Seahawks' top defensive linemen taking more snaps
RENTON, Wash. (AP) When Michael Bennett decided to sign with Seattle during the 2013 offseason, part of the attraction was the idea that he'd no longer be asked to play nearly every down and wouldn't be worn out by the end of the season.
Last season, that's almost exactly how it played out for Bennett and the rest of Seattle's defensive line. This season, not so much.
Bennett, Cliff Avril and the rest of Seattle's front four have seen their snap counts increase significantly this season and especially in the past three weeks. The rotation Seattle used with such effectiveness in its run to the Super Bowl has been reduced.
''That's just how it is,'' Bennett said. ''It doesn't bother me. I'm just moving around a lot and trying to make as many plays as I can. I was telling somebody the other day, on this team, statistically you will never be at the top of any position like you want. You won't have the most interceptions, you won't have the most tackles, and you'll just be on a really good defense that will play for each other. I think that's what is so special about this team.''
Seattle is on a run of defensive success that has been rare in the NFL in recent seasons. The Seahawks have allowed just 507 total yards in the past three games, fourth-fewest since 2006. But with those lockdown performances against Arizona, San Francisco and Philadelphia has come an increased workload for Bennett, Avril and others.
Bennett played 98 percent of the defensive snaps against Arizona, 81 percent against San Francisco and 93 percent against the Eagles. Bruce Irvin played every snap against both Arizona and San Francisco before playing 30 of 46 against the Eagles. Avril has played at least 75 percent of the snaps in each of the last three games.
''Down the stretch we're just playing the games. Whatever we need in the rotations we're going with,'' Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. ''There is no pitch-count here with these guys. We have rotations in mind but we only had 46 plays last week so we were fortunate in that sense. Nobody was overplayed there.''
Last season, no Seattle defensive lineman played more than 60.6 percent of his possible defensive snaps, according to STATS. Bennett was in on 57.4 percent of the defensive plays. Avril was in for 56 percent of the snaps.
So why the dramatic increase this season?
Much of it is related to Seattle's depth. Chris Clemons, who led Seattle's defensive linemen in percentage of snaps last season, is now in Jacksonville. So is defensive end Red Bryant, while pass rush defensive tackle Clinton McDonald went to Tampa Bay.
The other factor is injuries. Seattle had high hopes for what rookie Cassius Marsh and third-year defensive lineman Greg Scruggs could add to the rotation up front, only to see both end up on injured reserve. Brandon Mebane's torn hamstring that ended his season also created more disruption on the line.
''Each week it depends a little bit,'' Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said. ''I think we know sometimes we're at our best when we're able to get more guys but if we have to play Mike and Cliff more for us to do that, they're prepared to do that as well.''
NOTES: C Max Unger (ankle/knee) was limited in practice Friday and is likely still a week away. He is doubtful for Sunday. ... TE Cooper Helfet (ankle) is questionable after missing the last two games.