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Pete Carroll looking for pass-rushers, again
INDIANAPOLIS – Pete Carroll has a need for speed. Again. Still.
For the second consecutive year, the Seahawks' coach is at the NFL Scouting Combine looking for players to improve the pass rush on a defense that ranked No. 4 in the league in average yards allowed and topped the NFL in fewest points allowed during the 2012 season – but tied for 21st in sacks.
Last year, the same need for a speed pass-rusher led the Seahawks to Bruce Irvin, who led all rookies with eight sacks after being the 15th pick overall in the NFL Draft. But despite teaming Irvin with sack-leader Chris Clemons on the edges of a nickel line used in passing situations, the Seahawks produced only three more sacks last season (36) than they did in 2011.
Factor in the fact that Clemons is recovering from surgery to repair the ligament he tore in his left knee during the wild-card playoff victory over the Washington Redskins and the redundancy of Carroll's quest is more than understandable.
Carroll has said he'd actually like to add a couple of pass-rushers this offseason – just as he did last year, when rush-tackle Jason Jones was added in free agency to join Irvin and Clemons, a Pro Bowl alternate last season who has produced 33.5 sacks in his first three seasons with the Seahawks. Jones, however, signed a one-year contract so he's scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent next month.
There are players in this draft class who could scratch Carroll's lingering itch for a more productive pass rush. But it's a matter of which pass-rushers might be available when the Seahawks made the 25th pick in the first round on April 25, and whether they match Carroll's desire for players with unique characteristics – in this case, length, size, speed and athleticism that can be used in a disruptive and productive fashion.
"We've got a long ways to go on figuring this out," Carroll said on Friday. "There are some speed guys, a half dozen guys that are the big, long, fast guys that we have to sort out. And right now we're just kind of figuring out who they are. But there are some guys that are interesting and exciting."
Players like Texas end Alex Okafor, a 6-foot-4½, 264-pounder who uses his hands well and parlayed that into 12.5 sacks last season; LSU's Sam Montgomery, a 6-5, 263-pounder who has the kind of motor Carroll likes and used that to register 17 sacks the past two seasons; and UCLA's Datone Jones, a 6-3½, 283-pounder who has more bulk than Clemons (254 pounds) or Irvin (248), generated 6.5 sacks last season at end, but also could slide to three-technique tackle spot Jones filled in the nickel.
Two others to keep an eye on are Florida State's Cornellius Carradine, a 6-4, 265-pounder who had 11 sacks last season before tearing his right anterior cruciate ligament and missing the final two games; and SMU's Marcus Hunt, a 6-8, 277-pounder who had eight sacks last season.
The disclaimer to this speculation of course is the track record of Carroll and general manager John Schneider in their first three drafts together – when their M.O. has been to expect the unexpected. In 2010, they selected left tackle Russell Okung and free safety Earl Thomas in the first round, and they've developed in Pro Bowl players. But in 2011, the choice with the 25th pick overall was offensive lineman James Carpenter, who has been limited to 16 starts in his first two seasons because of injuries. Last year, the selection of Irvin with the 15th pick was widely questioned at the time – and continues to be even after he led all rookies in sacks.
What kind of player and person will the Seahawks be getting if they do decide to draft one of these prospects from this year's draft class? We decided to let the four linemen who made stops in the media center on Saturday provide the answer.
Okafor: "As a person, they'll get a high-character guy, a professional, somebody that's accountable and responsible. As a player, they'll get somebody that going to come in and make an immediate impact right off the jump. I'm going to make some noise right off the bat and hopefully play some meaningful minutes."
Montgomery: "I feel they're getting a player that's going to go to the end of the way with them, who'll battle to the end. A player who no matter what happens is going to be a team player. A player who will go do anything – linebacker, defensive end – and be a diverse player on the field and off the field. Set a good example for the program."
Jones: "They're getting a guy who plays with maniacal effort who wants to be the best – the best guy out there. That's what they're getting. I don't care if DeMarcus Ware is on the team, or whoever. I want to be the best player. I'm not saying I'm better than those guys, but I want to be the best on the team. A guy who wants to make every play possible. Not get greedy and jump out of my gap, but I want to be that guy. I want to be the best. When you talk about NFL football, I want you guys to talk about Datone Jones."
Carradine: "They're going to get a great person. They're going to get a guy that's passionate about football and loves the game of football. And a person that's a team player, cares about his team and loves to win. Just a great guy overall. As a player, they're going to get a guy that's got a motor, a guy that's physical against the run and disruptive against the pass. A guy that's just all over the field and an impact guy that you want on your team."
The one certainty in this repeated exercise for the Seahawks is Carroll's desire to improve the pass rush.
"We need to improve our guys, we need another pass-rusher, we really do," was Carroll's assessment of the situation during his season-ending session with the media last month. "So we just have to keep working at it and try to get it better.
"If we're not able to find a guy that can spark our pass rush, or a couple of guys, then we have to scheme it at times. … We'll look and we'll see what we can find and what we can figure out on that."
The examination process has begun, with the Seahawks conducing player interviews this week and the defensive linemen scheduled to workout at Lucas Oil Stadium on Monday.