The Seahawks Dozen: #6 The Pass Rush

We continue our rundown of the 2017 Seahawks Dozen here at number 6. For this one, we continue with the ‘collective’ idea that saw the Sherman/Thomas/Chancellor trifecta land at 7. But we just move closer to the trenches with this one.

The 2017 list for Seahawks Dozen was compiled by myself, Adam Nathan and Ross Bell. Us three on the UK Seahawkers podcast ‘The Pedestrian Podcast’ spent a recent episode putting the list together. A link to that episode is at the bottom of this article.

But without further delay. The number six spot on the 2017 Seahawks Dozen list goes to..

The Seahawks Dozen…. #6

The Pass Rush

Like the legion of boom at 7, this group has the same names as 2016 did. But with the look out for a upturn from some of the names.

First, let’s look at what 2016 bought for the facet of the game so vital in the current NFL.

The 2016 Proficency

In 2016, the trio of Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril & Frank Clark were the three-headed monster who were set to cause havoc on passing downs and ruin offensive game plans.

While for Avril and Clark that is supported on the stat sheet, Bennett’s contribution is less clear on the stat sheet.

Here are the splits for the trio in 2016:

  • Cliff Avril– 11.5 sacks/ 5 forced fumbles/ 3 Passes Defensed
  • Frank Clark– 10/2/1
  • Michael Bennett– 5/0/0

In a year where the Seahawks got to the QB 42 times, almost half of those were through Avril and Clark. That percentage has to drop some to include Bennett but not to the devolution of the other two.

Bennett in 2016 was as injury-hampered as he has been in Seattle. Missing 5 games and some more time during those he started saw his season never really get going. That didn’t, rightly, stop the team rewarding him for his previous success and extend him at the backend of the year.

As for Avril and Clark it was an career year matched with a breakout year. The power, finesse and versatility of them come to the fore. Matching that with a healthy Bennett in 2017 will be a point of emphasis and excitement for Seattle.

Elsewhere though, is where lies the biggest need for improvement in terms of pass rush.

The Seahawks in 2016, as is always the case, were a gnarly team to run the ball against. The rotation headlined by Athyba Rubin, rookie Jarran Reed and Tony McDaniel helped the Seahawks keep teams to a 3.4 yards-per-carry. But getting to the QB was less consistent.

Between the aforementioned trio, they collated just 2.5 sacks. That has to improve to make the Seahawks pass rush a feared option amongst many on the defensive side.

The Pass Rush in 2017

When deciding the spot for this group, Adam had the vote-getting point:

“Obviously specifically Bennett & Avril. But In general the pass rush is something in the league where you have to get to the QB. So if we can’t manage that then we are going to have big problems over the season.”

As noted above, Michael Bennett’s health may hold the biggest key to what success the Seahawks have.

Surpassing the 42 sacks is doable with that fact alone. No-one in the league is as versatile or disruptive from so many spots as Seattle’s #72. His ability to covet blockers and open up the line for others was huge and maybe under-appreciated by yours truly and others in 2016.

For Avril and Clark it is more of a same as the latter will likely continue his ascension as a force at the position.

On the interior it has two old and one new face at the fore. The new face being rookie Naz Jones.

Jones is a big bodied, fast-moving interior guy who shone as a run defender in college at North Carolina. But also had the ability to crash the pocket under the chin of the QB and reap the benefits of that. Transitioning to the NFL is a leap for Jones and all rookies, but that continuing with a second-year jump for Reed. Then the low-sack total could be an anomaly for the Seahawks.

The McDowell Effect

One facet which has, seemingly been subtracted from this for 2017 at least, is Malik McDowell.

The selection of McDowell can be seen as a clear acknowledgment from the team that the interior rush and rotation wasn’t what it needed to be in 2016. His Calais Campbell-comparisons only add weight to that argument. Having McDowell alongside the trio and all others on the defense would be an exciting proposition for the season. Making his injury-whatever that may be- an even more frustrating one.

While 2017 can be improved upon with the health and improvement of some, it may yet not be close to it’s peak with what is coming down the pipe.

An improvement seems doable for the pass rush. The importance of it, as Adam pointed out, Is vital

 

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Stuart Court is the Team Manager for Seattle Seahawks on ProFootballSpot. Stuart also is co-host on the UK Seahawkers Podcast 'The Pedestrian Podcast'. Follow Stuart on Twitter @Stu_Court