The true NFL off-season is almost upon us. Those of us who have effectively hibernated during this soul-sucking lockout can be excused if we feel the need to reacquaint ourselves with what exactly the 2010 Seahawks were. This is the second in a series of articles examining that team, and the implications for the imminent 2011 off-season.
Chris Clemons and Raheem Brock had a combined 6.5 sacks in 2009. They exploded for 20 sacks--11.0 for Clemons and 9.0 for Brock--in 2010. Brock added two more in the playoffs and Clemons added one. Their production warranted a deeper look in an earlier blog post.They were the sixth-most prolific sack pair in the NFL last season, and were responsible for more than half of the team's 37 sacks. That was a 32% increase in sacks from the previous year.
Gus Bradley and the coaching staff had to scramble after a variety of critical injuries to the defensive line. They were forced to find creative ways to generate a pass rush, and decided to play more snaps with two "rush" ends in Brock and Clemons. This led to fewer snaps for Aaron Curry, and attempts to slide him inside to the tackle position on passing downs. It is unclear whether the coaching staff will want to try and replicate the scheme used with Brock and Clemons. The most likely scenario is that they will attempt to regain the dominance they achieved in the first six games by running an under front with big Red Bryant at one end for most downs. Stopping the run is key to any defense, and they were 2nd-best in the NFL at doing that when the line was healthy and they ran that scheme.
Clemons is under contract and the team used it's fourth-round pick on KJ Wright, who is projected as a part-time LEO back-up behind Clemons. It would be a mild surprise to the see the front office dish out top dollar for a free agent rush defensive end. Those guys command a lot of money, and the defense would not appear to have a lot of room for that. Remember, six of Brock's nine sacks came in the last five weeks of the season. He was having trouble getting on the field until the injuries forced the coaches to try new things. Bringing Brock back would make sense to the Seahawks, but Brock could easily have priced himself out of their budget with his performance.
Expecting Clemons to be a one-man pass rush attack won't cut it this year. The defense is at its best when they are jamming up the run game and leaving teams in longer passing situations on 3rd down. This allowed for the emergence of things like the Bandit package where three safeties would be on the field and the team would regularly send various defensive backs in five and six man blitzes.
Few things are more satisfying for fans than seeing the opposing quarterback slammed into the turf. The Seahawks had a promising 2010 in that category, and need to at least maintain that success heading into 2011.