Dan Quinn’s last season with the Seahawks was Chris Clemons’ first season with the club.
It was 2010, when Quinn was a holdover from Jim Mora’s staff after Pete Carroll was hired as the head coach and handled the defensive line that season; and Clemons was acquired in a March trade with the Philadelphia Eagles to play the hybrid “Leo” end spot in Carroll’s defense.
Quinn spent the past two seasons as the defensive coordinator at the University of Florida, but has returned to the Seahawks in that capacity after Gus Bradley was hired in January to be the head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
In his video review of the Seahawks’ highly successful 2012 season, Quinn has seen the same attributes that Clemons displayed in that first season together – a combination of speed and relentlessness that has allowed Clemons to produce 11, 11 and 11.5 sacks in his three seasons with the team.
“Really, to his credit, you see the same speed, the same effort, the same relentlessness that makes Chris the type of player that he is,” Quinn said this week, when he was in his office at Virginia Mason Athletic Center preparing for the start of training camp next week.
“You’re not surprised when you watch that after you get to know Chris. From a warrior mindset, he has that.”
Just when that warrior mindset will be back on the field remains to be seen as Clemons continues his rehab from surgery to repair the ligament and meniscus he tore in his left knee during the wild-card playoff game against the Washington Redskins in January.
Clemons is ahead of schedule in his recovery, and determined to return ASAP.
“The doctor says he is in great shape, he’s ahead and all of that. He’s worked diligently to get there,” Carroll told reporters during the team’s minicamp in June. “You guys ask if he’s going to make it by the first game. I don’t know that. But he has a chance. And if it can happen, he’ll make it happen.
“Like I said the whole time, we’ll not rush that. We’ll take our time the whole time on that and make sure he’s right. The doctors are greatly confident and he is also, and we’ll start playing him whenever that happens.”
For the second consecutive offseason, the club made moves aimed at improving the pass rush on a defense that allowed the fewest points in the NFL last season while ranking a franchise-best No. 4 in average yards allowed. Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett were signed in free agency, after producing 9.5 and nine sacks last season for the Detroit Lions and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The tackle tandem of Jordan Hill and Jesse Williams were added in the NFL Draft.
But as Clemons has shown the past three seasons, he remains a vital part of getting to the opposing quarterback.
“Chris has all the dimensions that we’re looking for in that spot – a guy who can play on his feet, can play down, can drop into coverage and the No. 1 thing is the ability to rush and get off the ball,” Quinn said of Clemons’ skill set being such a good match for the position he plays. “So, yeah, he’s been terrific.”
It’s just that Clemons’ relentless and productive efforts continue to go unnoticed by some. NFL.com recently ranked the top edge rushers in the league. They included 38 players in five categories – best of the best (seven), next level (four), knocking on the door in two groups (nine and five) and just missed (13).
Chris Clemons did not appear on the list, in any category.
“I don’t know why that is. Sometimes that’s just an oversight on their part,” Quinn said. “Because Chris is a handful. Our coaches know that, and so do his teammates.”
Do they ever. As defensive end Red Bryant said last season, “Clem is a phenomenal end. Clem will make you raise your standard of play because you know what you’re going to get out of the guy. He plays the game the way it’s supposed to be played. And when you’re playing with a guy like that, you want to hold up your end.”