By Brady Henderson
The Seahawks defense entered this season with a revamped pass rush intent on improving upon the 33 sacks Seattle collected last season.
So far, so good.
And while drafting Bruce Irvin 15th overall and signing Jason Jones to a one-year deal stood as the most significant additions to Seattle's defensive line, it's the steady veteran of that group, Chris Clemons, who is again leading the way.
Clemons collected a career-high four sacks in Monday's win over Green Bay. He now has five this season, putting him on pace to reach double digits for the third consecutive season.
Not many would have imagined that back in 2009 when Clemons, a former undrafted free agent, was a part-time player on his third different team in five seasons.
"Really and truly, nobody else really gave me that opportunity," Clemons told "The Kevin Calabro Show" on Tuesday. "When I first got here, coach [Pete Carroll] told me that I had an opportunity to start. Everyone wanted me to rush on third down not thinking that I could play against the run for some strange reason. So when I got here coach Carroll told me, 'You've got a chance to start.' So my thing was take advantage of the opportunity that I had."
Before the 2010 season, the Seahawks acquired Clemons and a fourth-round pick from the Eagles in exchange for Darryl Tapp, a move that has proved to be one of the most significant made by Carroll and general manager John Schneider.
Clemons, 30, posted consecutive 11-sack seasons in 2010 and 2011 – his 22 sacks were the eighth-most among pass rushers in that span – while playing the LEO, a position unique to Seattle's defense. After averaging 50 tackles and not missing a game in either of those two seasons despite a serious ankle injury, Clemons held out during the offseason feeling that he deserved a new deal. He ultimately got one – even though he had a year remaining on his old deal – and so far that decision looks like a wise one.
Clemons has a forced fumble and five sacks, the third-most in the league through three games. On Monday he tied an NFL record with four first-half sacks.
"I don't know how a guy gets four sacks in one half," Carroll said after the game.
Clemons has an idea.
"We knew going into the week. I told Bruce that ... I knew they would bring the chip to my side and I told him that he had to start off fast. That's exactly what he did; the first series he ended up with a sack and after that I knew that they'd have to start changing their protections and they would leave me backside with one-on-one protection with [left tackle Marshall] Newhouse," he said. "So that was the way I was going to be able to actually get free. I knew we could work on him all game long."
Irvin and Brandon Mebane finished with two sacks apiece, giving the Seahawks eight total. Seattle has 10 sacks on the season, the fifth-most in the NFL. That's a major reason why Seattle leads the league in scoring defense, allowing just 13 points per game.
"I think our defense is better than any defense in the NFL. I'm not saying I think; I know our defense is better than any defense in the NFL," Clemons said. "And not to sound cocky, it's just the mentality that we have as far as a defense. We don't think that any other defense can compete with ours."