Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril led another strong year for the Seahawks' defensive line. But Seattle has to continue to shore up the depth, with the last few drafts not yielding quite as much as the team might have hoped.

Share story

While there were times this season when the Seahawks’ defense looked a little too unfamiliar —  starting with three blown fourth-quarter leads of a touchdown or more in the first six games of the season and  allowing 480 passing yards at home to the Steelers late in the year —  when the season was over Seattle was again in its usual spot, allowing the fewest points in the NFL.

In fact, it was the fourth consecutive  season the Seahawks gave up fewer points than any other NFL team (an average of 17.3), becoming the first team since the 1950s to do that.

It was an effort that started up front, and as we continue our review of Seattle’s position groups, let’s take a look at the Seahawks’ defensive line:

Starters: Defensive End Cliff Avril

Age: 29.

Position review:

Snaps played: 780 (of 995 total).

Contract situation: Signed through 2018.

Defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin

Age: 29.

Snaps played: 477

Contract situation: Unrestricted free agent.

Defensive tackle Brandon Mebane

Age: 31.

Snaps played: 489.

Contract situation: Unrestricted free agent.

Defensive end Michael Bennett

Age: 30.

Snaps played: 810.

Contract situation: Signed through 2017.

Backups

Frank Clark

Age: 22.

Snaps played: 332

Contract situation: Signed through 2018.

Cassius Marsh

Age: 23.

Snaps played: 190

Contract situation: Signed through 2017.

Demarcus Dobbs

Age: 28.

Snaps played: 118

Contract situation: Unrestricted free agent.

Jordan Hill

Age: 24.

Snaps played: 309.

Contract situation: Signed through 2016.

A.J. Francis

Age: 25.

Snaps played: 17

Contract situation: Exclusive rights free agent.

2015 review

The year began with the hope that the Seahawks might be able to get back to the kind of rotation they had in 2013, when seven players all played from 46-57 percent of the snaps, keeping the front fresh and also allowing the coaches lots of options to mix things up based on matchups.

That didn’t really work out quite as planned as four players played 47 percent or more of the snaps this season with no one else at more than 32 (and recall the Seahawks had to release veteran DT Tony McDaniel early in camp in a salary-cap related move after re-signing Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner).

The Seahawks again were able to count on Bennett (81.5 percent of snaps) and Avril (79.2) to stay healthy and play at a consistently high level.

Each was ranked by Pro Football Focus among the top defensive ends in the NFL (Bennett sixth, Avril 11th) and Bennett also was named to his first Pro Bowl.

The Seahawks also got quality seasons inside from Brandon Mebane and free agent signee Ahtyba Rubin, and also got good play out of third-year man Jordan Hill when he was able to stay on the field — Hill missed six games but was productive when healthy.

Second-round draft pick Frank Clark also saw more action, and was more productive, as the season wore on, making all four of his sacks in the last six games.

Marsh also played a bit more as the season wore on and was one of Seattle’s top special teams players down the stretch.

Dobbs saw limited time in 11 games while Francis was a late-season acquisition signed to add depth.

The Seahawks finished the year with 37 sacks, getting 10 from Bennett and nine from Avril. But while that was just 17th in the NFL, the Seahawks did it blitzing just 21.8 percent of the time, ranked 26th in the NFL in the first season under defensive coordinator Kris Richard.

That percentage was on par with past seasons — Seattle blitzed 23.3 percent in 2014 and 21.4 percent in 2013 — as were the sack numbers (Seattle also had 37 sacks in 2014 and 44 in 2013 and 36 in 2012).

The Seahawks also led the NFL in fewest rush yards allowed, 81.5 per game, tied with 2014 when they were third in the league.

Goes without saying none of those stats are wholly dependent on the line. But in general, the main stats show that the Seahawks got a similar level of play up front as the past few seasons.

Grade: A-minus. A record fourth-straight year leading the NFL in fewest points allowed speaks pretty loudly.

Offseason objectives

The first task will be figuring out what to do with unrestricted free agents Mebane and Rubin. The Seahawks are undoubtedly hoping Hill can step into a more prominent role. But if one or both of Mebane and Rubin move on Seattle will have to find reinforcements somewhere.

Seattle also likely has to do something to keep Bennett happy after he spent the off-season threatening a holdout, then played as well as any linemen in the NFL. Bennett’s average salary of $7.125 million ranks 11th among 4-3 defensive ends.

Seattle also has to continue to shore up the depth up front, with the last few drafts not yielding quite as much as might have been hoped. Continued development from Clark will be vital in 2016, a season that also looms as pivotal for Marsh to show he can be can everydown player, if needed.

Adding pass rushers could become even more of a priority if Bruce Irvin also moves on.

One name to remember is Ryan Robinson, who was a standout of the off-season before suffering an Achilles tendon injury and spending the year on Injured Reserve. Seattle also recently made an intriguing signing bringing in former Husky Josh Shirley, who played in five games in 2015 for Tampa Bay.

Up next: Linebackers.