Seahawks Offseason Position Breakdown: Defensive Line

Between stopping the run and rushing the passer, Seattle had one of the NFL's most productive defensive lines in 2016, and the position should continue to be a strength going forward.

With the 2016 NFL season now in the books, and the 2017 league year not yet upon us, now is a good time to take a look at where things stand with the Seahawks roster. Over the next two weeks, we'll take a position-by-position look at the Seahawks, both looking back at the 2016 season and looking ahead to 2017. Today, the focus is on the defensive line.

2016 Recap

Seattle's defensive line, combined with stellar play from the linebackers, gave Seattle one of the best front sevens in football. Cliff Avril earned Pro-Bowl honors for the first time in his nine-year career, recording a career-best 11.5 sacks, while Michael Bennett also earned Pro-Bowl recognition for his disruptive play both on the edge and as an interior rusher, though he did miss five games due to a knee injury. Defensive tackles Ahtyba Rubin, Tony McDaniel and rookie Jarran Reed teamed up to give the Seahawks one of the best run defenses in the league, while defensive end Frank Clark took a big step forward in his second season, recording 10.0 sacks, a very encouraging sign for the 2015 second-round pick.

"We should have played him more (in 2015)," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "He was very productive and he's more disciplined now, he's playing the scheme better and he's just playing more. He's a fantastic player. He's so explosive and his effort is so uniquely consistent, he really gives it up every play. He makes things happen." 

With Cassius Marsh also playing a bigger role, and a handful of other players rotating in at tackle, the Seahawks had as deep of a line rotation as they have had in several years.   

Notable Number: 3.4

Seahawks opponents averaged just 3.4 yards per rushing attempt in 2016, the lowest total in the NFL. Combine that with their 42.0 sacks, their highest total since recording 44.0 in the Super Bowl-winning 2013 season, and it was a very good season for the defensive line.

Offseason Outlook

The Seahawks got a head start on their offseason work before the year ended, signing Bennett to a multi-year extension, but there are still a few things to sort out. Most notably, McDaniel, a starter for much of the year, is a free agent, so the Seahawks need to determine if they want to bring the veteran back after he became a surprisingly big contributor after signing late in training camp. Playing stingy run defense is a critical component of a Carroll-coached defense, so if McDaniel isn't re-signed, the Seahawks will likely try to find a run-stuffing tackle either in the draft or free agency, the latter avenue of player acquisition having worked out particularly well for Seattle when it comes to adding veteran defensive linemen.

And as much as the Seahawks like what they have in pass-rushers like Bennett, Avril, and Clark, Carroll always likes to point out that a team can never have enough pass-rush depth, so expect Seattle to try to find difference makers there, whether that means an edge rusher or an interior lineman who can bring pressure on passing downs.

What The Future Holds

As solid as Reed was in his rookie season, Clark's Year 2 development is a good reminder that the second-round pick out of Alabama could be considerably better in 2017. And speaking of Clark, there's no reason to think he won't continue to grow, giving Seattle what should be a formidable pass rush in 2017 and beyond. As they, Marsh, and perhaps other young players develop and complement Avril, Bennett, and Rubin, Seattle's defensive line should continue to be one of the team's strengths in 2017.


The best photos from the Seahawks' sideline from the 2016 NFL season.

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