Closing in on the November 3 trade deadline, despite holding a 5-1 record and sitting atop the NFC West, the Seahawks ranked near the bottom of the NFL in sacks and quarterback pressure rate. They had just lost a heartbreaking 37-34 overtime contest to the Cardinals in which they produced zero hits on Kyler Murray.
Injuries certainly played a role in those continued struggles chasing down opposing quarterbacks such as Murray. Veteran Bruce Irvin suffered a season-ending ACL tear in Week 2, while second-round pick Darrell Taylor remained on the Non-Football Injury list recovering from offseason leg surgery, leaving the team short-handed and lacking explosive athletes at defensive end.
As the loss in Arizona further illustrated, general manager John Schneider knew he needed to make a move, but he had limited draft capital at his disposal. After all, Seattle had already dealt a first and third-round pick for 2021 to the New York Jets to land Jamal Adams in July, leaving the team with just five picks total.
Luckily, halfway across the country, disgruntled veteran Carlos Dunlap was ready to force his way out of Cincinnati. Losing playing time to younger players in a defensive scheme that didn't cater well to his strengths, he put his house up for sale, telling the rest of the league to put in a call for his services.
Schneider never leaves a stone unturned, and as he did one year prior landing Quandre Diggs from the Lions, the Seahawks were able to get Dunlap without further mortgaging their future. The renowned executive flipped a seventh-round pick and backup center B.J. Finney to the Bengals to land the two-time Pro Bowler, hoping he could be the answer to the team's pass rushing woes.
One month later, Dunlap already has staked a claim as potentially the best trade acquisition Schneider has made in 11 years at the helm, at least in terms of value given up and positional need. Through three games, he's produced 3.5 sacks and seven quarterback hits, while Seattle's defense as a whole has exploded with 13.0 sacks during that span, rocketing up to 12th among NFL teams with 25.0 sacks on the season.
It's been one heck of a turnaround, at least from a pass rushing perspective. With Dunlap and the front line turning up the heat on quarterbacks, the rest of the defense has started to play better as well, as exhibited by the Seahawks enacting a bit of revenge with a 28-21 win over the Cardinals and limiting their opponent to a season-low 314 total yards.
"He's having the time of his life," coach Pete Carroll said in regard to Dunlap's quick start in Seattle. "He is having a blast and he's been upbeat and spirited and having fun with it."
There's no question the rest of Seattle's defense has responded favorably to Dunlap's energy since his arrival. Now with three games under his belt, he's fully comfortable with the team's scheme and the results have shown on the field, providing a spark for a maligned defense that suddenly has found its groove.
What's been the key to Dunlap's successful start with his new team? Let's check out the tape as I review the veteran defender's play defending the run and rushing the passer in an extensive film study from his first three games as a Seahawk.