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Clemons picks up where he left off
Chris Clemons is at it again.
And that’s a good thing. The Seahawks’ sack leader the past two seasons got the team’s only sack in Sunday’s season opener against the Cardinals – and it came against a division opponent, and on the road.
The relentless Clemons now has 23 sacks in 33 games since being acquired in a 2010 trade with the Philadelphia Eagles to fill the Leo end spot in coach Pete Carroll’s defense. He has produced a dozen while playing the Seahawks’ NFC West rivals – 6.5 against the St. Louis Rams, five against the Cardinals and half a sack against the San Francisco 49ers.
“Clem really did a nice job, he was very effective,” Carroll said on Monday, when he also lamented Clemons missing a second sack when he separated QB John Skelton from the ball but the play was ruled an incomplete pass.
“His rush and his chase in the running game were really clear and obvious. He drew a couple of penalties and it was great to see him play like that.”
But that also continued two trends. In the past 33 games, Clemons has as many sacks as the other defensive linemen combined – none in the opener this season; 10 last season; 13 in 2010, including nine by Raheem Brock, who was not re-signed when he became an unrestricted free agent this offseason.
That’s why rush-end Bruce Irvin was selected in the first round of April’s NFL Draft and rush-tackle Jason Jones was signed in free agency.
“It certainly picked up,” Carroll said when asked about the new-look pass rush. “The second half, we were on it. I thought Jason Jones was a factor in the second half. … Bruce played solid. Didn’t get to the quarterback, but was around it. We’ll see him continue to get better.”
In Sunday’s home opener against the Dallas Cowboys, the other pass rushers won’t be pursuing only QB Tony Romo; they’ll be chasing Clemons’ lead-by-example efforts.
Clemons’ dogged pursuit of the passer has not escaped the Cowboys.
“I like defensive end Chris Clemons off the edge as a rusher,” football analyst/scout Bryan Broaddus wrote on the team’s website. “He usually plays as the weak-side end, which means he will be over both (left tackle Tyron) Smith and (right tackle Doug) Free. Against the Cardinals, Clemons was more than a handful on their tackles.
“On one play against left tackle D’Anthony Batiste, he exploded to the edge, beat him around the corner and knocked the ball out of John Skelton’s hand for a fumble.”
Or, a non-fumble, as it turned out. But Clemons’ disruptive presence was undeniable.
“Obviously, Clem had the better day,” Carroll said. “He had the best day of that group.”
Again, and again it was in a road game. Of Clemons’ 23 sacks, 18.5 have come in other venues, with just 6.5 at CenturyLink Field. What gives? The din generated by the 12th Man crowd while the opposing offense is on the field is supposed to play to the strengths of the Seahawks’ defense, and Clemons.
“Getting off the ball at home, you can’t hear anything really,” he explained late last season. “That’s not an excuse for me not being able to produce at home as much as I do on the road.
“But teams tend to play us differently at home, with the quick throws and things like that. When they’re at home, they think they have a better opportunity because of the hard counts and because of the snap counts. So they get an opportunity to drop back more.”
Whatever the reason, Clemons is as quick to share the credit for his success as he is off the ball.
“The thing about it is, just keep plugging away and stay focused,” Clemons said. “I wouldn’t have half as many sacks if it wasn’t for these guys up front stopping the run, and then those guys who come in when we go to our nickel package.
“I just give all the credit to those guys.”