The Seahawks could use an improved pass rush Sunday to combat Oakland quarterback Derek Carr, who is averaging 328 passing yards per game, sixth in the NFL.
LONDON — One of Pete Carroll’s trademark sayings is that a team can never have enough pass rush.
But too often this season the Seahawks have been searching vainly for any pass rush at all.
Numbers both conventional and analytic bear that out.
Entering Sunday’s game against the Raiders, the Seahawks are just 22nd in the NFL in sacks with 10 — five coming in the Week 3 win against the Cowboys with Seattle getting two or fewer sacks in its other four games.
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The analytic site Pro Football Focus paints an even dimmer picture, rating the Seahawks 30th in the NFL this week in its team pass-rushing grades, a metric by which it measures pressure created on a per-snap basis with weighting toward sacks.
A more consistent pass rush might well have made the difference last week in a 33-31 loss to the Rams. True, the Rams play in a style to mitigate the rush with lots of quick passes.
But Los Angeles QB Jared Goff was sacked just once and hit just twice on 33 pass attempts, one of two times this year the Seahawks have had just two quarterback hits, the other coming against the Bears.
“I don’t think we’ve been as effective,’’ Carroll said this week of the team’s pass rush. “I think we’ve been saying this for a while now, we have not been as effective, particularly on early downs transitioning from the run game to the pass game. There’s things that — we are adding some rushers and stuff like that, some pressures that we did in this last game to try and add to that. It’s just a work in progress.”
Only four Seahawks have sacks this season — end Frank Clark and tackle Jarran Reed with three apiece, and linebackers Mychal Kendricks (who is indefinitely suspended) and Barkevious Mingo with two and one, respectively. Another sack was credited toward the team (that coming against the Rams on what was Seattle’s only sack of the game when Goff just lost the ball out of his hands with Los Angeles recovering for an 8-yard loss, the play officially ruled a sack).
A pass rush would be nice to have Sunday against an Oakland team that has plenty of warts overall but also has the ninth-most passing attempts in the NFL while allowing just 11 sacks, with Derek Carr ranking sixth in passing yards per game at 328.
“We’ve got to get pressure on these guys for these quarterbacks to stop making these throws and take some pressure off our DBs (defensive backs),’’ Clark said after Sunday’s loss to the Rams.
Asked the problem, Clark said, “Just communication, and we’ve got to execute. We’ve got to communicate and know the call, and that’s everybody across the board.’’
Indeed, PFF excuses almost no one for Seattle’s pass-rush issues.
Clark is Seattle’s highest-rated pass rusher, according to PFF, at 35th out of 112 edge rushers.
Of the rest of Seattle’s rushers with enough snaps to qualify, Reed is 70th of 119 interior defenders, Shamar Stephen 114th of 119 interior defenders, Quinton Jefferson 84th of 112 edge rushers, and rookie Rasheem Green 110th of 112 edge rushers.
Green was a preseason standout but after a slow start has also been injured and will miss his second straight game against the Raiders with a sprained ankle.
The team also had high hopes that Dion Jordan would be a consistent pass rusher this season, with the plan that he would replace some — if not quite a bit — of the production of Michael Bennett, who was traded to the Eagles in March.
But after signing a restricted free-agent tender paying him $1.9 million this year, Jordan has battled injuries, missing all of training camp with a stress reaction in his leg.
He also missed the Arizona game with a knee injury and is questionable for Sunday’s game against the Raiders with a knee issue (he had another offseason surgery on his knee).
The upshot is that Jordan has played just 70 snaps with two tackles, one quarterback hit and no sacks after having been one of the pleasant surprises of the 2017 season when he had four sacks and 18 tackles in five games.
“Dion has been making progress,’’ Carroll said. “He’s been nursing his knee coming back. It hasn’t been exactly perfect for him yet but we’re working our way through it and he’s been a solid performer so far. I don’t think he’s found his best game yet, but that’s still out there for him.”
The Seahawks hope sooner rather than later, as does Jordan, who some thought before the year might be in line for an extension but for now has to show he can be a consistent producer over a 16-game season to really factor into the team’s long-range plans.
Also disappointing has been the pass rush from any of the team’s tackles other than Reed.
Stephen plays mostly on first and second downs, but has just one quarterback hit this season and no sacks, and Seattle only got one game out of fellow free agent Tom Johnson before losing him when the team released him for the Chicago game with plans to sign him back, only to see Johnson decide to return to the Vikings.
Even more mysterious has been the disappearance of second-year player Nazair Jones, who showed a lot of promise as a rookie in 2017 with two sacks in 11 games before his season was cut short due to injury.
Jones has been an almost total nonfactor this year, playing just 26 snaps and inactive despite being healthy for two games, including last week against the Rams, with no sacks and just one quarterback hit, appearing to have fallen behind rookie undrafted free agent Poona Ford in the defensive-tackle rotation.
Asked about Jones last week Carroll didn’t really provide any insight, saying, “He’s been rolling in there. Naz has done fine so far in the role we’ve asked him (to be in). He’s been in and out of the active roster a little bit, but he’s versatile. … right now, he’s rolling and he’s trying to just get more plays by competing to get them.”
Wherever they can get a pass rush from, the Seahawks will take it.