It was only four years ago that the Seattle Seahawks had Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, Frank Clark, and a rookie Jarran Reed as part of their defensive line rotation. Rewind a few years back and swap out Reed and Clark for Chris Clemons, Brandon Mebane, and Clinton McDonald.
The Legion of Boom captured all the headlines, but the Seahawks’ dominant front four frazzled the opposition both in the passing and running game.
Your 2019 iteration of the Seahawks... didn’t really do that. In fact they were ruinously bad both in pass and run defense and were objectively the worst defensive line that the Seahawks have ever trotted out under Pete Carroll — 2010 team included. The 2020 depth chart may see the return of Bruce Irvin, but otherwise does not yet have a single major upgrade. As such, Pro Football Focus — I know, I know — have placed the Seahawks defensive line at rock bottom in the league as we (hopefully) near a new season. PFF’s Sam Monson notes that “the best defensive lines have both high-end players and depth, and that’s what we leaned on when putting together this ranking.”
Without further ado, here’s PFF’s write-up on what they’ve obviously deemed to be the worst defensive line in the NFL.
32. Seattle Seahawks
With Jadeveon Clowney still unsigned at the time of writing, Seattle’s best defensive lineman from 2019 isn’t on the roster anymore, and the gap between him and the next best player is not a small one.
Poona Ford has impressed in the NFL so far, but more as a run defender than as any kind of pass-rush force, and he has just 19 total pressures over two years. Jarran Reed looked like he might develop into an all-around force before legal issues sideswiped his career and he didn’t look the same player. In 2018, he recorded 55 total pressures and earned solid grades across the board, but he was markedly worse in 2019.
Much will also be expected of L.J. Collier, the team’s 2019 first-round pick. That draft selection was something of a surprise to most, and his 48.6 PFF grade on just 152 snaps won’t have helped that impression. Collier had just one hurry from 86 pass-rushing snaps in an impressive lack of production. If he can’t make a sizeable leap forward in 2020, it’s difficult to see where the pressure will come from.
Tennessee’s Darrell Taylor, the team’s second-round pick this year, was a similarly underwhelming prospect but represents a significant investment they will likely expect to contribute. Bruce Irvin returns for a second stint with the team that drafted him in the first round back in 2012, but Irvin hasn’t earned a pass-rush grade north of 70.0 since his second season in Seattle.
Rasheem Green saw north of 500 snaps a season ago but had below-average grades in all facets of play and just 30 total pressures from 376 rushes. Last season the team experimented with deploying Shaquem Griffin on the edge as a situational pass-rusher despite his weight (likely in the 215-220-pound range), in an attempt to generate some pressure. He flashed occasionally but ended up with just 10 pressures on 94 rushes.
The Seahawks’ defensive line was hugely dependent on Jadeveon Clowney in 2019. If they don’t have him for 2020, they need to find a new source of pass rush.
I’m not in the mood to go over PFF’s grading system, which has been heavily scrutinized and the target of many jokes even on this site. However, if Seattle is going to outperform its 32nd ranked status, there has to be substantially improved productivity from the likes of Collier and Green, along with instant productivity from rookie Darrell Taylor. Otherwise you’re relying on Bruce Irvin and (presumably, possibly?) Benson Mayowa as your primary pass-rushers. I’ve already outlined how poor the run defense was last year, and there’s not tremendous optimism (at least for me) that it’s going to be much better under this roster. If I had to bet on anyone having a big year, it’s Rasheem Green.
Do the Seahawks clearly have the worst defensive line in the NFL? I don’t know and frankly I don’t know enough about other teams with similarly poor fronts to say otherwise. But they are a collection of mostly young players who’ve got to establish themselves sooner rather than later, or else it’ll be yet another painful experience watching this once great defense.