The Seahawks’ defense turned up the heat in Sunday afternoon’s “mock game” at Husky Stadium, registering six sacks and providing hope for improving on last season’s pass rush.
How to generate a better pass rush?
That question has been Pete Carroll’s constant companion since he signed on to coach the Seahawks in January. As a coach who built his career – and reputation – on the defensive side of the ball, Carroll certainly wasn’t going to stand for a pass rush that registered 28 sacks last year, and generated only one in the four-game losing streak to close the 200
If the performance of the defense in Sunday afternoon’s “mock game” at Husky Stadium can be used as an early barometer, Carroll and his defensive staff might have more than one answer to that irritating situation.
The defense came up with six sacks in the 65-play session, and forced the quarterbacks to scramble from the pocket on three other snaps. The defenders are not allowed to actually sack the QB, but the plays were whistled dead because the pressure was there.
The flip side, of course, is that those sacks and that pressure came against the Seahawks’ offensive line.
“I kind of like it one way and I don’t like it the other way,” Carroll said with a slight smile. “So we’ll see what the film looks like.”
While Carroll the head coach might cringe during the video review, Carroll the former defensive coordinator should like the images of defensive end Chris Clemons, defensive tackle Craig Terrill, rookie rush-end Dexter Davis and rush-ends Nick Reed and Ricky Foley getting to the passer.
“It’s something that we’ve clearly been working on all training camp,” defensive line coach Dan Quinn said. “We’ve got a long way to go in that area as we aim toward improving, but I’m happy with the direction we’re heading.”
Which is: Getting after the QB.
“It’s good,” said Charlie Whitehurst, who ran the No. 1 offense because starting QB Matt Hasselbeck was resting a sore hamstring. “Sometimes these types of settings, you’re going to get a pass rush. And it’s good – for quarterbacks, for offensive linemen.
“It’s good to see, because in games they’re going to start hitting you. So I hope we can rush the passer, and I hope we can protect, also.”
That the defense generated the six sacks was good. That they came from five different players was even better. Davis had two of his own and split a third with Foley. Terrill, Clemons and Reed each had one.
And they didn’t come in one rush-crazed frenzy.
Terrill got his against Whitehurst on the fourth play of the “mock game.” Next up was Clemons, who was obtained a March trade with the Philadelphia Eagles to play the “Leo” end in the base defense as well as the nickel that is used in passing situations. His came against J.P. Losman on a third-and-7 play in the second series.
After a bit of drought, Davis and Foley got sandwich pressure on Losman and then, two plays later, Davis got a solo sack on a fourth-down play. On the second snap of the next series, Reed got past left tackle Ray Willis in getting to Whitehurst. Two series later, and on the eight play of that series, it was Davis again – this time beating right tackle Sean Locklear on third-and-4 to get to Whitehurst.
“A lot of times on team that have good pass-rush ability and the ability to affect the QB, it’s going to come from linebackers and down linemen and a number of people,” Quinn said. “That’s how we’re going to keep approaching it.”
Sunday’s onslaught came with second-year linebacker Aaron Currywatching from the sideline as he recovers from lingering headaches he has been having after a collision in the second practice of training camp. Using Curry as a rush-end in the nickel is very much in the plans.
With Curry out, it gave Davis a chance to shine in that role. The seventh-round draft choice was a rush-specialist at Arizona State, where he collected 31 sacks in 50 career starts. The Seahawks have moved him to strong-side linebacker in the base defense, but he hasn’t forgotten how to pressure the QB from the edge – and a three-point stance.
“It’s something I’m comfort with,” Davis said of making things uncomfortable for the quarterback. “The coaches are just trying to find a way to utilize it. So any time I get a chance to show off my skills, I’ve got to make the most of it.”
It was only a “mock game,” and just nine days into camp at that. But it definitely was a leap in the right direction for Davis and the other pass-rushers.
“It will be fun the next few weeks to see how we can put it together,” Quinn said.