Chris Clemons injury: How the Seahawks must adjust

Patrick McDermott

Seattle may be without its best pass rusher against Atlanta this weekend. What do the Seahawks need to do if he's out?

Robert Griffin III was not the only player to make an early exit on Sunday at FedEx Field. Chris Clemons also went down with a knee injury in the nation's capital, and the Seahawks now fear their star defensive end suffered a torn ACL.

The turf in Washington was clearly not up to par, drawing criticism from just about every viewer watching the game. Clemons' agent even placed blame on the field conditions for his injury afterwards. Clemons will undergo an MRI to determine the severity of his situation, but reports of his knee feeling "loose" do not bode well for his chances of playing this weekend against the Falcons.

Clemons put in a monster 2012 campaign, finishing tied for ninth int he league with 11.5 sacks. He's now eclipsed at least 11 sacks in each of his last three seasons. Clemons also recorded 40 total tackles and three forced fumbles this year.

Seattle will have to find a way to generate pressure on Matt Ryan going forward if Clemons is out. Bruce Irvin will be called on to step up in his stead, as the rookie provides the next biggest pass rushing threat for the Seahawks. He finished with eight sacks in the regular season, and recorded one sack and three hurries in his first playoff game.

Irvin played 486 snaps this year. Only 108 of those plays came against the run. It's clear what his purpose is for the Seahawks defense. Coincidentally an Atlanta native, the 25-year-old will need his best game yet in his return home.

According to Pro Football Focus, Irvin rushes from the left side of the line 84.4 percent of the time. However, with Clemons out of the picture, he will anchor the right side of the line and face off against Sam Baker. If you watched Baker in previous years, you would feel confident about Irvin's chances on Sunday. Baker has been rejuvenated in 2012, though, as he's only allowed six sacks through 16 games.

Right tackle Tyson Clabo is also solid in protection, having only allowed five sacks this season. The Seahawks are likely better off keeping Irvin matched up with Baker. Either way, though, the rookie has his work cut out for him. Matt Ryan was taken down just 28 times in the regular season.

Red Bryant has not been effective in getting after the passer this year. He is rated by PFF as the Seahawks worst pass rusher, placing even more importance on Irvin's presence.

For more news on Clemons and the Seahawks, be sure to check out Field Gulls.

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