The Seahawks’ pass rush has been largely neutered over the first six games by quick-draw quarterbacks, but Seattle’s rushers might finally have a chance to make more impact the next two games – and hopefully beyond.
It’s not like the Seahawks have been terrible in the pass rush. Yes, they are tied for 22nd with just 11 sacks and are 19th in pressure percentage (23.9). But they are 10th in pass rush win rate, beating blocks within 2.5 seconds 45% of the time, per ESPN’s tracking.
So, the Hawks have been around the QB around half the time; they just have not been able to get sacks or as much pressure as they need to because the ball has been getting out even faster than they can get there.
Jimmy Garoppolo (2.56) and Kirk Cousins (2.64) are No. 4 and 6 fastest in pass-to-snap, and Cousins especially carved up Seattle in Minnesota’s 30-17 win in Week 3.
When the Hawks have gotten pressure at least 25% of the time, they have won: 30% against Carson Wentz in the season-opening win over Indianapolis, 32% against the 49ers (Garoppolo left with an injury, and Seattle pressured Trey Lance 38% of the time).
But the Hawks pressured Ryan Tannehill just 18% of the time, Cousins 23%, Matthew Stafford 13% and Roethlisberger 17% — and lost all of those games.
Seattle’s discombobulated secondary has made it easier for those QBs to get rid of the ball quickly and avoid much punishment. But Pete Carroll has perhaps figured out how to play the back end (Tre Brown at left corner, Jamal Adams near the line, Ryan Neal in the lineup), which could help the pass rush.
The rotation has been chaotic and unpredictable as the Hawks have played some big line combinations and Dunlap and other edge rushers sometimes have not been on the field a lot.
Darrell Taylor and Carlos Dunlap have done OK (27 combined pressures, per PF Focus) considering their lack of consistent playing time amid nagging injuries.
Remember: Dunlap is playing through turf toe, Taylor had an ankle problem and now a neck issue suffered in Pittsburgh, and Alton Robinson had a knee issue (but Carroll says he is healthy now). If these guys start getting healthier, maybe the coaches will be able to settle on a more productive rotation.
With the secondary perhaps a little more settled, the production could begin Monday night against the Saints.
They have given up just nine sacks in five games, but Jameis Winston is one of the slowest passers in the league, ranking 33rd at 3.07 seconds. If that is not just a product of good protection (the Saints are 11th in pass block win rate), then Dunlap, Taylor (if he can play) and company may have a chance to create some negative plays.
Winston was an interception machine in Tampa Bay, but he has thrown just three this season – an obvious nod to Sean Payton’s work with him. If the Hawks can get some pressure on him, though, he might revert to what he did in a 26-7 loss to Carolina in Week 2: four sacks, two interceptions.
“They do hold the ball quite a bit — much different than the teams we’ve played the last few weeks,” Carroll told KIRO Radio. “San Francisco was really fast, and Ben was much faster — he was the fastest in the league at getting rid of the football. These guys are at the other end of it. They play past you, they take a look and they use the big arm. … To take a shot at those, you’ve got to hold it a little bit.”
After Winston comes Jacksonville rookie Trevor Lawrence, whose snap-to-pass time of 2.9 seconds ranks 28th. So that’s two home games where the Hawks could get after the quarterbacks a bit more.
That would help them get to 4-4, which is a key for the rest of the season.
Bobby Wagner thinks they can do it: “I’m very confident (that after) these two games and the bye week, we will be sitting in a very good position.”