In an ESPN+ article that was published (behind the paywall) on Friday, ESPN writer Aaron Schatz highlighted the 8 “most improved NFL units” this season.
His list includes:
- The Cleveland Browns’ defensive line
- The Houston Texans’ defensive line and their passing game*
- The Jacksonville Jaguars’ secondary
- The Kansas City Chiefs’ secondary
- The Minnesota Vikings’ offensive line
- The Seattle Seahawks’ pass rush
- The Tennessee Titans’ offensive line
The asterisk on the second bullet is because, yes, the Texans landed two “units” on the list, and, yes, units is in quotes because “the passing game” involves more than one unit (i.e., the quarterback and the pass catchers).
That’s neither here nor there though since we’re not here on Field Gulls to talk about the Texans.
We’re here to talk about the Seahawks!
And, with that in mind, here’s the ESPN write-up on Seattle’s pass rush “unit”:
New players that helped: DE Dre’Mont Jones (FA), DT Jarran Reed (FA), OLB Derick Hall (second-round pick)
How they did it: The Seahawks ranked 28th last season in PRWR. This year, they have improved to ninth (49.4%).
I’m listing the “Seahawks pass rush” here to bring attention to the entire front, including both the defensive line and the two edge rushers who are technically outside linebackers. That latter position is where the biggest improvement has come, primarily with the development of 2022 second-round pick Boye Mafe. As a rookie, Mafe had a 10.4% PRWR on the edge. This season, he ranks third among all edge rushers with a 27.4% PRWR.
Uchenna Nwosu was also having an outstanding season, ranked 21st among edge rushers in PRWR, but he is out for the season with a torn pectoral. His replacement in the starting lineup, Darrell Taylor, is right behind him, ranking 26th this season. But losing Nwosu definitely hurts the Seahawks’ depth on the edge, and they’ll need more from rookie Hall, who doesn’t have his first NFL sack yet.
The Seahawks turned over veterans on the defensive line this offseason. Reed returned to the Seahawks after two years with other teams and currently ranks 14th among defensive tackles in PRWR (13.3%). Jones hasn’t been quite as good (he ranks 33rd among defensive tackles), but now the Seahawks have added Leonard Williams (currently 18th among defensive tackles) to play next to Jones and Reed in base defense.
Biggest remaining test: Week 15 at home against the Eagles, who rank fourth in pass block win rate (64.9%) and first in run block win rate (76.6%) this season.
I might argue that the Seahawks’ secondary is their most improved unit or, alternatively, the Seahawks run defense (prior to Sunday’s performance against the Baltimore Ravens).
That said, it’s nice to see the pass rush getting some love.
Plus, it seems pretty clear that Schatz’ main criteria is positional rankings and, as was noted in the write-up, Seattle’s pass rush improved 19 spots between 2022 and 2023.
I don’t think it’s possible to say too many good things about Boye Mafe so devoting most of the second paragraph to him is a-okay in my book.
The loss of Uchenna Nwosu is bigger than Mr. Schatz indicates. I mean, it’s cool that Darrell Taylor was only 5 spots behind Nwosu in Pass Rush Win Rate (PRWR) but that only tells part of the story since Nwosu was lightyears better than Taylor at setting the edge.
To be fair, Mr. Schatz wasn’t looking at / talking about Seattle’s run defense and Darrell Taylor IS pretty good when he’s used in a limited role as a pass rusher.
It’s a little surprising to not see Frank Clark mentioned.
What say the 12s?
Do you believe that Seattle’s pass rush is one of the 8 most-improved units in the league? And/or do you think it’s the most improved “unit” on the team?