During the offseason, I spent some time watching a handful of the Philadelphia Eagles games from last season. My original intent was to study Jalen Hurts, but the thing that kept drawing my attention was their pass rush.
While the 2022 season was in progress, I was aware that the Eagles pass rush was dominant. What I didn’t realize at the time was just how dominant.
The NFL record for sacks in a season is 72. That record belongs to the 1984 Chicago Bears.
Last year, the Eagles came close to breaking that mark with 70.
To put that in perspective, the team with the second-most sacks last year was the Kansas City Chiefs with 55, followed by the Dallas Cowboys and New England Patriots with 54 apiece. Two teams had 48 sacks. Three teams, including the Seahawks, had 45.
The Eagles had SEVENTY.
Perhaps even more impressive than the total number of sacks is the fact that the Eagles had four players that recorded double-digit sacks: LB Haason Reddick (16), DE Brandon Graham (11), DT Javon Hargrave (11), and DE Josh Sweat (11).
Out of curiosity, I looked at sack totals, via ESPN, from 2010 to 2022. Why that range? Because Seattle hired Pete Carroll and John Schneider in 2010 and I tend to view things like this through a Seahawks-colored lens.
Here’s what I found:
- Since 2010, a team has had two or more players with double-digit sacks a total of 35 times, but only the 2022 Eagles (4) and the 2013 Buffalo Bills (3) have had more than two.
- Twenty-two teams have accomplished the task since 2010, but 13 of the 22 only did it once . . . including the 2022 Eagles.
- The Pittsburgh Steelers have had two players with double-digit sacks five times since 2010, followed by the Rams who have done it three times.
- Since 2010, seven teams, including the Seahawks, have done it twice.
Circling back to the Eagles and their impressive feat of having FOUR players with double-digit sacks last year . . .
Here are Seattle’s top 4 (or, in some cases, top 5) sack leaders for each of the last thirteen seasons (2010-2022), along with the total number of sacks the team had that season (per Pro-Football-Reference.com):
- 2022: Uchenna Nwosu (9.5), Darrell Taylor (9.5), Quinton Jefferson (5.5), and Bruce Irvin (3.5) - - 45 total
- 2021: Carlos Dunlap (8.5), Rasheem Green (6.5), Darrell Taylor (6.5), and Poona Ford (2.0) - - 34 total
- 2020: Jamal Adams (9.5), Jarran Reed (6.5), Benson Mayowa (6.0), and Carlos Dunlap (5.0) - - 46 total
- 2019: Rasheem Green (4.0), Quinton Jefferson (3.5), Bobby Wagner (3.0), Mychal Kendricks (3.0), and Jadeveon Clowney (3.0) - - - 28 total
- 2018: Frank Clark (13.0), Jarran Reed (10.5), Quinton Jefferson (3.0), and Jacob Martin (3.0) - - 43 total
- 2017: Frank Clark (9.0), Michael Bennett (8.5), Dion Jordan (4.0), and Dwight Freeney (3.0) - - 39 total
- 2016: Cliff Avril (11.5), Frank Clark (10.0), Michael Bennett (5.0), and Bobby Wagner (4.5) - - 42 total
- 2015: Michael Bennett (10.0), Cliff Avril (9.0), Bruce Irvin (5.5), and Frank Clark (3.0) - - 37 total
- 2014: Michael Bennett (7.0), Bruce Irvin (6.5), Jordan Hill (5.5), and Cliff Avril (5.0) - - 37 total
- 2013: Michael Bennett (8.5), Cliff Avril (8.0), Clinton McDonald (5.5), and Bobby Wagner (5.0) - - 44 total
- 2012: Chris Clemons (11.5), Bruce Irvin (8.0), Brandon Mebane (3.0), and Jason Jones (3.0) - - 36 total
- 2011: Chris Clemons (11.0), LeRoy Hill (4.0), Alan Branch (3.0), Raheem Brock (3.0), and Anthony Hargrove (3.0) - - 33 total
- 2010: Chris Clemons (11.0), Raheem Brock (9.0), Lawyer Milloy (4.0), and Aaron Curry (3.5) - - 37 total
To me, there are three things stand out about that list:
One. Under Pete Carroll, the Seahawks have not been especially prolific at sacking the quarterback, but they have been somewhat consistent.
Looking at just the yearly totals, from 2010 to 2022, we get: 37, 33, 36, 44, 37, 37, 42, 39, 43, 28, 46, 34, 45.
That’s a total of 501 regular season sacks for Pete’s defenses over the thirteen years he’s been here which is an average of 38.5 sacks per season.
Two. In the past thirteen years, there have been only eight instances of a Seattle player recording double-digit sacks. Chris Clemons did it three times (2010, 2011, 2012). Frank Clark did it twice (2016, 2018). Michael Bennett (2015), Cliff Avril (2016), and Jarran Reed (2018) each did it once.
If you look at the dates (or remember what was written earlier), you’ll see that the Seahawks have had more than one player record double-digit sacks twice since 2010. The first time was during the 2016 season when Cliff Avril (11.5) and Frank Clark (10) accomplished the feat. The other was 2018 when Frank Clark (13) and Jarran Reed (10.5) did it.
Three. Most seasons, after the top two guys (sometimes the top one guy), there is a BIG drop off. For example, in 2018 when Frank Clark and Jarran Reed combined for 23-1/2 sacks, the No. 3 and No. 4 guys were Quinton Jefferson and Jacob Martin with 3 sacks apiece. Last year, Uchenna Nwosu and Darrell Taylor had 9-1/2 sacks each; Quinton Jefferson was third with 5-1/2.
Here’s where it gets interesting though . . .
The Eagles only had 29 sacks in 2021. Then they exploded for 70 in 2022.
If they can do it, so can Seattle.
The Seahawks had two players with double-digit sacks in 2018. One of those players, Jarran Reed, is on the team this year.
In 2020, Jamal Adams came within half a sack of double digits. Last season, Uchenna Nwosu and Darrel Taylor came just as close.
All three are on the team this year.
Could the combination of Jarran Reed, Jamal Adams, Uchenna Nwosu, and Darrell Taylor
do the impossible replicate what the Eagles did last year? Could all four players record double-digit sacks?
I think the answer is, “Yes.”
Add in Dre’Mont Jones (6-1/2 sacks last year, career average of 5-1/2 per season), Bobby Wagner (6 sacks last year), and the fast-charging Boye Mafe, and it’s a potential recipe for Seattle’s defenders to feast on opposing quarterbacks this year.
Pass rushers aside, part of the reason I think Seattle’s defenders could live in the opposing team’s backfield in 2023 has to do with our improved secondary - aka the drafting of Devon Witherspoon, the signing of Julian Love, the expected return to health for Jamal Adams, a year of maturation for Riq Woolen, the ever-present awesomeness of Quandre Diggs, and the apparent elevation of Tre Brown into the starting lineup.
And I haven’t even mentioned Mike Jackson or Coby Bryant, two of Seattle’s three starting corners from last season.
Long story short, if the secondary is locking things down, the pass rushers will have more time to get home and having just a little more time could be the difference between the 9-1/2 sacks that Nwosu and Taylor got last year (and that Adams got two years earlier) and the double-digit sacks I think they’re all capable of.
The bigger part of the reason for my optimism is entirely about our opponents.
More specifically, it’s about their offensive lines.
According to PFF, Seattle faces five of the six best offensive lines in the league this year: Philadelphia (Week 15) is No. 1, Cleveland (Week 8) is No. 2, Baltimore (Week 9) is No. 4, Detroit (Week 2) is No. 5, and Dallas (Week 13) is No. 6.
That’s rough, but (a) it’s only five of Seattle’s seventeen games, and (b) the Seahawks beat the Lions last year and can do so again this year.
Ready for some good news?
The Seahawks also face five of the six worst offensive lines in the league this year. And, as an added bonus, Seattle face two of them twice!
Washington (Week 10) is No. 27 on PFF’s list, while the Rams (Weeks 1 and 11) are No. 28, the Giants (Week 4) are No. 29, the Cardinals (Weeks 7 and 18) are No. 31, and the Titans (Week 16) are No. 32.
That covers twelve of Seattle’s seventeen games.
The remaining five games are against teams with middling offensive lines: Pittsburgh (Week 17) has the 12-best offensive line, according to PFF, Carolina (Week 3) is No. 16, Cincinnati (Week 6) is No. 17, and the 49ers (Weeks 12 and 14) are No. 18.
Add it all up and you get five games against what should be very good offensive lines, five games against middling offensive lines, and seven games against what PFF expects to be very, very bad offensive lines.
Broken down that way, the schedule doesn’t look so terrible, does it?
Especially not if you’re a Seahawks pass rusher.
Here’s to looking forward to the patented Jarran Reed sack dance.
As part of my research, I looked at the number of sacks each of the NFC West teams have had each since since Pete Carroll and John Schneider came to town.
The Rams have the most over that 13-year period, with 579 - an average of 44.5 per season - and they’ve finished within the top five league wide four times in the last six years, and six of the 13 years overall.
Arizona is second with 530 sacks from 2010-2022 (40.8 per year). They have finished in the top 10 three times in the last seven years, including leading the league in sacks in 2016.
The powerhouse 49ers are . . . LAST in the NFC West during the JSPC era. They’ve averaged 37.5 sacks per season since 2010, with a total of 488.
Somewhat surprisingly, the Seahawks actually led the NFC West in sacks last season.
What’s more, the Seahawks have had more sacks than the Niners in two of the last three seasons. In fact, Seattle has topped their Santa Clara rivals in nine of Pete’s thirteen seasons overall, including a run of six straight seasons from 2013 to 2018.
(I was not expecting that.)
In the interest of completeness, Seattle has topped Arizona in sacks five times (2010, 2014, 2015, 2017, and 2022), and they’ve topped the Rams thrice (2016, 2018, and 2022).
Last but not least, Seattle’s best finish league-wide was 2016 when they tied for 3rd place with the Broncos at 42 sacks apiece - the Cardinals were No. 1 that year with 48, and the Panthers were No. 2 with 47. In 2020, they finished in 7th place (10 sacks behind the first-place Steelers). Last year, they finished in a three-way tie for 7th.