Seahawks Should Kick Tires on Jabaal Sheard
Through the first three weeks of the season, as expected, the Seahawks have had their issues applying pressure on opposing quarterbacks. This has been particularly problematic when it comes to the team's front four, as the defensive line has accounted for just a trio of sacks so far, and the season-ending knee injury suffered by Bruce Irvin only made the situation worse.
This has forced Seattle to be more aggressive blitzing than in prior seasons, with Jamal Adams leading the team with 2.0 sacks and five quarterback hits. While this has always been a strength for the star safety, the fact he's already blitzed 31 times in three games further illustrates the lack of faith the coaching staff has in the front line being able to generate a pass rush on their own.
There have been glimpses of pass rushing competence from Seattle's defensive ends and tackles. Late in last week's victory over Dallas, Shaquem Griffin and Benson Mayowa got hits on Dak Prescott, while rookie Alton Robinson produced his first career sack at a crucial time, setting up a game-winning interception by Ryan Neal on the very next play. Earlier in the contest, Jarran Reed strip-sacked Prescott and L.J. Collier had a quarterback hit as well.
There have been far too many plays where the front line hasn't been able to do anything, however, allowing quarterbacks such as Prescott and Matt Ryan to carve up a struggling secondary at will. Somehow, Seattle has to bolster its pass rush with a quality veteran, but they lack the draft capital to swing a trade for a player like Washington's Ryan Kerrigan or Cincinnati's Carlos Dunlap.
Instead of further mortgaging the future by dealing away draft picks, the Seahawks should be wasting no time getting former Patriots and Colts standout Jabaal Sheard to the VMAC.
Sheard, 31, recently was scheduled to visit with Detroit, which presented the opportunity for him to be reunited with coach Matt Patricia, his defensive coordinator in two seasons in New England. But to this point, he hasn't signed a contract and remains the best overall free agent available at the defensive end position.
At 6-foot-3, 265 pounds, Sheard has prior experience playing as a 3-4 outside linebacker as well as a 4-3 defensive end. He offers the size and athleticism to move around the defensive line and though he's never been an elite pass rusher in terms of sacks, he's more than serviceable in that capacity and impacts games in other ways.
Per Pro Football Focus, Sheard has generated at least 30 quarterback pressures in each of his nine NFL seasons and exceeded 60 pressures three times, including in 2017 and 2018 with the Colts. While he hasn't surpassed 5.0 sacks in a season since 2015, he's been very consistent, registering at least 4.5 sacks in all but one season since entering the league and hitting double digit quarterback hits four of the past five years.
When it comes to creating turnovers and pass deflections, Sheard has excelled in both areas, forcing 13 fumbles and racking up 27 passes defensed. He's also been disruptive getting into the backfield with 71 career tackles for loss and has been a reliable run defender throughout his career.
Given his age and the fact he hasn't played this year, Seattle wouldn't need Sheard to come in and play 80 percent of the snaps on defense. But he could instantly jump into a rotational role at either defensive end spot, providing a bit of a boost to the team's edge rush while not being a liability defending the run either.
Assuming Sheard doesn't sign with the Lions, general manager John Schneider should be working the phones to get the ball rolling on his COVID-19 testing and bring the veteran in for a workout. If all goes well, the Seahawks should fast-track signing him before facing the Vikings in Week 5.