Pete Carroll feels Jadeveon Clowney, Ziggy Ansah 'coming alive'

RENTON, Wash. -- Jadeveon Clowney beat right tackle Rob Havenstein with an inside move, bulled through Todd Gurley and got a hand on Jared Goff as the Los Angeles Rams quarterback hurried an incomplete pass off his back foot from his own end zone.

"Should've been a sack," Clowney said. "Something good should've came out of that."

To Clowney, his near miss in the Seattle Seahawks' win on Thursday is indicative of how things have gone for a pass rush that has managed just five sacks in the past four games and 10 this season.

"We're getting pressures," he said. "We've just got to finish and get sacks."

To coach Pete Carroll, that same play is indicative of why he thinks Clowney, Ezekiel Ansah & Co. are on the verge of breaking out.

"There was real good activity from Jadeveon for certain, as well as Quinton [Jefferson] was really active too," Carroll said. "Those guys were around the ball a lot. We were so close to three or four sacks. You can just feel it's coming alive. I think just the combination with Zig outside and what's going on inside, I think we're going to be able to work together better."

The return of Jarran Reed next week from a six-game suspension won't hurt either. Reed's 10.5 sacks during his breakout 2018 season were tied for fourth most among defensive tackles.

The production of Clowney and Ansah might be a cautionary tale about expecting too much too soon from players coming off extended absences, though.

Clowney (one sack) leads the Seahawks' defensive linemen and is tied for 20th in the NFL with a 20.9% pass rush win rate. That ESPN metric, which is powered by NFL Next Gen Stats, measures how often a defender beats his block in 2.5 seconds or less. Ansah (one sack in three games) and Rasheem Green (two sacks) are next among Seattle’s defensive linemen, at 11.9% and 11.8%, which both fall outside of the league's top 70. Jefferson (two sacks) is next, at 10.9%.

For context, the players ranked first (Robert Quinn) through 10th (DeMarcus Lawrence) in the NFL have PRWRs between 41.2% and 23.7%.

It wouldn't be fair to call the Seahawks' pass rush a disappointment. After all, it figured that Clowney and Ansah might get off to slow starts, given the circumstances of their offseasons. Clowney stayed away from the Houston Texans amid his contract dispute and didn't practice until he arrived in Seattle the week of the opener. Ansah began practicing late in training camp following shoulder surgery.

Plus, Clowney is responsible for one of the Seahawks' top plays this season: an interception of a Kyler Murray screen pass that he returned 27 yards for a touchdown. He has three tackles for loss and a pair of batted passes at the line of scrimmage.

But the Seahawks' overall sack and pressure numbers are underwhelming. They're 20th overall in PRWR at 42.2%. Their 10 sacks, which include two by linebacker Mychal Kendricks, rank 23rd in the league. Three of the nine teams below them have played four games to Seattle's five.

The Seahawks registered five official hits and zero sacks against Goff on Thursday. Carroll said that was partly due to how they geared up to stop Gurley, which didn't leave their defensive linemen in pass-rush mode as often as they otherwise would be. Clowney believes the lack of familiarity among many of Seattle's defensive linemen has led to their getting in each other's pass-rush lanes, which he thought happened frequently against the Rams.

"That comes over time, playing with the guys around you," he said. "We're still trying to figure it out."

Baker Mayfield, whom the Seahawks will face Sunday in Cleveland, has been sacked 16 times through five games while facing pressure on 32.2% of his dropbacks. Those figures are respectively tied for sixth highest and seventh highest among quarterbacks, according to ESPN charting.

"We'll be able to help those guys more," Carroll said. "I think this was the game I now can see some things that we can do better, and we can utilize our guys a little uniquely for their strengths. They're playing really hard, with really good, consistent effort. ... It's the first time I really could see enough and feel like we've seen these guys out there enough to make some evaluations to make the kind of tweaks and stuff so we can help them out."

Reed's return will mean another player that Clowney, Ansah and defensive tackle Al Woods, another offseason addition, will have to get accustomed to playing alongside. What does Clowney know about Reed?

"I know he had 10 and a half sacks last year. I do know that," Clowney said. "He's a big body on the inside. I know he knows the defense more than I do, so all that plays a big factor, and he can help the defense."