One thing we've heard a lot about this year -- and not always in shining terms -- is the Seahawks' defensive line. The Hawks consistently fail to get pressure when it matters, and have not been good enough against the run. Now, anyone who has actually watched the Seahawks knows the latter statement is a little bit inaccurate. The Seahawks run defense is probably the strongest single factor on either side of the ball this year. There were two enormous runs given up to Frank Gore which have thrown things into a bit of disarray. In general, the Seahawks have been solid against the run and will allow one or two 10-25 yard runs a game. I can live with that.
So, how good or bad is the defensive line? I thought I'd take a look at the Football Outsiders DL stats to give me some perspective. I was surprised. They have five basic DL stat segments, I'll go through each of them briefly...
Adjusted Line Yards: This is a complicated stat, but basically it is a way of adjusting for length of run on any given down and distance, weighted by significance, and adjusted for the quality of opponent. The Seahawks rank [dun dunna dunnnn] 11th in the league! Not bad at all. More surprising is that they rank 3rd in the NFC West behind both Arizona (8th) and San Francisco (7th).
Power Running Success: This measures the defense's success against "power run situations." In other words, 3rd or 4th down with 2 or fewer yards to go. The stat measures the percent of these plays that a first down or touchdown was achieved. The Seahawks rank 3rd in the league in power running situations, with opponents succeeding only 54% of the time. Teams ahead of the Hawks are Minnesota (39%) and Washington (50%), The Cardinals rank 5th, Rams rank 19th, and the 49ers rank 29th.
Stuffs: This is any running play where the ballcarrier is tackled at or behind the line of scrimmage. Simple enough! The Seahawks are 8th in the league for stuffs, with 22% of all running plays ending at or behind the line. In other words, the Hawks give up 0 or negative yards almost as often as they give up 10+ yards... That's probably not a great stat to have, even if it sounds kind of good on the face of things.
So, on the whole, the Seahawks defensive line is really not too bad. They need to add a sure-fire pass rush via a good-to-great defensive end. They need to fix whatever it is that creates these long runs -- better safety play and a healthy Mebane are key there. They need to continue to improve on their consistency across the board. But this is not a bad defensive line, and this gels with what we've been saying on here for awhile: This is a talented defense, they just aren't good at football right now. That can be fixed in one offseason with a few key roles filled. The offense will take more than that, but if they can perform at an average level and the defense can approach elite play, we should contend in 2010, at least for the NFC West.
Photograph copyright Seahawks.com