October 27, 2013 in Sports

Efficiency from rotation

Hawks D-line finds success as a unit
Todd Dybas Tacoma News Tribune
 
Associated Press photo

Seattle Seahawks DL Cliff Avril was one of eight players used on the defensive line last week.
(Full-size photo)

Monday night

Seahawks at Rams

Kickoff: 5:30 p.m. (ESPN)

Records: Seattle (6-1, 3-1 away), St. Louis (3-4, 2-1 home). Line: SEA by 11; O/U: 42 1/2

Synopsis: With QB Sam Bradford (knee) now out for the season, STL turns to journeyman Kellen Clemens, who has won only four of his 12 NFL starts. The Rams already were 30th in offense in Bradford’s starts, now Clemens must face the league’s second-ranked “D”. SEA averages 154.4 rushing yards a game, No. 2 in the NFL. The Rams are 30th against the run. All this adds up to is bad news for the home team. Pick: SEA 27-13

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

RENTON, Wash. – The Seattle Seahawks’ defensive line is running a system based on spreading the wealth, which is making the entire team rich.

Most teams would be envious of Seattle’s defensive rotation that appears as if it’s set up to play an up-tempo offense, but instead is facing around 60 snaps.

Offseason acquisitions Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett are thriving in the pace. Like most of the Seahawks’ defensive line, they are playing less, yet, with equal or more effect than they had with previous teams.

Avril, in particular, has had his snap count reduced. Against the Indianapolis Colts he was on the field for 58 percent of the snaps. Against the Arizona Cardinals, he played 49 percent. He’s used to 80 percent from his time with the Detroit Lions.

“I think it’s good to have a lot of guys,” Avril said. “It’s better than being the only rusher.”

Avril had a career-high 11 sacks in 2011 and 9.5 more last season while with Detroit. Those pass-rushing numbers are why the Seahawks signed him to a two-year, $13 million contract in the offseason.

He won’t come close to those sack numbers this year because he is playing on a defensive line that is more about efficiency than gaudy individual totals. Through six games he has three sacks.

“I’m getting used to it,” Avril said. “It’s a change for everybody on the D-line. I understand why. We’re doing well, so what’s to complain about?”

Few others in the league use the same approach as the Seahawks. Of the top five defenses according to Football Outsiders advanced stats, only one other defense, the Carolina Panthers, uses a similar approach.

The Kansas City Chiefs, ranked second behind the Seahawks, used just five players on the defensive line in their 3-4 scheme during a win against the Houston Texans last week. Nose tackle Dontari Poe played 100 percent of the snaps.

The Seahawks, by contrast, used eight players who are listed as members of the defensive line last week against Arizona. There is a caveat to note, however: included in that is Bruce Irvin, who is a linebacker that often lines up at an end spot.

“I just know you need to have rushers at the end of the game to be able to finish,” Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said. “The fresher they are the better they can play.”

Avril and others are feeling that way midseason. They are also thinking about snap accumulation in a positive light for once.

Avril would approach 1,000 snaps per season with the Lions. He’ll be closer to 500 by the end of this regular season if the Seahawks maintain this approach.

The Seahawks aren’t just rotating players that are similar. They are able to go with big packages on early downs with Red Bryant, Tony McDaniel, Clinton McDonald and Brandon Mebane.

On third downs, they can shift to a straight-speed look, with Chris Clemons, Michael Bennett, Avril and Irvin.

“That’s not the norm,” Bryant said. “Most fronts play longer. But, it’s just a testament to the depth we have. It might not always be that way, but right now it’s perfect.”

Harvin won’t play

Percy Harvin’s debut will have to wait at least another week.

The receiver won’t play against the Rams on Monday night, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. Harvin practiced this week for the first time since having hip surgery to repair a torn labrum in early August.

“We worked him hard, then we rested him,” Carroll said. “We’ll continue to do that until his conditioning is caught up and he’s ready to go.”

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