a much-needed area. Moreover, what the duo showed directly translates to regular season football. Let’s break their tape down:
Green’s hand usage on this sack from the 5-tech position is brilliant and persistent. He clubs the arms away with his right arm, then rips his left arm through to get the arms fully off him, condense his pad surface and turn Joe Haeg—listed as a center on Indianapolis’ depth chart. Showing excellent bend at the same time, Green’s club-rip move beats Haeg to the corner.
Green’s aiming point means that he can finish the play. He attacks the back hip of Andrew Luck and brings him down with a nice wide hug. This increases the chances of a strip sack and stops Luck from shrugging off the contact.
Green is an inside-out player who will move anywhere from a wide 9 to even 1 tech in certain pass rushing packages; he spent time in the game at end, LEO and inside. A player in the Michael Bennett-mold.
Now lined up inside at 3-tech, Green gets through to the quarterback with a similar swat move. His hand speed is far too quick for the right guard (Haeg again), and he pulls his hips through well. The only thing he can improve is his finish. However, he is disadvantaged by the uncalled holding and block in the back that the beaten Haeg desperately resorts to.
Martin had active hand usage during the game, but his unrefined pass rush plan, which was fairly one-move in this game, saw him get stoned. As a result, he failed to take advantage of various openings. Third-stringer and former Seahawks starter J’Marcus Webb deals with him in the cut-up below.
Athleticism and Pass-Rush Repertoire
Martin has a lot of speed, but his lack of first-step quickness is something that limited him. It is a combination of slow reactions to the snap but also a lack of twitch. His 4.59 forty-yard dash showed up, but so did that 1.68 10-yard split.
Notice in the following video how much slower Martin reacts off the ball compared to the rest of the defensive line. He would also benefit from aligning closer to the line of scrimmage.
In this clip his speed and flexibility are clear to see. Though playing with those important traits, Webb has the situation under control given the quarterback’s short drop. Still, Martin’s velocity puts Webb in recovery mode. To become more slippery and bendy, Martin could dip his play-side shoulder more.
Martin rushing against a deeper drop—five steps from the shotgun—flashes how his skillset can combine to great effect. His speed is too fast for first-string right tackle Austin Howard to kick-slide into position. He utilizes his hands well to keep himself clean, then rips through quickly with his nearside arm to knock the tackles arms away.
He then shows the hip flexibility to twist around the corner and meet the quarterback. You’d just like to see him get a better hit, given that Barkevious Mingo is holding the passer up for the killshot.
Green is a crazy athlete who truly makes you exclaim “wow” with his athleticism. He displayed that all game. Here his physical traits throughout the rush are way too much for Webb, now lined up at left tackle. There is quickness, speed and power exhibited.
His efficient conversion of speed to power is what makes him so fearsome for offensive lines, because he can consistently bullrush them into the backfield with no mercy. He is playing with his shoulders over his toes which maximizes his power. Combined with his violent, rapid hands Howard is pushed back into the pocket which hastens Jacoby Brissett’s throw.
Martin’s biggest strength is his relentless motor. It was fitting that was the standout trait when he faced the Colts. He never gave up on plays, frenetically buzzing after the football. The second effort rewarded him with two quarterback hits.
The second-effort spin on this play is intelligent as it aims at the only place the quarterback can escape to. It sees Martin disengage from Howard and finish off Green’s work.
His conscientious attacking of the quarterback brought a tangible dynamism. Taking on a double team, Martin sees Phillip Walker step up to scramble up the middle and then tirelessly brings him down at the line of scrimmage to get off the field.
Green has energy and hustle too. It transformed this play from Indianapolis landing on Double Agent Mark Glowinski’s bad snap, to Seattle picking up the touchdown. He is the first non-quarterback into the backfield, knocks the passer from the football and then hits Brad Kaaya away again. The assist is fantastic work from Green late in the fourth quarter.
Against the run
Coming on the field as pass rushers is an important contribution for the pair, yet for them to maximize their playing time they must be able to defend the run. In the game against the Colts, outside contain was a persistent issue. As a result, east-west and off-tackle rushes proved problematic for the Seahawks.
On base downs, Martin will be a SAM linebacker given his 242lb size. Watch him execute a key part of that role, performing his force player assignment exquisitely.
He keys the run play quickly, keeping his outside shoulder free and his head outside of the block from tight end Jack Doyle. Looking in on the play from this position, he uses stout hands to control the block and push himself more outside. This turns Robert Turbin inside, as the running back can clearly see Martin on the edge.
Green will see action on early downs as a defensive end, mainly at 5-tech. To get on the field in such scenarios, his run defense is massively important. Green would receive more snaps over a weaker pass-rushing end getting playing time for their run defense.
This right here is textbook Seattle defensive end play. Green swiftly keys the downblock from right tackle, diagnosing the run concept and direction correctly. This sees him angle in.
Physically dominating the tight end’s drive block with a firm punch, Green drives tight end Erik Swoope into the backfield. When running backs see carnage like this, they tend to dance and be less decisive. Christine Michael confirms this tendency.
Green plays with superb patience and pad level, totally controlling the block and looking in on the play. He is two-gapping from his 5-tech alignment, meaning he is looking to manage both the C and B gaps.
He doesn’t just manage the gaps; he destroys them. After waiting with great gap discipline for Michael to make a decisive cut while squeezing Swoope’s block, Green disengages and makes the tackle in the A-gap.
Naturally, the pair showed that they are still unrefined rookies. The respective rawness of their skillsets is something they can polish as they continue to get snaps against NFL talent in the preseason. The very concept of development in the NFL.
Martin’s pass rush plan is largely dependent on one-move: a speed rush. Though he flashed hand utilization, he struggled to convert speed to power and showed limited pass-rush moves: including a ragged spin move. (It worked earlier largely because of how long he had to execute it)
His spin move is hurried. To set the move up, Martin needs to rush the tackle deeper and straighter. He must sell the speed rush. The tackle must genuinely ‘believe’ for the move to succeed. The spin is also a long movement which he can be sharpened up to reduce the time it takes for him to launch into it. What would help Martin would be him planting his outside foot in a more pronounced fashion. Additionally, it needs to be set up by previous rushes in the game.
In the first example he tries an ‘ice pick’ move to finish, but it’s ineffective because Webb has the perfect position to stop the inside move. The second attempt reeks of desperation against Howard.
Right now, Martin’s spin comes across as a part ‘out of ideas’ move and a part eagerness to try stuff. It requires a lot of practice.
Green’s lack of experience and savvy showed up on a screen pass. He rushes with a powerful bullrush, surging his opponent into the backfield with an excellent conversion of speed to power.
Yet, with greater patience and awareness, he could have identified the passing concept and settled down to jump the screen into the flat. You may ask how? By reading the Webb’s style of deep drop and the Luck’s three-step drop, Green could have nestled and played the ball.
This will come with more reps in the NFL, keep in mind this was his first rush of the game, along with the far more extensive opposition scouting the regular season allows for.
A new hope?
Green’s promising debut becomes all the more exciting when you factor in the 21-year-old’s ability to develop. His college tape had various issues, which Ollie Connolly wrote about in this piece. Yet his pass-rushing arsenal appears to already be growing and his technique issues are being corrected.
Pete Carroll confirmed the good things he showed:
By the end of the year, he could be playing all along the line for Seattle. If that is the case, the Seahawks’ chances this season become far more intriguing.
The path to starting for Martin has a big obstruction in Mingo, who also impressed last Thursday. But Martin showed that he can provide an energy and speed on Sundays that is invaluable in pass-rushing sub-packages.
As Carroll put it, “Jacob Martin rushed the passer really well.”
Seattle is desperate for pass-rush and there are plenty of opportunities. In addition to the potential Green and Martin showcased, Mingo flashed speed to the corner together with Quinton Jefferson looking more like his excellent rookie-pre-season-self.
Right now, the Seahawks will take what they can get.