Seahawks' Defensive Line Flexes Muscles in Season-Opening Romp

While only one game, against an offensive line featuring Quenton Nelson and Ryan Kelly, Seattle's deep, versatile defensive line showed out and lived up to lofty expectations in a commanding 28-16 win over Indianapolis.
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Making an early statement against one of the AFC's most talented teams, the Seahawks went into Indianapolis and left Lucas Oil Stadium with a resounding 28-16 victory over the Colts to open the season in the win column.

As expected, Russell Wilson and Seattle's high-powered offense drew much of the acclaim after the game, as the star quarterback threw four touchdown passes and posted the second-best passer rating in a game in his career. New coordinator Shane Waldron couldn't have asked for a better debut of his scheme with seven different receivers getting into the act and Chris Carson adding 91 rushing yards on the ground.

While Wilson, Carson, Waldron, and company deserve the praise they have received, however, a dominant outing by the Seahawks deep, talented defensive line proved to be just as critical to the team's success on Sunday.

Playing an integral role in limiting Indianapolis to only 16 points and 336 total yards, all nine of Seattle's defensive linemen who dressed made significant contributions against the run and the pass. Constantly rotating bodies in and out of the lineup to keep everyone fresh, coach Pete Carroll called the group "a little bit of a Rolodex" on his weekly show on ESPN 710.

“I thought [defensive line coach Clint Hurtt] did a really nice job managing that. Only one time did we have to sprint a guy on late,” Carroll said. “We do have a variety of guys, and what I think I saw yesterday was what we’ve been seeing all throughout camp and some of the preseason games, that there’s a variety of guys and a variety of styles and variety of players we can go to.”

Leading the way, Rasheem Green's preseason renaissance carried over into Week 1. Seeing more action playing off the edge, a move the Seahawks decided to make during training camp searching for a role for him, the versatile defender played 53 total snaps against the Colts and wreaked havoc in a plethora of ways.

After Indianapolis scored a field goal on its first possession, Green helped force a three-and-out on the ensuing drive when he powered inside past left tackle Julie'n Davenport. With a straight line to the quarterback and teammates Carlos Dunlap and Bryan Mone closing in on Carson Wentz, he corralled him for the sack to bring out the punt team.

Creating problems for the home team throughout the game off the edge and reduced inside, Green finished with three tackles, two swatted passes, a sack, three pressures, and two quarterback hits. Coming into his own after injuries and inconsistently plagued him in his first three seasons, Carroll said he was "on fire" and heaped praise on the 24-year old defender.

“We moved his position and changed him and he’s totally taken to it,” Carroll said of Green's ascent. “He gets a lot more edge play and he just looks like a terror. I’m just so excited to see it. We forget how young he is. He’s still just a young kid and he’s growing at it and man is he coming to life.”

Putting their impressive depth on display, Green was far from the only defensive lineman to leave his mark on Sunday's contest. Playing in his first NFL regular season game, Darrell Taylor produced a trio of quarterback pressures on only 12 rush attempts. He turned in one of Seattle's signature plays of the day when he bull rushed right tackle Braden Smith to the turf and blew up Wentz for a fourth down sack to leave Indianapolis empty handed at the 10-minute mark in the fourth quarter.

Away from Green and Taylor, Benson Mayowa produced the Seahawks third sack on Wentz, coming free off the edge with multiple blockers picking up Taylor on a stunt. He had four total pressures and also brought down Colts star running back Jonathan Taylor for a three-yard loss in the first half and finished with a pair of quarterback hits and two tackles for loss. Fellow veterans Carlos Dunlap and Kerry Hyder added two quarterback hits and four pressures, with Dunlap producing a "sack" on Wentz to thwart a two-point conversion attempt.

In addition, second-year edge rusher Alton Robinson made the most of his 12 defensive snaps, creating pressure on three of his five pass rushes for an impressive 60 percent pressure rate. He also produced two tackles as a run defender on just seven snaps, continuing to be extremely productive with his limited opportunities.

“Alton Robinson did some nice stuff late in the game," Carroll reflected on ESPN 710. "He didn’t get as much play time as I wish he could have got.”

While Seattle's quintet of edge rushers racked up pressures in bunches and made several key run stops, the team also received invaluable contributions from the interior defensive line as well.

Playing the best game of his young career, third-year defensive tackle Bryan Mone registered a personal-best five tackles, including three consecutive stops on Taylor to help shut down a promising drive for the Colts in the third quarter. He unexpectedly gave the opposition fits as a pass rusher too, generating three quarterback pressures and delivering a massive hit on Wentz after powering past center Ryan Kelly to force an incompletion.

Despite briefly leaving with a back injury, starter Poona Ford also got into the act with two pressures and a quarterback hit, while Al Woods held serve in the trenches.

"Mone did a great job today," Carroll told reporters after the game. "I heard he had five tackles and he had a tackle for loss and he was causing problems the whole time. You know, Bobby [Wagner] had 13 tackles, but we kind of expect Bobby to have 13 tackles, but for Bryan to have a game like that to get us started and I know Al [Woods] played well too. Those two big guys did a great job, so that’s great for Bryan.”

As Carroll noted on Monday afternoon, all nine players performing well provides the Seahawks with a good problem. The rotation has yet to be established and with former first-round pick L.J. Collier already being a healthy scratch on Sunday due to a numbers game, trying to split up reps amongst the group will continue to be a test for the coaching staff.

But after years of struggling to consistently produce a quality pass rush with their front four, the organization won't complain about such a "dilemma." As evidenced by their relentless harassing of Wentz in the opener, a diverse, deep group up front finally gives Seattle the firepower necessary to turn up the heat on quarterbacks week in and week out, which should pay huge dividends in the rugged NFC West.