The addition of Jadeveon Clowney had Pete Carroll drawing comparisons to the defensive-end duos from the Seattle Seahawks’ recent Super Bowl teams.
It had Clowney’s new position coach, Clint Hurtt, giving a public thank-you to Carroll and general manager John Schneider for arming his D-line with another premier edge rusher to pair with Ezekiel Ansah.
And it had left tackle Duane Brown and linebacker K.J. Wright talking about how “scary” Seattle’s defense can be in 2019.
No one was talking like that during training camp and the preseason, when Ansah was still not practicing and Clowney was still a member of the Houston Texans as a franchise player who had yet to sign his tender. The Seahawks’ defense was considered a question mark due in large part to its pass rush with Frank Clark gone, Jarran Reed suspended for six games and no certainty on when Ansah would be ready to play.
But the buzz from the blockbuster trade the Seahawks made to acquire Clowney was evident at team headquarters Wednesday as players spoke with reporters for the first time since the deal went down Saturday.
“He’s a game changer,” said Brown, who was teammates with Clowney for 3½ seasons in Houston. “I think he brings a lot of attention in ways that you have to scheme for him. I think he can definitely help us a lot.”
Adding to that optimism is that Ansah is on track to play opposite Clowney when the Seahawks open their season Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals now that he’s recovered from shoulder surgery and a more recent groin injury.
“To have both Ziggy and Jadeveon on our team, that’s different, that’s a unique matchup right there,” Carroll said before recalling Chris Clemons, Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril.
Clemons was a starter on the 2013 team that won Super Bowl XLVIII. Bennett and Avril came off the bench that season, then became starters on the 2014 team that lost Super Bowl XLIX.
“It’s very much where we were maybe with Clem and Cliff and Mike and Cliff back in the day where we really felt like we had guys that really could do something off the edge and fly up the field,” Carroll added. “These guys have the ability to do that. We got to develop it, it’s got to happen, we’ve got to bring it to life and all that, but they have a chance. It’s really exciting, the prospects of what it could be like.”
Wright said the Seahawks’ defensive front is “up there” with those of their recent Super Bowl teams. He used “scary” to describe Seattle’s defense overall, while Brown was referring to its front seven. In addition to Clowney and Ansah on the edges, Seattle has second-year pro Poona Ford and veteran Al Woods starting at defensive tackle (at least until Reed returns from his suspension) and Mychal Kendricks starting alongside Wagner and Wright at linebacker.
All that’s left to sort out is who will start at safety next to Bradley McDougald and who will be the primary nickelback in Seattle’s young secondary, which has completely turned over the original Legion of Boom with Earl Thomas gone.
“It’s scary, man,” Brown said of the front seven’s potential. “It’s scary. Obviously Clowney and Ziggy on the edge. Poona Ford I think is going to be a star in this league. We get J-Reed back. Bobby and K.J. have been staples on this defense and in the league for a long time playing at a high level. Kendricks is a very, very great athlete. Also someone that can rush the passer when asked to.
“I think it just got real. It just got real for other offenses, you know what I mean? I’m looking forward to it. We’re going to do our part on offense to try to be as equally dangerous, but watching those guys is going to be fun.”
Clowney (not injury-related) and Ansah (shoulder) were both listed as limited on the team’s Wednesday practice report. Clowney’s NIR designation is a sign the Seahawks are working him in slowly considering he hadn’t played football or even practiced all offseason until Monday.
Hurtt said he’s pleasantly surprised with the shape that Clowney kept himself in and said he’s been putting in extra work trying to get up to speed in Seattle’s defense in a hurry.
“There is a difference between working-out condition and football shape, especially when the tempo starts picking up and things like that,” Hurtt said. “But he’s out there running like a gazelle, so he looks good.”
Wagner was asked what about Clowney’s game stands out most.
“His motor for sure,” he said. “His effort. The vicious hits in the backfield. The running back has the ball and before he makes a step, he’s getting him. The sacks. You watch a couple plays where he just moves a 350-pound lineman out of the way like it’s nothing. It’s just the power. I know Russ [Wilson] is glad he’s on our team.”
But Wagner also brought up the 2017 season as a cautionary tale. The Seahawks seemed similarly loaded on defense after acquiring Sheldon Richardson on cut-down weekend, but missed the playoffs with a 9-7 record.
“I think we have a chance to be really good,” Wagner said. “You kind of don’t want to get caught up in all the hype, as far as seeing all the names. … I’m not saying we did that, but we were at the point where we made a trade for Sheldon and they listed all the All-Pros and Pro Bowlers that were on the team and it didn’t go the way [we] expected it to. So, I think the focus is, you still have to do the work. So it doesn’t matter who’s on the team; we’ve still got to make sure that we come out there, prepared, ready to go. I’m excited about this group. This is one of our closest groups. We spend a lot of time together. We’ve grown a lot together. I’m excited to see how our growth off the field turns out on the field.”