RENTON, Wash. — Lamar Jackson took a shotgun snap, immediately rolled to his left and slipped to the ground as he tried to cut back. Seattle Seahawks defensive end Branden Jackson dropped him right as the Baltimore Ravens quarterback sprung back up — a full five seconds after he had taken the shotgun snap.
It was the only official hit the Seahawks got on Lamar Jackson and represented their only sack in Sunday’s 30-16 loss. It was their first sack since Week 4 at Arizona, meaning the Seahawks might have been shut out in that department for 12 straight quarters had it not been for Jackson losing his footing on the wet CenturyLink Field turf. They only have 11 sacks in seven games.
So much for Pete Carroll’s prediction a couple weeks ago that the Seahawks’ pass rush was on the verge of a breakthrough. Not even the return of Jarran Reed from a six-game suspension could turn things around Sunday against Baltimore.
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“That number isn’t going in the right direction,” Carroll said of the Seahawks’ lackluster sack total. ” … There were like two plays in the passing game and the rest of it was really well done by our guys making plays and disrupting. We pressured a number of times and got good disruption out of it. We found a way into chasing the quarterback when we pressured. OK, we got him out of the pocket. We broke him down and knocked him out of the spot. That wasn’t the best thing that can happen, but you needed to do it. You’ve got to go after him and change the rhythm.
“Again, I think this is something you guys are going to worry about a lot more than I am, really. We’d love to get more sacks. We’d love to have more hits on the quarterback whenever because that gives us the ball for the most part. We just want to keep battling away.”
Reed was tied for fourth among defensive tackles last season with 10.5 sacks despite a pass rush win rate of only 9.7%. That ESPN metric, which is powered by NFL Next Gen Stats, measures how often a defender beats his block in 2.5 seconds or less. Reed’s absence forced the Seahawks to use Al Woods and Poona Ford in pass-rushing situations, which is not either player’s strength.
Carroll was impressed with the shape Reed kept himself in while serving his suspension. It allowed him to play 85% of the Seahawks’ defensive snaps Sunday (50 of 59). That was the highest percentage among their defensive linemen and higher than Reed’s 78% from last season.
But even with Reed, the best defenses are going to have a hard time bringing down Lamar Jackson, as elusive as he is. Branden Jackson likened that task postgame to “playing Madden against Michael Vick.” That’s why the Seahawks’ priority was to keep him contained, which impacted how aggressive they could be in their pass rushes.
“We tried to stay in our rush lanes,” Jadeveon Clowney said. “We didn’t just go off of what the lineman was giving us … Push the pocket and try to close it in like a book on him, and he just kept sliding up out of there.”
Only six teams have fewer sacks than the Seahawks’ 11. Four of them have played six games to Seattle’s seven.
The Seahawks are 24th with a 24% pressure rate, which measures the percentage of opponent dropbacks on which the quarterback was sacked, hit or under duress. For context, the top 10 range from 33.5% to 29.1%. Seattle is 20th in PRWR at 41.4%. The top 10 range from 60.2% to 47.4%.
Clowney owns the league’s 16th-best PRWR at 21.3% but only has one sack to show for it. No other Seahawk ranks higher than Quinton Jefferson, who is 71st at 10%. Jefferson, Rasheem Green, Jackson and linebacker Mychal Kendricks share the team lead in sacks with two apiece.
It hasn’t helped that Ziggy Ansah has missed three games, including the Ravens loss, with an ankle injury that has his status for Sunday’s game at Atlanta in question. Ansah missing most of the offseason following shoulder surgery and Clowney arriving a week before the opener has forced them to get used to the Seattle system on the fly. Now they’ll have to get used to playing with Reed.
Reed could use a strong season as he heads toward unrestricted free agency — if the Seahawks even let him get there — with only nine games left on his rookie contract. And the Seahawks could use a season like his last one to boost their lagging pass rush.
“I think now, if we’re going to get better, it’s going to happen in the next couple weeks,” Carroll said. “I think the fact that J-Reed is back out there should make a difference. He played real hard and came out of the game healthy and all that. Being his first game in a month and a half, he’ll get better and help us.”