The Seattle Seahawks came out on fire across the board this year, on the road, against a playoff team. It’s a vastly superior feeling to last season, as the defense did not struggle to contain an unknown at QB and elite RB all game.
Against a very good offensive line, with only a backup at left tackle, the Seahawks defensive line had 10 QB hits on Carson Wentz.
10 is good. 10 is big.
Last season, the Hawks averaged 6.8 QB hits per game.
Journey back with me, if you will, to the end of last year. Carlos Dunlap arrived in a bright orange flash, leaving trails of B.J. Finney wisps in his wake. Seattle turned in 37 of their 46 sacks down the stretch, as good as any team in the NFL.
Yet heading into the season, a handful of analysts believed that pass rush was one of this roster’s biggest weaknesses.
“It’s all Jamal!” they decried, forgetting, well, anybody else.
Mike Clay released his annual unit grades and here’s the type of mis-evaluation I expect the Seahawks to prove this year:
Here are the corresponding NFL Unit Grades... pic.twitter.com/V70slwakmM— Mike Clay (@MikeClayNFL) September 9, 2021
If you don’t zoom in I recognize that’s potentially blurry, and the whole thing can be a bit confusing. It’s an arbitrary 0-4 scale, with all the decimals imaginable.
I’ve written about Mike Clay’s pretty Christmas chart before; and honestly this year he’s much higher on the Seahawks position groups in general.
The team’s worst grade was cornerback, which is entirely fair and accurate.
Safeties: Clay believes there are six teams with a better safety tandem than the Seahawks.
But here’s why we’ve gathered - EDGE: a 1.0 represents the seventh worst defensive end rating in the NFL. Clay doesn’t have time for clarifications league-wide, but let’s assume Darrell Taylor doesn’t count, as his outside linebacker draft designation would indicate.* *Taylor is in fact listed as DE on the Seahawks roster page, but has often internally been referred to as a SAM linebacker, and this grade starts to look a whole lot worse if Clay went this route.
This the group primarily composed of Carlos Dunlap, Benson Mayowa, Alton Robinson, Kerry Hyder Jr, and Rasheem Green.
These things make no sense.
Seattle finished with the 7th-highest sack totals in the NFL last year. All they did from then to now was gain Hyder, and gain further development from Green and Robinson. And sit L.J. Collier, I guess.
But back to Sunday’s game against the Indianapolis Colts, eight of the team’s 10 QB hits came from players Seattle lists at DE. One of them came from Bryan Mone, who was Big End on the play and came right through right tackle Braden Smith.
Also at DE: Taylor had a sack, Mayowa had a sack, Green had a sack, and Dunlap caused all sorts of mayhem for one of the best 0-tackle games you’ll see. That includes the sack on the two-point conversion that doesn’t show up in the box score.
The Seahawks had 3 sacks today (and a 4th that doesn't officially count as it was on a 2-pt conversion). The Colts only gave up 3+ sacks twice all last season. They gave up the 2nd-fewest sacks in the NFL as an offense.— Brian Nemhauser (@hawkblogger) September 13, 2021
It Takes A Village
Seattle’s own Mayowa said “it takes a village to pressure quarterbacks.” The Hawks don’t have a “big name” pass rusher, which has caused gross mis-evaluation for a couple of years as pundits tend only to focus on Adams and Bobby Wagner. That’s also a massive oversight by graders, because Dunlap’s personal goal is to get 13 sacks this year to give him 100 total, which would put him at 55th most in the history of the NFL. He’s one of the most consistent rushers in league history.
But even after him, this is a deep rotation. The fact that Green and Taylor had immediate impact in Week 1 proves that. Every player on the line had impact plays. The only exception as I can’t remember anything big coming from Alton Robinson, who was at times the best player on defense during the preseason games.
In short, all indications for about two months now have been that not only is the pass rush sufficient, it may be a great enough strength to cover up the cornerback problem. Which does appear real.
Put reasonable odds on the Seahawks over 50 sacks this year, and this does not rest on Jamal Adams’ shoulders.
So no, defensive end is not a bottom-fourth of the league unit.