After his team recorded one sack and two quarterback hits in a Week 5 loss to the Los Angeles Rams, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll called Seattle's pass rush "a work in progress," saying "we have not been as effective" as the Seahawks had hoped to be.
Consider Sunday's win over the Oakland Raiders a sign that the pass rush is indeed making some progress as the Seahawks head into the bye.
One week after having a hard time affecting the quarterback—the only sack recorded against the Rams was actually the result of Jared Goff fumbling while throwing, not him actually getting tackled—Seahawks defensive linemen were a constant nuisance for Derek Carr throughout a dominant 27-3 victory at Wembley Stadium.
Frank Clark led the way with 2.5 sacks, two of which forced fumbles the Seahawks recovered, but plenty of other players got in on the act, either by recording sacks or by causing pressure that adversely affected Carr.
"Everybody was hot, everybody was going," Carroll said. "All the fellas up front. (Jarran) Reed continues to do stuff. (Quinton Jefferson) got in there. I thought Jacob Martin looked particularly quick on coming off the edge, it was great to see him get some pressure. He wasn't always able to get there, but he was part of the problems for them. That really was kind of the story for the day was our ability to rush the passer, and it was great to see those guys get that kind of day."
The Seahawks finished the day with a season-high six sacks—in addition to the players Carroll mentioned, Shamar Stephen and Branden Jackson also got in on the action—and 10 quarterback hits. Clark's two forced fumbles, which were recovered by Reed and Martin, led to 10 Seahawks points, and with Carr rarely having time to throw, the Raiders finished with a season-low 106 net passing yards, more than 200 yards below their average coming into the game (316).
Clark's big game was just the continuation of what has been an outstanding start to the 2018 season for the fourth-year defensive end, who already has a team-leading 5.5 sacks. Clark had that big game despite getting sick in the second half, limiting him to playing 29 of Seattle's 60 defensive snaps.
"Frank Clark had a great game," Carroll said. "Two and a half sacks, two forced fumbles that we recovered, that's enormous. And he got sick in the second half. He couldn't get back out there, he'd have gotten more. He was really playing."
Cornerback Shaquill Griffin raved about Clark's play this season, and pointed out that a strong pass rush made things easy for Seattle's secondary on a day where the Raiders had only one explosive passing play.
"He's one of the best in the world, he continues to show that," Griffin said. "Man, you've got to love a guy who can play like that. It only helps the DBs to get the ball in our hands. He's doing great. That's a Pro-Bowl player, that's an All-Pro player. He's showing it each game, and you've got to love him for that.
And Clark has not only upped his productivity this season, he has also emerged as a leader following an offseason in which Michael Bennett was traded to Philadelphia and Cliff Avril was released with a failed physical designation, the result of a neck injury sustained last season.
"He has taken a leadership role, really reminiscent of some of the guys that were here before," Carroll said. "So almost like he's picked up the mantle and made a statement about that. By the way he works, not so much about what he says, it's about how he works. His message is good too, though. So Frankie's doing great, and I'm really fired up about him."
Added Griffin, "He's taking that leadership role. You can see what he learned from the guys ahead of him, and he's taken on a full leadership role. To see him make plays like that, man it's awesome, and I know he's going to continue to do it."
Clark credits those two defensive ends who moved on this offseason for helping him be ready for his time to shine.
"Sometimes you've got to wait your turn, that's how it is," said Clark. "… They told me, 'They brought you here to take over our jobs,' so at the end of the day, I want to continue to prove to our coaches and my teammates that I'm the man for that job and they don't need to go looking anywhere else."
Clark said the Seahawks were expecting to have success pass-rushing on Sunday, especially with the Raiders beat up at offensive tackle, and noted that the key wasn't just his big game, but everyone getting involved.
"Watching film, I saw a weakness there," Clark said. "One thing I wanted to do was exploit that. I felt like we came up with a solid plan to rush against their front this week. We accumulated six sacks, and I'm thankful for that… As a unit we rushed great together. For success, one thing you've got to do is rush together."