A week to go before the Seahawks’ season opener and that bulldozer of a defensive lineman remains to be signed. The Falcons and Seahawks dance Sept. 13, and that game-changing pass rusher is still not on the squad.
This is not a reference to a specific player. But if there’s a weak spot for the Seahawks, if there’s a vulnerable area for offenses to exploit, it’s on the D-line.
Seattle ranked 22nd in total defense last year and was tied for 29th in sacks. That came a season after being ranked 13th in sacks.
The Seahawks were a foot away from winning the NFC West last year, and you have to wonder if they would have taken the division had they just been decent on the pass rush. And rest assured that players such as defensive tackle Jarran Reed were aware of their shortcomings.
“We’re very hungry to come back and get to where we were in 2018,” Reed said. “Pass rush is key because if you get more pressure on the quarterback, you can rattle him a little bit and help out the back-end guys that are doing their job. We put a lot of emphasis on it this year. We need to get to the quarterback.”
Reed was one of the guys who got to the quarterback frequently in 2018. In the third year of his career, he tallied 10.5 sacks — which was seven and a half more than his previous two years combined.
But last year, after serving a six-game suspension at the start of the year, he tallied just two sacks, making you wonder if Year 3 was just an anomaly. He’ll tell you that he has “unfinished business” after what he deemed a disappointing year, but it’s TBD if he actually improves.
What we know is that Jadeveon Clowney, the most impactful player from the Seahawks’ defensive line last year, is not on the roster. An ESPN story Saturday reported the defensive end is expected to join the Titans.
Yes, Seattle added Bruce Irvin, who had a career-best 8.5 sacks in 13 games last season in Carolina. But sans Clowney, the group upfront still lags behind where it was last year.
In mid-July, analytics site Pro Football Focus ranked Seattle’s defensive line as the worst in the NFL. Crazy to think considering this was once the group with Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril and Frank Clark on the same unit.
But it was an understandable ranking given last year’s troubles. And though players try to tune out the criticism, it’s hard to do it completely.
“We all see it, but at the end of the day, it’s everybody’s opinion. Everybody has a right to say what they want to, but at the end of the day, we’re in here working hard trying to do what we can,” Reed said. “It’s easy to say versus doing it. Once again, just going on the gridiron every day, going on the grass working to get better and definitely working to pick it up.”
There’s a temptation to say that Seahawks general manager John Schneider should pick it up, too, but that may be unfair. He already traded for All-Pro safety Jamal Adams this offseason, which may prove to be the most significant acquisition in years.
But given Schneider’s history of filling glaring holes — sometimes in the middle of the season — there may be an expectation that he would give the D-line a jolt just before the season started. Hasn’t happened yet. No real sign that it will, either.
So what does this mean? Well, Seattle’s offense wasn’t much of an issue last year, and was the primary driver in the team’s 11-5 record. And assuming there aren’t injuries, the Seahawks have a top-tier linebacking core with Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright, and an upgraded secondary with Adams on the roster. But that D-line still stands out in a not-so-enviable way.
There’s a reason that top pass rushers are second only to top quarterbacks in salary. Disrupting signal callers is the most integral element in defensive success.
When it comes to fans anticipating the start of the season, hearts are pounding. But when it comes to giving the D-line a boost, the clock is ticking.