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Seahawks pass rush was, continues to be an area in need of improvement

Baltimore Ravens v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

The Seattle Seahawks were supposed to have one of the most fearsome defensive lines in the NFL and let this serve as yet another reminder that “supposed to” units in football are almost never as good or as bad as they’re advertised. It’s a constant exercise in over-hyping and while the Seahawks certainly had reason to hype after acquiring Jadeveon Clowney from the Houston Texans, this game seems to have too many variables to ever accurately predict how those variables will gel together come season time.

The Seahawks have seven games left to improve what is so far one of the worst pass rushing units in the NFL. A unit that is set to lose more than half of its starters to free agency, by the way.

On Sunday vs Tampa Bay, Seattle kept defensive lineman Quinton Jefferson inactive with an oblique injury. Jefferson, who was rarely mentioned when discussing the Seahawks potential “super group” on the defensive line, is tied with Clowney for the team lead in QB hits (7) and he’s played in two fewer games than Clowney. He has the same number of sacks (2) as Clowney too and the only player on the team who has more than that is Mychal Kendricks (3), a linebacker.

With seven games left to go on the season, no player on the Seahawks is on pace to eclipse five sacks, and no defensive linemen is on pace to top four. There was too much invested into this group to not expect any of them to get to the QB even a half-dozen times. And it’s not like the sum is that much better.

Seattle has allowed Russell Wilson to be sacked 22 times while getting to the other team’s QB only 15 times. Only six teams have fewer sacks than the Seahawks do and all six of them have played in one fewer game than Seattle. The Detroit Lions, Baltimore Ravens, New York Jets, and Miami Dolphins are all within three sacks of the Seahawks and have one additional game left to play on the schedule.

There’s a reasonable chance that the Seahawks will finish in the bottom-3 in sacks (with the Atlanta Falcons and Cincinnati Bengals) if they don’t pick it up soon. And the only team that has a lower pressure% (pressures per dropbacks) than Seattle is the Oakland Raiders.

Let’s recount the players on this defensive line real quick:

  • Clowney, the first overall pick in 2014, Houston’s franchise tagged player in 2019, $8 million cap hit for the Seahawks, who also gave up two players and a third round pick
  • Ezekiel Ansah, the fifth overall pick in 2013, Detroit’s franchise tagged player in 2018, $7.8 million cap hit
  • L.J. Collier, the 29th overall pick in 2019
  • Jarran Reed, the 49th overall pick in 2016, traded up with a 4th round pick to acquire, 10.5 sacks in 2018, suspended for the first six games of 2019
  • Rasheem Green, the 79th overall pick in 2018, 20 years old at time of draft, Seattle traded down in first round to add pick that was used on Green
  • Poona Ford, undrafted in 2018, a coach and fan favorite going into this season at defensive tackle
  • Al Woods, free agent at $2.2 million for 2019, at defensive tackle
  • Jefferson, versatile former 5th round pick, released and returned at one point, played in all 16 games in 2018 with 15 QB hits and three sacks
  • Branden Jackson, former UDFA, appeared in 21 games for Seahawks between 2017-2018

Now, I don’t know how it can be anything other than disappointing to find out that Jefferson is tied for the team lead in QB hits, Kendricks has the team lead in sacks, Jackson has more sacks and as many QB hits as Ansah, and Green has as many sacks as Clowney.

Note that Woods and Collier have combined for 0 pressures of any kind.

With over 1,200 combined snaps in the players listed in the tweet above, Clowney, Ansah, Reed, Green, and Collier have combined for 5 sacks, 7 TFL, and 13 QB hits. If you play a lot, a defense might get 1,200 snaps in a whole season. A defensive lineman may get 600-800 if he’s “full time.” It would be one thing if Green was blowing up, but there’s little to love about the 325 snaps given to the 22-year-old this season.

Of the players not listed in the tweet, Jefferson is doing the best, but he’s not someone you want as your best pass rusher. Ford has zero career sacks and three of his five career tackles for a loss (in 19 games) came in one game. Jackson has played in 241 snaps, MORE THAN ANSAH, and he has two tackles for a loss, three QB hits, and two sacks.

There are plenty of excuses to be made for this unit and a number of reasons for hope — none bigger than regression, I think — but that should not mean we don’t continuously highlight what is going to be one of Seattle’s biggest roadblocks between this 7-2 record and a deep playoff run. It has to be better than what it’s been probably and given that the Seahawks are looking at 2020 free agency for Clowney, Reed, and Jefferson — plus Kendricks, Woods, and RFA Jackson — we know that this is a one-year all-in push.

But even if they intended to go all-in, they aren’t getting any push.