Bruce Irvin isn't coming to save the day. And, besides Frank Clark and Jarran Reed, the Seahawks' other defensive linemen have contributed just 3.5 sacks in their team's first eight games. So who needs to step up against the Rams this weekend (and beyond)?
Bruce Irvin isn’t walking through that door.
Unless, of course, that door is in Atlanta.
On Wednesday, Irvin — a 31-year-old pass-rusher and former Seahawk Super Bowl champion — signed a one-year contract with the Atlanta Falcons, four days after he was released by the rapidly disintegrating Oakland Raiders. He opted for his hometown team over the franchise he spent the first four seasons of his career with, compiling 25 tackles for loss and 22 sacks along the way.
On Wednesday afternoon, first-year Seahawks defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. — who served as Irvin’s linebackers coach in Seattle (2012-14) and defensive coordinator in Oakland (2015-17) — said the veteran defensive end is “where he should be.”
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Added Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll: “He wanted to go home. I couldn’t do that for him. He’s from Atlanta. I couldn’t make (Seattle) Atlanta.”
He also can’t make his remaining defensive linemen fill the void. Defensive end Frank Clark and defensive tackle Jarran Reed have certainly done their part, leading the Seahawks with 7.5 and five sacks respectively.
As for everyone else? Seattle’s other defensive linemen own a total of 3.5 combined sacks, and the Seahawks rank tied for 19th in the NFL with 21 sacks on the season.
That won’t work on Sunday against the 8-1 Los Angeles Rams, who allowed just one sack and gained 468 total yards in a 33-31 win over the Seahawks last month. Nor will it work in the two games that follow, against Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers and Carolina’s Cam Newton.
So where, exactly, is the extra pressure going to come from?
“We need good teamwork, really. We need our guys to work together,” Carroll said. “J-Reed’s done a nice job being a factor. He’s had more production than he’s ever had before at the midpoint here. So we’re counting on him to continue to cause problems.
“But we need to work together, and that means (game-planning) it up and stunting the way we need to to make our space and all that. Dion Jordan brings it and Jacob Martin has been really flashy. He’s been a factor. So we’re looking for those guys to continue to just create issues with pass protection. A lot of that is working together, though.”
In other words, one player — like, say, a Bruce Irvin — isn’t about to save the day. And the two other defensive ends Carroll mentioned — Dion Jordan and rookie sixth-round pick Jacob Martin — failed to register a sack in the first half of the season.
Jordan, at least, provides a heap of untapped potential. The 6-foot-6, 284-pound defensive end and former No. 3 overall pick racked up four sacks in five games last season, but was severely limited in the first six games this season with nagging shin and knee injuries.
Jordan has made tangible progress in the previous two games, however, finishing with six tackles while playing 50 percent of his team’s defensive snaps.
“What’s really helping him is he’s staying healthy,” Carroll said. “He’s feeling strong and he’s getting his rhythm. He’s a very aggressive player. Plays tough and has given really good effort throughout. So we’re just counting on him.
“I still see him as a very young player — inexperienced player, even. He might not think that, but just in his time playing and really getting acclimated to the game and all, he has not had — much like the C.J. (Prosise) kind of background – he has not had a lot of steady play there that he can build from. But he’s starting to get that now that he’s been (healthy) and been able to stay out there.
“So I think he’ll improve. I think he’s a guy that has a much higher ceiling than what we’re seeing right now, and the more we get him out there the more he’s going to do well.”
Despite being 28 years old, Carroll says he’s inexperienced because Jordan has played just 37 games in five and a half seasons, thanks to a combination of injuries and suspensions.
Still, the team’s other primary pass-rushers — rookie defensive ends Martin and third-round pick Rasheem Green — offer even less seasoning. The 6-4, 279-pound Green flashed with three sacks in the preseason, but missed four consecutive regular season games while rehabbing an ankle injury. He didn’t record a stat in last weekend’s loss to the Chargers while logging just eight defensive snaps.
So, besides Clark and Reed, who can the Seahawks depend on? Jordan? Martin? Green?
It certainly won’t be Irvin.
It has to be everyone else.
“It’s across the board,” Norton said. “Not one person is responsible for (the pass rush). We’re all responsible for it.”