The Seahawks defensive line was possibly its worst in the Pete Carroll era. Seattle is facing some imminent changes. But this is possibly a good thing.
The Seahawks defense is predicated on the front four getting pressure on the quarterback. The line also has to eat space and have the linebackers clean up opponent running backs. For the most part in 2017, none of this worked to Seattle’s standards.
Cliff Avril was lost to injury mid-year, but Frank Clark was too inconsistent to really take his place. Sheldon Richardson was pretty good. But he was a one-year rental and probably won’t be returning. Michael Bennett led the team in tackles-for-loss but he’s only getting older.
Interior lineman like Jarran Reed and Naz Jones were good but not nearly good enough. And Jones did show a lot of potential but missed the last five games with an injury.
To start with, Clark has to make much more of an impact every single week. There is no question that he has the physical tools to be a very good defensive end. And at times, he was. His strip sack of Jared Goff after zipping around left tackle Andrew Whitworth is a thing few players can do. But in weeks 10 and 11, Clark did not record a tackle. In weeks 14 and 15, he combined for two. This is not good enough for a player whose snaps increased greatly after Avril went down.
Next season, Clark needs to have at least 12 sacks. He is definitely capable of it.
Bennett did lead the team in tackles-for-loss. But in weeks 13 through 17, Bennett had just one tackle each in four of the last five games. Maybe he was just tired after playing so many snaps. Plus, Bennett has hinted that he thinks he might not be back with the Seahawks. Hopefully he is, but he will also be 33 years old in November.
Richardson was traded for in the preseason and graded as the 27th best interior lineman this season, according to Pro Football Focus. He was very good. Too good for Seattle to re-sign most likely. Unless, of course, Avril makes an early offseason decision to retire. And Bennett doesn’t come back for some reason.
Dion Jordan was a late-season positive. He had four sacks in five games. Finally healthy, Seattle could bring him back with the expectation that he plays a much larger role moving forward.
Jarran Reed and Nazair Jones are good young players. But more is expected of Reed. And while he was very good at times this year, he has yet to prove he can be among the best in the NFL at defensive tackle. And Seattle needs him to be in the future.
Jones showed great athleticism. He could become an All Pro player. But he needs to stay healthy and improve in run support in year two.
Then there is Malik McDowell. McDowell, the second round pick in 2017, did not play a down. He was a risk to take anyway. McDowell had some off the field and maturity issues, but John Schneider thought he was worth a shot with Seattle’s highest draft choice. In year one, anyway, he didn’t work out.
The question, of course, is will McDowell ever play? Seattle hasn’t been forthcoming on what exactly happened when McDowell got hurt in ATV accident. Plus, McDowell got in trouble in Atlanta in December at a bar. Maturity issues? Check. Off the field issues? Check again.