The conversation about Jadeveon Clowney has done a complete 180 in Seattle Seahawk camps over the last week. It’s an impressively difficult thing to accomplish, as football fans (and writers) are not the most level-headed bunch, yet here we stand.
That’s right, the 12s have largely gone from downright outrage to a modicum of optimism.
I am very sad about Clowney (and the pass rush as a whole), but there are some things to be hopeful about:— Evan Hill (@EvaninSEA) September 6, 2020
•massive upgrades to the secondary, best safety duo in the NFL
•tight end group should be absolutely nasty
•Damien Lewis should be an immediate upgrade at RG
First things first, let’s call it what it is and say it straight.
The Seahawks let an elite pass rusher walk over some amount of dollars that they could have found.
Now that Clowney is gone, there’s been an unhealthy uptick in the belief that Clowney was not so good at his job anyway. This is frankly not the case.
He was one of the best in the game at the shiny Pass Rush Win Rate stat above, while the rest of the team was, well, not among the best in the game.
For whatever reason, the Seahawks were unusually bad at actually bringing the opposing quarterback to the ground with football in hand. They had a top-10 rusher, an exact middle-of-the-league team, and were just the very worst at the finish.
New DE Benson Mayowa said that “pass rushing takes a village of guys”. A village, in 2019, Seattle did not have.
You know what else they didn’t have last year? Anybody better than Tedric Thompson or Lano Hill playing in the secondary at times. “T2” earned himself a 46.6 rating from PFF last year, which is useful only because it’s one of the worst numbers I’ve seen from a Pete Carroll multi-game starter. Lano Hill received a 55.
See, what just happened in that paragraph is exactly what’s taking place in the Seattle conversation. People are turning to the newly improved secondary as if it has anything to do with the departure of Jadeveon Clowney. It does, sure, but it also has absolutely nothing to do with Clowney.
My contention is simply that he played way above his 3.0 sacks, that he was far better than the rest of the line last year, and that sacks are a little bit like turnovers. That is, they tend to come in bunches and can be extraordinarily random. Put the secondary and the sacks away, Jadeveon Clowney was, and should be again, elite at getting behind offensive tackles.
The amount of plays last season that Clowney beat his blocker, chased the quarterback right, and into an empty void of open throwing lanes, was laughable until it turned ludicrous.
So while people are really mad about stuff like this:*
Postscript on this: Jadaveon Clowney signed elsewhere for 1 year, $12 million https://t.co/H71BFpeJ1w— Computer Cowboy (@benbbaldwin) September 6, 2020
Many others are saying things like this:
This isn't a trend on which the Seahawks are leading the way.— John P. Gilbert (@JohnPGilbertNFL) September 7, 2020
Name the d-linemen the Patriots have broken the bank for over the past 20 years while winning 6 titles.
(The Pats have been in front of analytics for the past two decades and have long known coverage > pass rush.) https://t.co/ColG8J59dh
*Notice, on Ben Baldwin’s chart, that the original came before the Jamal Adams trade, so add him into the mix.
Jadeveon Clowney was an elite pass rusher. Don’t change the narrative on that. He is also, for whatever reason, not elite at obtaining sacks, a number which I’ve repeatedly argued gains vast arbitrary and undeserved dollars.
The Seattle secondary is going to be vastly improved in 2020. A full season of Quandre Diggs, the additions of Quinton Dunbar and Adams, and apparently some Marquise Blair nickel, will do that.
Does an excellent secondary result in additional sacks? Absolutely. There’s a wonderful little study on pass rush verse coverage; here’s the summary - “teams with elite coverage (67th percentile or better) and a poor pass rush (33rd percentile or worse) win, on average, about a game and a half more than teams with the reverse construction”.
That is clearly where the coaches focused their attention this offseason. Two big names in the DB room, alongside enough pieces to field a full double rotation along the defensive line. All adept, no stars.
Does the improved Seahawks secondary have anything to do with Jadeveon Clowney?
Yes, in that Seattle believes this D-line has improved through depth and growth and rookies.
Yes, statistically, in that Jamal Adams’ presence alone will likely account for some measurable improvement that we will point to this year to make us feel better.
Yes, in that the team made a value decision and focused on improving what they felt was the bigger weakness.
And then no, none whatsoever, because the Seahawks could have had all the above and found some way to magic $12 million.
From the unforeseen trade to the day he finally shut the door, Clowney will remain one of the most fascinating one-year stories that Seattle fans will have to tell, and it is sad to see him go.