For all the attention given to the Percy Harvin trade, Michael Bennett might be Seattle’s best acquisition this year.
And keeping him for future seasons will be a crucial priority for continued success.
Greg Bedard at MMQB.si.com has tallied together the most effective pass rushers in the NFL through four weeks.
Bennett is at #1, ahead of Aldon Smith and current sack-leaders Justin Houston and Robert Mathis. He’s at #1 despite missing most of the Houston game through injury.
According to Bedard’s stats, Bennett has drawn 12 quarterback hurries, hit the passer six times and registered 2.5 sacks. This production has come from just 102 snaps. In comparison, Houston’s sacks for Kansas City have come from 26 more plays. His partner Tamba Hali has taken 150 snaps so far.
Simply put, Bennett is making the most of his time on the field.
We don’t really need a graph and a bunch of statistics to determine Bennett is playing well. He jumps off the screen. He’s consistently dominating. Despite the re-introduction of Cliff Avril and Chris Clemons, he’s still taking snaps at the LEO and mixing in some interior rushes on third down. Bennett’s looked effective rushing all angles and he’s opened up the defense to even more creative looks.
The Seahawks have been crying out for a guy who can just create havoc from multiple positions on the d-line. Heck, they’ve been crying out for someone not named Chris Clemons to come to the party. They struck gold getting Bennett to Seattle.
Now they have to keep him.
It’s almost certain that Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas will receive new contracts at the end of the year. For me, Bennett has to be an equal priority. He’s not one of the original guys, but already he’s become too important to lose. Barring an injury setback (and they dodged a bullet last week) or dramatic loss of form, he should be considered one of Seattle’s keepers.
Sure, he’s on a prove-it deal similar to Avril. Yet this isn’t a one-year wonder we’re talking about. Bennett’s been playing at or around this level ever since he was cut by the Seahawks as a rookie.
Michael Bennett is without doubt one of the stars in Seattle’s defense. As vital as Bobby Wagner, Sherman and Thomas.
They have to keep him. Even if it means having to cut a few of the other well paid veterans to get there. If you can keep Sherman, Thomas and Bennett by cutting Brandon Mebane, Sidney Rice and maybe even Clemons or Avril — it’s something you simply have to consider.
There are going to be some really tough decisions to make for this front office over the next couple of years. But it’s a good sign when you’re worrying about who to keep.
Bedard also discussed how the offensive lines rank. It’s no big surprise to see Seattle at #31. It’s not just the loss of Russell Okung, Max Unger and Breno Giacomini. You’ve also moved your starting left guard to tackle. Only J.R. Sweezy remains in his intended position at this stage and they’re starting a 7th round rookie at right tackle.
They’ve also faced three of the best pass rushing teams in the league — Carolina, Houston (both on the road) and San Francisco. According to Bedard, the Texans are the #1 pass rushing unit in the league (no surprise — they’re well coached with stud players). The 49ers are ranked at #4 with Carolina at #7.
Even the Jaguars are just below average at #22.
All things considered you could argue it’s a shocker that Seattle has managed to avoid being ranked as the worst performing offensive line in the league (that honour goes to Philadelphia).
The point is, I wouldn’t panic too much about this unit. Not yet, anyway. We wouldn’t declare Seattle’s passing game in crisis if Russell Wilson missed two weeks. Neither would we criticise the secondary too much if two members of the Legion of Boom got injured and it led to a noticeable drop in performance.
In fact there are trends within Bedard’s line rankings. Houston are also struggling (#28) and are also missing their starting left tackle. The Eagles and Seattle both use mobile, scrambling quarterbacks — that’ll naturally lead to more sacks. On the other hand, traditional quick-fire passing teams like Denver (#1), Detroit (#2) and San Diego (#4) all rank well. This despite the fact the Broncos are missing Ryan Clady and nobody would call the offensive lines in Detroit or San Diego ‘elite’.
Peyton Manning, Matt Stafford and Philip Rivers are drop-back-and-throw passers. The Seahawks aren’t playing it that way. You’re not going to see any of that trio running for big gains, avoiding pressure and sprinting for key first downs like we saw on Sunday.
They’ll also concede less sacks. That’s just the way it is.
I suspect Seattle will nearly always be ranked near the bottom of this list. It’s all part of being “the best scrambling team in the league” (Pete Carroll’s words).
That doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement. I’m just pointing out there’s also room for perspective.