In our handy dandy photo tool, you won’t find a ton of pictures of Quinton Jefferson, which is a bit unusual for a starting NFL defensive end. But not so unusual for a defensive end who has just six tackles and no sacks through three games. However, Jefferson gets a lot more done “behind the scenes” than he’s given credit for on a normal box score.
According to FootballOutsiders premium charting stats, Jefferson leads the Seattle Seahawks with five pressures this season, 1.5 more than Frank Clark, even though Clark does have three sacks. Jefferson usually doesn’t play as many snaps as Clark does (though in Week 1, he led the defensive end group with 48 snaps to Clark’s 43), but he’s a very regular member of the defensive line rotation. It’s a long way from being waived, as the former fifth round pick was a year ago, spending a brief amount of time with the LA Rams before returning last year, quietly winning the job opposite of Clark, and then recording a team-high four QB hits against Dak Prescott on Sunday.
He’s no doubt helped Seattle’s pass rush, which now ranks 16th in the NFL at 25.2%, per FootballOutsiders. (I would link to a full list, but it’s behind a paywall.)
The Seahawks are tied with the Carolina Panthers in that category, and are a step behind the LA Chargers at 15. The team apparently leading the way in pressure rate: the Dallas Cowboys. Though Seattle’s defense was the star of the game, the Cowboys did sack Russell Wilson and hit him seven times. They have 11 sacks on the season and it’s come from all angles, with nine players recording at least a piece of a sack. The Seahawks next test is Chandler Jones and the Arizona Cardinals, who rank third in pressure rate on defense.
Neither the Seahawks nor the Cardinals have anything to brag about with the pressure rates allowed by their offensive lines, however.
While Seattle is often described as having the worst pass protection in the league, they actually rank 27th in pressure rate allowed, per FO. That’s bad, but it’s not the worst. There are five teams below them — including the high-profile, high-paid unit in Dallas, and Arizona, a team that ranks 31st in pressure rate allowed at 38.5%.
Only the Houston Texans are worse.
For now, I think the Seahawks’ protection is where it is, and while the unit hopefully improves as the season goes on (we’ll see what the return of D.J. Fluker means in the long run, as well as the health and positional futures of Justin Britt, Joey Hunt, J.R. Sweezy, and Ethan Pocic), I don’t expect Seattle to end the year ranking as the top offensive line in football. I don’t think the Seahawks will lead the league in sacks either, but I think pressure rate on defense has a lot more potential.
Depending on the progress of Rasheem Green, the health of Dion Jordan, the formula on how to use Barkevious Mingo, the potential breakout of Jarran Reed, and greater coverage by a secondary that seems to get better each week, maybe Seattle can finish in the top five there. It starts with guys like Clark, but Jefferson is doing his part too.