Pete Carroll says Seahawks' greatest need is pass rusher

John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Seattle had one of the best defenses in the NFL in 2012, but head coach Pete Carroll said the Seahawks need to get to the quarterback better next season.

At Pete Carroll's end of the season press conference Monday, he addressed the good and the bad from the season. One of the hot topics was Carroll saying the team needs a pass rusher to improve the defense, according to Eric Williams of The News Tribune.

Among them, Carroll acknowledged the lack of a consistent pass rush this season, and said the Seahawks will address that by looking to add guys to the mix of players already on the roster.

"We need another pass rusher," Carroll said. "We really do. That's why we went out and got Jason (Jones) last year. And we're going to have to double it up. We need a couple of guys."

Along with improving personnel, Carroll said he'll count on young guys like rookies Greg Scruggs, Jaye Howard and Bruce Irvin improving during the offseason.

The Seahawks' best pass rusher this season was defensive end Chris Clemons, who recorded a team-high 11 1/2 sacks during the regular season. But in the Wild Card game against the Washington Redskins, Clemons went down with a torn ACL and missed the divisional round.

While Clemons is signed through 2014, and Carroll said Clemons' knee "did not suffer that much trauma," Carroll would like to compliment Clemons, an eight-year veteran, with another quality pass rusher.

Carroll wants to find someone in free agency or in the draft, but he should automatically see improvement in Irvin, who was the 15th overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. Irvin only recorded 17 total tackles this season, but he was second on the team in sacks with eight.

Seventeen tackles in 16 games might be a low number, but Irvin's main job is to get to the quarterback, and he did that. Back in September, SB Nation's Field Gulls wrote about the expectations of Irvin and what he might do in the NFL. Kingdomer noted that pass rusher extraordinaire DeMarcus Ware recorded eight sacks as a rookie, while guys like Mario Williams (4 1/2 sacks) and Jason Pierre-Paul (4 1/2) didn't even come close to that number.

If comparing his rookie season to Ware's is any indication, the Seahawks might be just fine when it comes to the pass rush.

Of course, the question mark is Clemons. He's going to be 32 next season and coming off surgery for a torn ACL. Will he be able to get to the quarterback at the same pace? If he loses a split second, will that result in two or three or four knockdowns/hurries/hits that aren't recorded as sacks? Will he even be the same player?

If Clemons isn't the same player he's been in Seattle (he's recorded at least 11 sacks in all three seasons), then maybe Irvin just slides into Clemons' "spot," recording 10-plus sacks per season. If Clemons is a non-factor, maybe the Seahawks really do need some additional pass rushers.

Jason Jones was brought in on a one-year contract, but his end-of-the-year stats were less than impressive. He recorded three sacks in 12 games. While in Tennessee, Jones showed he could get to the quarterback occasionally, but it wasn't a huge strength for the fifth-year man out of Eastern Michigan. He has 18 1/2 sacks in 61 career games.

So where does Seattle look to improve its pass rush? Maybe they don't actually need to acquire a pass rusher to improve that aspect of the defense.

If the Seahawks made a push to sign veteran Richard Seymour, they would acquire a defensive tackle with a penchant for engulfing offensive linemen. With Seymour in the middle clogging up blockers, that would allow players like Irvin and Clemons to get to the quarterback that much easier.

There would certainly be some risk signing a soon-to-be 34 year old who might demand some serious cash, but he'd fit right in with the Seahawks' aggressive-style defense. He also has the attitude that could give someone like Richard Sherman a run for his money. Seymour could potentially replace defensive tackle Alan Branch, who is an unrestricted free agent.

There are also a few pass rushers in the draft that might fit Seattle's system. Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones is expected to be a top 15 draft pick, but his spinal stenosis could drop him in the draft, according to SB Nation's Matthew Fairburn.

The Seahawks could even trade up in the draft, if they feel it necessary.

"We've got 10 picks going into this draft, which is fantastic for us," Carroll told the Seahawks' official website. "I can't imagine all the work that John (Schneider, the GM) is going to turn out with all those opportunities."

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