Preseason Preview – Defensive Line

Defensive Line

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Last season the Seahawks continued their run in the Carroll / Schneider era of having a top notch defense, and the pressure generated by the D-Line plays a big role in that. However, Bennett and Avril had to play a lot of snaps in order to make that happen and I’d bet that is something the team is looking to address. Now consider that O’Brien Schofeild took his 341 snaps at DE to Atlanta. Add to that the fact that over 800 snaps at DT left the team with Tony McDaniel and Kevin Williams and suddenly a need for bodies emerges as a big issue for Seattle.

Defensive Ends

With Schofield taking his production to Atlanta in search of a bigger role on Dan Quinn’s new team, the Seahawks need to find at least 2 more players they trust to get a couple hundred snaps this season at DE. Thankfully, in Bennett and Avril the Seahawks have Pro Bowl quality DE’s to take the bulk of the snaps in the rotation. This preseason I am hoping to see players like Cassius Marsh and Gregg Scruggs to stay healthy so they can really show what they have in this battle.

Michael Bennett

Snaps

Total

Tackles

Sacks

QB

Hurries

Forced Fumbles

Recovered Fumbles

Penalties

Committed

851

38

7

53

1

0

14

Michael Bennett is a great football player. People might see his 7 sacks and think he was good but not great, but his 53 hurries led the league among 4-3 DE’s. He is a versatile player, a disruptive force when rushing the passer, and still makes plays against the run. A pass rusher who can play every down and situation like Bennett gives a coaching staff more to work with, and allows a lot of different personnel packages and playsets to work.

Bennett is a lock for a starting job, and there is no reason to think he will be anything but one of the best 4-3 Ends in the NFL. Just be sure to tune in and enjoy seeing him play every Sunday.

Cliff Avril

Snaps

Total

Tackles

Sacks

QB

Hurries

Forced Fumbles

Recovered Fumbles

Penalties

Committed

736

23

5

46

1

1

5

So Michael Bennett lead all 4-3 Ends in QB Hurries with 53 in 851 snaps. Avril finished 3rd with 46 Hurries in 736 snaps. These two players generate a ton of pressure, which allows Seattle to remain in the bottom 10 in the NFL in blitz percentage and the top 10 in the NFL in pass rushing. Avril applies enough pressure to make any blitzes that do happen be effective (#2 in the NFL in blitz efficiency) and keep defenses from being able to slide focus over to Michael Bennett.

Avril is as much of a lock as Bennett to have a starting job at DE this year. He is an absolute stud. With his slightly smaller stature he has shown himself to be a bit of a below average player against the run, but he is by no means a liability.

Cassius Marsh

Snaps

Total

Tackles

Sacks

QB

Hurries

Forced Fumbles

Recovered Fumbles

Penalties

Committed

71

5

0

0

0

0

0

Cassius Marsh is a player I was very excited about last year, but a broken foot in Week 6 took him out for the season. Last year he was playing in a shifting role that mirrored Michael Bennett as he moved along the exterior and interior of the line. In his limited snaps his pass rushing skills weren’t all there, but with his size and long arms he showed a strong ability to shut down the run.

This year the Seahawks seem intent on using Marsh more in a Cliff Avril type role where he is a pure edge rusher. Having a player this strong and rangy against the run on the edge is a big assett for this team, and word from coaches is that in training camp Marsh has shown some explosiveness that will make him a dangerous edge rusher. Whether he gets the role as primarily an edge rusher or as an inside/outside guy, I look forward to seeing him get several hundred snaps this year and really make an impact. Keep your eye on him this preseason, I imagine he will be out to impress.

Demarcus Dobbs

Snaps

Total

Tackles

Sacks

QB

Hurries

Forced Fumbles

Recovered Fumbles

Penalties

Committed

118

16

0

1

0

0

0

Demarcus Dobbs was picked up off waivers halfway through last year, then was banged up for the last few weeks of the year, and finally finished the season playing significant snaps in the playoffs. Overall he was adequate, not making a hug impact in any area but quietly playing solid snaps all season.

Dobbs has the size (6’2″, 282) to play at DE or DT, which makes him a type of player that Seattle values. He saw snaps inside and outside last year, but until pressed into greater service by injury those snaps were limited to a dozen or so per game. I don’t see Dobbs’ role expanding a lot more this year, but he does provide depth along the entirety of the line and is the exact type of player that allows for a deep rotation on the line.

Gregg Scruggs

Snaps

Total

Tackles

Sacks

QB

Hurries

Forced Fumbles

Recovered Fumbles

Penalties

Committed

68

2

0

4

0

0

0

After missing the 2013 Season due to injury, Scruggs played 3 games last year before landing on the IR again. In 3 seasons since being drafted. Scruggs has been on the IR for more games than he has played in, which is a sad turn for a late round pick who has worked very hard and shown himself to be a capable player on the team.

If Scruggs can stay healthy, look for him to be another player who sees time at both DE and DT. He is likely to see more of his time at DT as he hasn’t shown much pass rushing ability, but he would still be a fresh body who plays well and can rotate in and out. To be fair, with all the injuries we still don’t quite know what we have in Scruggs, so it is possible he could play himself into a bigger role.

Frank Clark

As I noted in my write up from the draft, Frank Clark comes with a lot of baggage in terms of character and being a decent human being. I am still not sure how to feel about this player being on my favorite team, but he is a player who is likely to see the field a lot.

Clark mirrors Michael Bennett’s size at 6’3 and 272 pounds, and the coaching staff seems to see him filling the same role. He was a good pass rusher and could hold his own against the run at Michigan, so his skill set seems to lend itself to the role of outside pass rusher that can move inside on passing downs.

Obum Gwacham

Gwacham converted from Wide Receiver to Defensive End in his last year at Oregon State, so he is still pretty raw at the position. That being said, he is very athletic and has a lot of tools he brings to the table. I think there would be a temptation to put him on the practice squad, but it really feels like he would be scooped up by a team that can hide him easier on their roster. If he does make the team it will be important for him to hit the weights hard to gain the strength he came into the league lacking.

Defensive Tackles

Losing Brandon Mebane in Week 10 last year was a big problem for the Seattle Defense, and that was with Tony McDaniel and Kevin Williams on board. Now with the two veterans departed, Mebane represents the only sure thing on the interior of the Seahawks’ line. Players like Michael Bennett, Cassius Marsh, Demarcus Dobbs, Gregg Scruggs, and Frank Clark will see some time here this season, but they will likely play primarily on the outside. Seattle needs Jordan Hill to show last year’s flashes were signs of a bright future, and others step up to make a 4 or more man rotation.

Brandon Mebane

Snaps

Total

Tackles

Sacks

QB

Hurries

Forced Fumbles

Recovered Fumbles

Penalties

Committed

289

20

1

7

0

0

2

Mebane may have been hurt last year, but we still know what to expect from him. Brandon will occasionally get a bit of pressure, but what he does best is stuff the run. When he was healthy in 2013 he was a top 10 run stuffer at DT, and there isn’t really a reason to think that’ll drop off at all.

Mebane won’t be out there for every snap, he likely comes out in obvious passing downs, but if he is healthy you will see him playing a lot again this year. Look for something in the area of 500-600 snaps this year.

Jordan Hill

Snaps

Total

Tackles

Sacks

QB

Hurries

Forced Fumbles

Recovered Fumbles

Penalties

Committed

366

19

5.5

10

0

3

1

Jordan Hill proved last year that he deserves a spot on the roster as a pass rushing DT. Injuries robbed Hill of a lot of his 2013 rookie year, but he came on strong last year before hurting himself just before the playoffs. All 5.5 of his sacks occurred from Week 12 on, so clearly his production was picking up as his experience grew.

This year Jordan Hill has set a role of turning himself into more of an every down DT, and seeing as he wasn’t horrible against the run it feels very possible. Regardless of if he becomes strong against the run or merely mediocre against the run, he will see the field a lot this year and could turn some heads. He provides a great contrast to Mebane with that interior pressure he creates.

Ahtyba Rubin

Snaps

Total

Tackles

Sacks

QB

Hurries

Forced Fumbles

Recovered Fumbles

Penalties

Committed

457

28

1

5

0

0

1

Rubin’s career has been a bit up and down with Cleveland, but last year was his worst in the last three seasons and all the coaching turnover makes you wonder if there were some fit issues at times. What does appear to be the case is that he can hold his own in a 4-3 against the run, but won’t often produce much as a pass rusher.

Rubin offers the type of bulky run stuffer the Seahawks need if they are going to let Brandon Mebane catch his breath without getting gashed by runningbacks. Rubin is very likely to make the team and will catch a few hundred snaps this year giving Mebane a rest.

David King

Snaps

Total

Tackles

Sacks

QB

Hurries

Forced Fumbles

Recovered Fumbles

Penalties

Committed

20

1

1

1

0

0

0

David King was signed off the Bengals’ practice squad late last year when Seattle was hurting for bodies on the defensive line. He barely saw the field, but he wasn’t falling all over himself or doing anything to damage his chances to stay in the NFL.

King is a bit of a fringe player to make it, not because he is bad but because he is a depth type player who is facing off against a lot of other people for that last roster spot. He would be a possible practice squad guy if he doesn’t make it.

Jesse Williams

After drafting Williams in the 5th round in 2013, Williams has spent his entire 2 year career on IR with knee injuries. Add a battle with cancer in the offseason, and just getting some time in the preseason is something of a victory for him.

However, with his size (6’3, 325) and strength he really has a chance to get snaps on the interior backing up Mebane and possibly pushing Rubin. At this point though, a healthy season would be a big win for Williams.

TY McGill

Though on the shorter side for a DT (right about 6′), McGill is very athletic and moves his 300 pounds well. He seems like he might be a bit of a project, but if he made enough progress in the offseason he has the abilities necessary to make the team.

McGill is in a fight with players like King, Smith, Staten, and the rest of the bottom half of this list for a roster spot. The advantage for TY is that his ceiling appears to be high and if he is playing as well as the others now he is a better bet to make the team based on future progress.

D’Anthony Smith

Smith has spent about half of his career on the IR in Jacksonville, and is something of a long shot to make the roster. He has the size (6’2, 300) to play in either interior line spot, but his ability to make an impact is a question mark right now. Preseason will be big for Smith, as this may be his last crack at an NFL roster. He could be a player that makes it onto the practice squad.

Jimmy Staten

Staten was a 5th round pick a year ago coming out of Middle Tennessee State. He is another very big body (6’3″, 311) who is fighting for time with Jesse Williams and Ahtyna Rubin. His size and strength mean he could fit in as a run stuffing interior player, but if he doesn’t have a strong showing in the preseason he is most likely going to be cut.

Julius Warmsley

Warmsley is a DE/DT who spent time on the practice squad last year after being picked up as a UDFA out of Tulane. At about 275 pounds he doesn’t have the bulk of a lot of the other interior guys, but Seattle has a history of giving a shot to practice squad guys and he will be given his chance. Look for him in the second half of preseason games, though he also could be one of the early cuts.

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