If someone was to ask who was the biggest disappointment on the 2019 Seahawks, Ezekiel Ansah would probably be the first name to come to mind. At best, he would be the second or third to be mentioned with a sigh. Seattle signed the former Pro Bowler to an incentive-laden deal in May in an attempt to fill the void created by Frank Clark’s trade. Unfortunately, that void was not filled by Ansah.
Ansah, who reached double-digit sacks as recently as 2017, was unable to get fully fit by the start of the regular season, as a setback in his recovery from offseason shoulder surgery forced him out of the first two weeks of the season. The next five weeks, in which Ansah was able to play four games, were anonymous: One sack, three QB hits, and seven tackles. It was clear the pass rusher, once formidable off the edge, was a shell of himself.
Ahead of the Seahawks’ Week 10 matchup against the 49ers, Pete Carroll came to the defense of his player, telling reporters what was clear to see: Ansah was not right physically.
Pete Carroll on Ziggy Ansah:"He's still battling physically to get back to right."— Curtis Crabtree (@Curtis_Crabtree) November 7, 2019
Said Ansah still hasn't regained all his weight and muscle. Said he's still in the 250s around 258 or so and that 270 is a good weight for him to be at.
Seattle’s victory in San Francisco saw Ansah benched in favor of Shaquem Griffin, as the former Lion played a season-low 13 snaps. The Ansah experiment, by all accounts, was over, just as the Seahawks headed into their bye week.
However, in Seattle’s Week 12 trip to Philadelphia out of the bye, they were without Jadeveon Clowney, and so Ansah reemerged out of necessity against the Eagles. With the benefit of two weeks between games, Ansah looked not just healthy, but downright dominant at times. He played just half of the defensive snaps against Philadelphia but totaled a sack and a half, two tackles for loss, two QB hits and a forced fumble in a massively influential performance. Granted, the bar is as low as the underworld, but it was one of the best games by a Seahawks defensive lineman all season.
Ansah found a bull rush that had been lacking, overwhelming rookie Andre Dillard:
And even took future Hall of Famer Jason Peters on multiple walks into Carson Wentz’s lap:
Ansah’s play strength and aggression were obvious to see, made even more so by its complete absence through the first 10 weeks of the season:
Carroll made it clear just weeks earlier that Ansah was not yet healthy, nor at full strength. In Philadelphia, Ansah made it similarly clear that when he was feeling physically sound, he could still impact a game.
Despite the promise of Week 12, however, Ansah was unable to replicate that form down the stretch. The closest he got was in Week 17, at home to the same team that he was benched against just a couple of months prior, where he registered multiple pressures but was unable to turn it into a hit or sack of Jimmy Garoppolo.
Though Ansah managed to suit up in 12 games (including playoffs), he totaled just 2.5 sacks, three tackles for loss, eight QB hits and 16 pressures. The Ansah experiment, it appeared, had failed.
But why does it need to be already completed?
A year ago, Ansah had leverage (the Seahawks were in need of a potentially high caliber pass rusher) and recent production (12 sacks in 2017) on his side. Ansah won’t see anything close to the figure he earned in 2019, and it’s incredibly unlikely he’ll have much, if any, of his next contract guaranteed. Financially, Seattle would be protected in a second go-round with Ansah.
Last spring, when the Seahawks turned to Ansah to bolster their pass rush, he was rehabbing from shoulder surgery. There’s no offseason surgery to recover from this year; instead, Ansah can work to get to the place physically that Seattle saw a glimpse of—a tantalizing performance on a blustery Philadelphia afternoon. Perhaps the long list of injuries Ansah has suffered in his career has taken its toll, and his brief high of 2019 and the form he found earlier in his career will never return. With nothing to lose and the potential for much-needed pass rush to gain, the Seahawks should be the team to find out for sure.