RENTON, WA - It doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand the Seahawks have struggled mightily on defense this season, particularly when it comes to defending opposing passing attacks.
At the root of Seattle's historically bad pass defense which has surrendered nearly 370 yards per game, the narrative hasn't changed for the team's anemic pass rush after producing just 28.0 sacks in 2019. So far through six games, defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr.'s squad has produced just 9.0 sacks, which would put them on pace for just 24.0 sacks in a full season. Further illustrating the Seahawks' ineptitude rushing opposing quarterbacks, they rank near the bottom of the league in pressure rate (19.7 percent) and quarterback hits (33).
Simply put, the Seahawks had to make a move to bolster their pass rush before the November 3 deadline. Acquiring disgruntled defensive end Carlos Dunlap from the Bengals in exchange for center B.J. Finney and a seventh-round pick, they hope the former two-time Pro Bowler will provide the missing piece they desperately needed.
“Carlos has been a very, very consistent player for a long time,” coach Pete Carroll said on Wednesday, telling reporters Dunlap would play the LEO defensive end spot for Seattle. “He’s always been fast, always been athletic. He still moves his feet well and gets off the rock and knows exactly how to play the spot that we want to play him in. Really I was excited to share that with him. He was concerned. He didn’t know how we would play him and all. So that was good for him to hear."
Since losing Bruce Irvin to a torn ACL in Week 2, the Seahawks haven't been able to generate consistent pressure off the edge, yielding just 6.0 combined sacks in the past four games. Starter Benson Mayowa leads the team with 2.0 sacks, but he's only recorded four quarterback hits and has played far more snaps than the team anticipated he would with Irvin sidelined.
As a team, Seattle's pass rushing woes reached a new low point last Sunday in Arizona. While the game plan didn't necessarily help the cause by trying to limit Kyler Murray's ability to get outside the pocket and do damage as a runner, the team failed to produce a single quarterback hit against the elusive quarterback in four quarters and an overtime period, further confirming the team had to do something before the deadline.
"We're really excited about the transaction, cannot wait to get him here," Norton Jr. said on the addition of Dunlap. "We need as much pass rush as we can get right now so the quarterback doesn't have that extra time to uncover the coverage."
Now, Mayowa and other defensive ends shouldn't have to bear such a large workload with the arrival of Dunlap, who has been one of the league's most consistent all-around defensive ends for close to a decade. Dating back to 2013, the former Florida standout has amassed 62.5 sacks, 181 quarterback hits, 51 passes defensed, 82 tackles for loss, and 16 forced fumbles.
During that span, Dunlap racked up at least 7.5 sacks in all seven seasons, including 9.0 sacks in 2019, which would have been more than double the team lead for the Seahawks. This season, however, he has only produced one sack and four quarterback hits as the Bengals started to phase him out of game plans in a different defensive scheme that didn't fit his skill set quite as well.
"Hungry" for a fresh start after seeing a diminished role and playing just 12 snaps in his final game as a Bengal, the 11-year veteran can't wait to get started and contribute for his new team.
“I’m not going to lie, I’m nervous as hell but I’m excited as f*** too,” Dunlap said in an Instagram video. “It’s all up from here. It’s all up from here. Let’s go. I get to play. Above all, I get to play!”
Due to COVID-19 testing protocols, though Dunlap was expected to arrive in Seattle on Wednesday night, he won't be able to make his debut against the 49ers on Sunday. He will need to pass five tests in a six-day period before being allowed in the facility, preventing him from getting any practice time in this week.
But as long as everything goes smoothly and he doesn't have any positive tests, Dunlap should be able to start practicing next week, positioning him to suit up against the Bills in Week 9. Now that he's out of a bad situation in Cincinnati, Carroll and the Seahawks will be counting on him to rediscover his 2019 form and instantly help fix the team's most glaring weakness heading into the second half of the season.
“He’s really excited about being part of our program and getting him in here. He’s been a stellar dude for a long time in that program and whatever happened happened, but it’s a fresh start for him here.”