Pete Carroll has said it more than once: The Seahawks need to beef up their pass rush. And they need to do it with more than one player.
“We’re always looking for pass rush because it affects everything,” he told John Clayton at the Combine on Feb. 23. “The pass rush has not caught up with the rest of us at this time over the three years we have worked at it.”
With Chris Clemons recovering from a torn ACL, Jason Jones a pending free agent (and also coming off a knee injury) and Alan Branch also unsigned, the Hawks are definitely in the market for D-linemen.
Their only pass rusher is Bruce Irvin, who led all rookies with eight sacks last season but proved he definitely is not ready to play every down. The Hawks plan to bulk him up this offseason, but he is a work in progress and may never become a full-time end.
Carroll admits they need help.
“We need another guy inside,” he told Clayton. “We worked with Jason Jones last year, and he got banged up a little bit. But that’s the right kind of move. We’ve gotta find a guy in the draft here that can help us. We’d love to get a young guy. We really would like to find a guy in the draft if it’s possible.”
Carroll, GM John Schneider and new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn got a chance to see all of the young defensive linemen at the Combine.
Datone Jones is the hot name being linked to Seattle right now. After all, the Hawks need an inside rusher named Jones, right?
Jones has plenty of connections to Seattle. He was recruited by Carroll and Ken Norton when they were at USC and played for former Seahawks coach Jim Mora at UCLA last season.
At 6 feet 4 and 283 pounds, Jones played inside and out for UCLA, and many think he would fit into Seattle’s defense as both a three-technique (pass-rushing tackle) and five-technique (run-stopping end).
Rob Rang picks Jones for Seattle in his latest mock draft: “The 6-4, 280-pound Jones will be viewed by some as a ‘tweener but he might possess the combination of strength, length, burst and passion to aid as an interior pass rusher in Seattle’s hybrid front.”
Here are some other D-tackle options, with scout comments as told to Bob McGinn of the Journal Sentinel:
DT Johnathan Hankins, Ohio State: Rare combination of size (6-3, 320), strength and quickness to be a force against both the run and the pass. Can play 3-technique or 5-tech. Has been compared to Seattle’s own Brandon Mebane. One scout called him a top-20 pick while another said he is overrated.
DT Jesse Williams, Alabama: Started all 13 games as a five-technique DE in 2011, playing defensive tackle on passing downs. The 6-3, 323-pounder moved to NT in 2012. Does not possess the quickness or agility to rush the passer.
DT Kawann Short, Purdue: The 6-3, 308-pounder plays in the backfield — 48 tackles for loss and four blocked kicks in four seasons, 12.5 sacks the last two. Doesn’t always play with focus, but that might be because he was double-teamed so much. “He can whip people when he feels like it,” a scout said. “He’s got a lot of talent and he’s got a lot of lazy in his play. He can rush the passer and play the run.”
DT Sylvester Williams, North Carolina: At 6-3 and 313 pounds, he’s stout enough for NT and quick enough for 3-tech. Main question is consistency. Had 13.5 TFL and six sacks as a senior. “He’s not great at anything but he’s really good at everything,” a scout said. “Really tough. Plays with injuries. He just kind of sits in there and battles and makes plays. He’s not a wow kind of guy. He makes a play or two in every game that means something.”
DT Brandon Williams, Missouri Southern State: At 6-1 and 335, Williams offers versatility. He had 27 sacks in his career and 16.5 TFL last season. A short-burst guy with a smaller lower body, he’s not considered a strong run defender. And competition level somewhat distorts his sack numbers. But if he is there in the third round, he might be worth a pick.
Don’t overlook 5-9 Tavon Austin
We all know the Seahawks are very likely to take a defensive lineman in the first two rounds. They also could use a wide receiver, and the most amazing player at that position in this draft is West Virginia’s Tavon Austin.
Plenty of people point to his slight frame (5-9, 174) and say he is not an option for Seattle because Carroll likes big receivers.
Well, Carroll likes playmakers, too, and size certainly was not a deterrent to the Hawks when they drafted the undersized but dynamic Bruce Irvin and Russell Wilson last year.
Sure, Carroll and Schneider like tall, fast players. Who doesn’t? But what they like even more are guys with unique qualities. And Austin is about as unique as you can get.
He caught 215 passes the past two years for almost 2,500 yards, with 20 touchdowns. He also ran for 643 yards (8.9 per carry) and three scores last season. And he returns kicks — he scored twice and led the nation with 198 all-purpose yards per game last season.
There are so many ways the Hawks could use him.
Of course, after Austin ran a 4.34 40-yard dash at the Combine, he likely cemented a spot in the first round (Rams?), so the decision on him probably will be taken out of Seattle’s hands.
Linebacker in the first round seems unlikely
Those who think the Hawks would jump on Rutgers LB Khaseem Greene in the first round need to take a look at what Schneider and Carroll have done at that position. They simply do not put high value on linebackers: They don’t overpay them and they don’t overdraft them.
They have parted with former starters Lofa Tatupu, Aaron Curry and David Hawthorne over the last two years, replacing them with second-rounder Bobby Wagner and fourth-rounder K.J. Wright.
Wagner played superbly as a rookie, leading the team in tackles while intercepting three passes and getting a couple of sacks. Wright was perhaps hyped a bit too much heading into his second season, but he finished third on the team in tackles.
If the playmaking Greene is there in the second round, the Hawks surely would be very interested. But it’s hard to imagine them taking him at No. 25 — despite their penchant for using first-round picks on second-round talent.
Will Jarvis Jones slide?
Georgia pass rusher Jarvis Jones led the nation in sacks (14.5), tackles for loss (24.5) and forced fumbles (seven) in 2012 and is certainly a top-10 talent. But he could slide because he has spinal stenosis — even though he passed his physical at the Combine.
Would the Seahawks be interested if he dropped to them or within range of a trade-up? He played for Carroll at USC in 2009, but after a neck injury ended his season USC doctors refused to clear him to return in 2010, which is why he transferred to Georgia.
Here’s a look at players recent mock drafts have going to Seattle:
DL Datone Jones, UCLA
Rob Rang, CBS/NFLDraftScout.com; Rob Staton, Seahawks Draft Blog; Derek Stephens, Scouting the Seahawks
All three Seattle-focused draft analysts are leaning toward Jones right now for his potential as an interior rusher.
DE Tank Carradine, Florida State
Dane Brugler, CBS
Brugler thinks the Hawks would not be scared off by the torn ACL that Carradine suffered in November. He had 11 sacks in 12 games in 2012, but that was his only year of D-I ball. Doubtful even Carroll and Schneider would go for an injured flash in the pan in Round 1.
DE Sam Montgomery, LSU
Don Banks, SI
First of all, LSU defenders are annually the most overrated in the country; they often fail miserably in the NFL. Second, Montgomery is a slacker — he admitted to not playing hard in many games at LSU. Third, Rang compares him to former Seahawk first-round bust Lawrence Jackson — and that should tell you all you need to know.
DT Sharrif Floyd, Florida
Gil Brandt, NFL.com
This surely would be Seattle’s dream, but most indications are that Floyd will be gone in the top 10 picks. The Seahawks are intimately familiar with him as he played for new DC Dan Quinn at Florida and was recruited by Carroll. He played DE in 2011, then moved to DT in 2012 and was All-SEC with 46 tackles, including 13 for loss. Good burst and quickness inside. Could play 3-tech and 5-tech. But, even in a best-case scenario, the Hawks would have to move way up (15) to get him.