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Seahawks’ quest to improve pass rush severely underwhelms

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

I never really expected the Seattle Seahawks to re-sign Jadeveon Clowney even as far back as March. As the market for Clowney proved much cooler than analysts (and Clowney himself) figured to be, I still didn’t really have much reason to believe the Seahawks would bring him back. Saturday arrived and sure enough it looks like Clowney is going to the Tennessee Titans.

Fine.

What I really did not see coming was the Seahawks’ approach to fixing such an unacceptably bad pass rush. Yes, John Schneider tweaked the hell out of the secondary as he’d hinted, and he deserves credit for that even acknowledging they still have to deal with a Jamal Adams contract extension in the near future. But the pass rush? Well this is what I tweeted back in March.

Well Irvin was the big signing, with Benson Mayowa not too far behind. The draft happened and they got Darrell Taylor and Alton Robinson. In effect, that is as far as the defensive line improvement goes. No Ngakoue, no Quinn, no Fowler, no Griffen, none of them.

Taylor is on the NFI list and won’t be available for half the regular season at the very least. Robinson has drawn rave reviews in training camp but we’ve been through this story many times before when it comes to training camp superstar vs. actual games. So lo and behold, Bruce Irvin and Benson Mayowa are reunited and tasked with being two of the marquee guys on the defensive front to revive a poor pass rush.

Even thinking long-term, neither Irvin nor Mayowa are under contract after 2020, a recurring theme for Schneider and Pete Carroll to spend many an offseason looking for one-year deals in free agency. Short-term, those two have never been considered primary edge rushers but rather complimentary players.

Looking at the Seahawks’ 53-man roster, one can only assume that they are really hoping for significant leaps in performance from recent draft picks Rasheem Green, L.J. Collier, and perhaps Taylor and Robinson too. I’m a believer that Green, who led the team in sacks last season with a whopping four, can become a breakout player in year three. You should, too!

But that is a whole lot you’re asking out of players who’ve collectively accrued little NFL experience and as such are very big wild cards in terms of what value they can add to a Seahawks front four that is widely considered one of the worst in the league (if not the worst).

It’s not just a pass rush issue for Seattle, though. As I outlined last year, the run defense was the worst it has ever been under Pete Carroll and worse than even the awful teams of 2008 and 2009. While Green and Collier may see some snaps on the interior, we’ve a week out from the regular season opener and the defensive tackle depth is just Jarran Reed, Poona Ford, and Bryan Mone. Al Woods left and Seattle signed... literally no one. Maybe Marcell Dareus or Snacks Harrison is coming on board soon but right now it’s not looking good. Irvin and Mayowa are not known and have never been known for their run defense.

There’s no obvious solution to make Seattle’s pass rush and run defense both better with the roster at hand. Jamal Adams may be used as a blitzer more than we’ve ever seen any secondary player for the Seahawks. Seattle blitzed about 8.5% more in 2019 than they did in 2018, and that may increase in 2020 depending on game script. The Seahawks offense could certainly do its part by building bigger leads and forcing the opposition into more obvious passing situations, which is something they seldom did in either 2017 or 2019.

But the Seahawks’ defensive strength is undeniably on the back of its linebackers and secondary. If all of that is nullified because of a defensive line that’s seemingly going by committee for lead edge rusher, with an interior lacking depth, serious questions need to be asked of both Schneider and Carroll for how this offseason materialized.