Second year “rookie” Darrell Taylor currently leads the Seattle Seahawks with four sacks so far on the season. This stands on its own as a respectable figure. If he makes a solid second half push, he has a chance to eclipse ten this year, and is looking like he may be the pass rusher that we all imagined when the team traded up to select him in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft. But as good as Darrell Taylor has looked at times, he is the only defensive linemen for the Seahawks who has been able to display any consistency in getting after the quarterback. As a unit, the team currently sits ahead of only the Atlanta Falcons and Kansas City Chiefs, who have 11 and 12 sacks, respectively. Seattle is tied with the Detroit Lions with 14 sacks on the season.
Below is a chart with the stats and performance of Seattle’s defensive ends.
Seahawks EDGE Performance in 2021
|Kerry Hyder, Jr.||0.5||7||2|
As you can see, Darrell Taylor leads this team in sacks and is tied for the lead in tackles for a loss among defensive ends. Not only this, but he has been Seattle’s highest graded pass rusher up through the bye week, per Pro Football Focus. He has earned a pass rushing grade of 75.4, with no other Seattle defensive lineman grading higher than 70 (Alton Robinson is second with 69.7).
Kerry Hyder, Jr. is second on the team with seven quarterback hits, but has combined this with a whopping half of a sack. At this torrid pace, he is destined to total roughly one illustrious sack in 2021. And remember when we were all happy that the team was bringing back the second half star of 2020 — Carlos Dunlap? He, too, has registered half of a sack so far. Interestingly, they each share the other half of their takedown with Rasheem Green, who as you can see above has two on the season. See the visual evidence below.
Carlos Dunlap and Kerry Hyder, Jr, each have half of a sack so far in 2021. Both came in the Saints game, and both are shared with Rasheem Green. pic.twitter.com/N8SfaV8tpE— Stan 'the boy' Taylor (@GoodGuyAtSports) November 12, 2021
At their current rate, this team is essentially on pace with the 2019 squad that finished with 28 takedowns — tied with the Detroit Lions and the Atlanta Falcons for second worst in the league. As you may recall from the beginning of this article, both of those teams are still currently in the pass rush cellar with Seattle. And in this truth, we find an all too disturbing reality; teams don’t magically get better at things they are bad at. And despite their second half surge last season that saw them finish with a respectable number of sacks on the season (46 — 7th in the league), that hot streak is looking more and more like an anomaly.
Now, in all fairness, sacks are only one statistic and they don’t paint a complete picture. According to ESPN Analytics, the Seahawks defense, as a whole, ranks 17th in Team Pass Rush Win Rate. This is a significant improvement over their tie for third worst in the league. And according to Pro Football Reference, the Seahawks defense actually ranks 12th in Hurry Percentage — the highest of all NFC West teams. But I don’t necessarily see this as good news; rather, this stands out to me as an indictment of not just the pass rush corps, but also the secondary. And adding to this picture, the Seahawks rank 13th in blitz rate, indicating that they have been relying more and more on sending extra players to get pressure, but these extra rushers aren’t effectively planting the QB on the turf with any reliability.
The fact that the Seahawks bet on a group of veterans who have under-produced is not entirely surprising; even the most productive players hit a wall at some point. But this is deeper than that — through a combination of personnel mismanagement and poor skillset utilization, this team looks more and more like a poorly reconstructed vision of teams long gone. The days of having a deep pass rush led by the fearsome duo of Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril are gone. And so too are the days of having players around them like Chris Clemons, Bruce Irvin, and even Frank Clark. In their stead, the team bet big on veterans with upside. But through a confluence of coaching and player performance, this bet looks to have capsized a pass rush that was already on life support.