A Sunday rush hour, or three

Posted Nov 2, 2012

When the Seahawks host the Vikings on Sunday to kick off the second half of their season, two of the best pass-rushers in the NFL will be on display in Seattle’s Chris Clemons and Minnesota’s Jared Allen.


Of all the characteristics that make Chris Clemons and Jared Allen among the best pass-rushers in the NFL, it is this shared – and special – trait that sets them apart. It’s also the common thread that runs through these two in the minds of those who know them best.

“The biggest thing I take away from him is that Jared just comes all the time,” said Darrell Bevell, the Seahawks’ offensive coordinator the past season and a half after spending five seasons in the same capacity for the Minnesota Vikings. “He finishes every play. He’s really a hard-working guy and he’s going to finish. He’s just relentless.”

For the tie-that-binds take on Clemons, Vikings coach Leslie Frazier offered, “I’m impressed with what he does. That game he had against Green Bay and what he’s done in his career, he’s a primer pass-rusher and he’s a guy that we’ll have to account for in every situation. He does a very good job of rushing the passer – great length, his quickness, his speed. He’s an excellent pass rusher. He’s just relentless.”

The relentlessly relentless efforts of the Seahawks’ Clemons and the Vikings’ Allen will be on display at CenturyLink Field on Sunday when the teams kick off the second half of their seasons.


Sunday’s game between the Seahawks and Vikings will feature two of the top sack producers in the NFL this season, and over the past 2½ seasons, in Chris Clemons and Jared Allen. Here’s where they rank among the league leader since 2010, when the Seahawks acquired Clemons in a trade with the Eagles:

Player, TeamSacks
LB DeMarcus Ware, Cowboys 42.5
DE Jared Allen, Vikings                     40
DE Jason Babin, Titans/Eagles         33
LB Tamba Hali, Chiefs                       30.5
DE Cameron Wake, Dolphins           30
DE John Abraham, Falcons               29.5
DE Chris Clemons, Seahawks           29
LB Clay Matthews, Packers              28.5
DE Jason Pierre-Paul, Giants            26.5
LB Terrell Suggs, Ravens                    26

For the third time in as many seasons with the Seahawks, Clemons leads the team in sacks with seven – including his league record-tying four in the second quarter of the Week 3 win over the Green Bay Packers at CenturyLink. He has posted 11 sacks in each of the past two seasons after being acquired in a 2010 trade with the Philadelphia Eagles to fill the “Leo” end spot in coach Pete Carroll’s defense.

Allen also has seven sacks, after leading the NFL with 22 last season. In his four seasons with the Vikings, after being acquired in a trade with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2008, Allen has produced 14.5, 14.5, 11 and 22 sacks.

“They’re definitely two great players, and it’s going to be a great matchup,” said tackle Frank Omiyale, who’s in his first season with the Seahawks after playing the past three with the Chicago Bears – when he faced Allen twice a year and also matched up against Clemons twice in 2010.

“Clem knows what he does best and Jared knows what he does best, and that’s what you see on film and then on game day. And, they’re both relentless.”

The ability of Clemons and his fellow rushers – rookie end Bruce Irvin (4.5 sacks), nose tackle Brandon Mebane (three) and rush-tackle Jason Jones (2.5) – to get to, or at least pressure, second-year quarterback Christian Ponder will go a long way in determining whether the Seahawks remain unbeaten at home.

“It really comes down to Clem has maintained his speed, and that’s really helped him as a speed-rusher,” Carroll said. “He has good arm length and he uses it well. At 250-something pounds and running as fast as he is, and having the quickness and the natural athleticism that he has, he’s a terrific all-around athlete. He uses all of those elements to be effective.” 

The ability of the Seahawks to run their record to 4-0 at home also will hinge of the ability of left tackle Russell Okung – and at times fullback Michael Robinson and tight ends Zach Miller and Anthony McCoy – to keep Allen from disrupting the Seahawks’ work-in-progress passing game under rookie QB Russell Wilson.

“Jared Allen, he’s a war daddy,” Carroll said. “He can do it all. He does it physically. He does it with quickness. He does it with finesse. He’s a rare football player.”

Clemons and Allen also have something else in common. Each is 30-something, but still productive at an age when some edge-rushers start to lose their edge. Each chalks it up to experience, maturity and, with Clemons, opportunity.

“Mentally, you learn to rush smarter,” Allen said. “Sometimes when you’re younger, you’re just guessing. So you try to make fundamental, sound judgments as you get older – try to pick up on tendencies to see if you can get a jump.

“But I’ve always been a leverage/technique guy. So I’m never going to get away from the basis of what I do. I believe in hips, hands and feet. And out-leveraging and outworking my guy, and taking advantage of the one-on-one (blocks) when I get them.”

As the 30-year-old Allen views it, it’s a necessity. “I swear, they keep putting these young 20-year olds in front of me,” he said with a laugh. “I’ve got to try to use some savvy vet moves to get a jump on them early.

“That’s really how I’d say I’ve changed as I got older is just my mental game is continuing to progress – figuring out ways how I can use my strengths to someone else’s weaknesses.”

Clemons, who turned 31 on Tuesday, concurs. “It comes with repetition,” he said. “Am I a different pass rusher now? Yeah, and it comes with film study and different guys around you who are rushing with you. There are a lot of different things that come with it.”

One of the biggest differences between the Chris Clemons who has 29 sacks in 2½ seasons with the Seahawks and the Chris Clemons who had 20 in his first five NFL seasons is opportunity.

He was a situational pass rusher with the Washington Redskins (2004-05), Oakland Raiders (2007) and Eagles (2008-09), but Clemons has been an every-down player who specializes in pressuring the passer with the Seahawks.

“For the most part, it’s opportunity. He didn’t get the same chance he got here to play as much,” said Carroll, pointing out that Clemons has played 900-plus snaps since joining the Seahawks. “He got an opportunity and he’s taken advantage of it.”

What’s the difference? “Now I get into the flow of the game real early,” Clemons said. “So I’m more comfortable rushing.”

But just as relentless.