Ken Norton Jr.: Persistence Led to Resurgence of Seahawks' Pass Rush

While Seattle's pass rush struggled mightily to perform effectively through the first six games of the season, the team has been able to turn things around recently and that success should be credited to the defense's ability to attack opposing quarterbacks in several different ways.
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Despite a troubling first-half performance, the Seahawks defense has finally started creating consistent pressure in the backfield in recent weeks, which is a major reason why they’ve been able to enjoy so much success over their last six quarters of action.

Though the Seahawks were able to win their first five games of the season without receiving reliable support from the pass rush, the team’s luck ran out against the Cardinals in Week 7, as quarterback Kyler Murray didn’t face any pressure and led his team to a comeback victory in overtime. While the organization is just 2-2 since that NFC West rivalry showdown, they’ve been able to generate significantly more havoc in the backfield, producing 16.0 sacks over the last four games.

Considering how ineffective the defense performed earlier in the season, Seattle's coaching staff has to be extremely encouraged by this recent surge and there’s no question they’ll be looking for this strong showing to continue through the final six games of the regular season. Citing the adjustments he’s been focused on, defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. explained how it’s been crucial for everyone to remain persistent and continue finding new ways to apply pressure on opposing signal callers.

“You’ve got to find different ways to get to the quarterback,” Norton Jr. discussed. “Whether it’s blitzing, whether it’s coming off one edge, whether it’s pressure zones, whether it’s finding weak points in the offensive line - different ways you can get to the quarterback.”

“So it’s a matter of coming together and being able to put pressure on the quarterback in different ways, getting home, and winning the one-on-one blocks.”

Since the defense has been riddled with injuries so far this season, it seems a lack of chemistry might have played a major factor in their inability to consistently break free in the pass rush. But with players like Jamal Adams, Rasheem Green, and Benson Mayowa now healthy once again, they should be able to correct those issues moving forward if everyone stays on the field.

Along with key players returning to the lineup, acquiring defensive end Carlos Dunlap has also made a massive impact on the pass rush, as he’s been able to provide a much-needed spark to this squad. Even though he’s only been apart of this team for just three games, Norton Jr. admitted he’s been blown away by the 31-year old’s performance and also discussed how the former Bengal has helped significantly improve his new teammates.

“I mean just having him on the field, a guy that everyone knows could change the game,” Norton Jr. explained “You saw at the end of the Arizona game, just one play, just makes a big difference when you have a guy that can step up and make a play when you need it.”

“So it allows everybody to take chances, allows everybody to really be confident and not feel like they have to cover the guy for the entire five, six, seven seconds during the play.”

As a result of the defense’s recent surge, the Seahawks have produced 106 quarterback pressures, 63 quarterback hits, 47 quarterback hurries, 34 quarterback knockdowns, 25.0 sacks, along with a 21.6 percent pressure rate.

Among all 32 teams in the league, the Seahawks are currently sitting with the third-most quarterback pressures, the fourth-most quarterback hurries, are tied with the fifth-most quarterback knockdowns, are tied with the sixth-most sacks, the eighth-most quarterback hits, and they’re tied for the 13th-highest pressure rate, according to Pro-Football-Reference.com.

Preparing for a Week 12 primetime matchup against the Eagles, the Seahawks will need to find a way to carry this recent success into this showdown or quarterback Carson Wentz will probably feast against their defense. Looking to make the 6-foot-5 signal caller uncomfortable through all four quarters, Norton Jr. mentioned how important it’ll be for everyone to complete their assignments and keep him off balance throughout the entire game.

“Our guys got to show up, our guys got to really put it together and make it our strength,” Norton Jr. detailed. “We’re really excited about this challenge that we have.”