RENTON -- With Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett no longer on the roster, and Frank Clark and Dion Jordan not practicing at the beginning of training camp, there seemed to be a glaring hole on the Seahawks' roster at defensive end.
Avril and Bennett combined for 73.5 sacks in their 10 combined seasons in Seattle. That production has to be replaced somewhere. Exactly where that production will come from remains uncertain. However, rookies Rasheem Green and Jacob Martin have made strong early impressions in training camp.
Those impressions were followed up by encouraging performances in the Seahawks' preseason opener against the Indianapolis Colts last Thursday night.
Green had 1.5 sacks and seven total tackles with three quarterback hits in his first showing with Seattle. Martin added a half sack of his own as he flashed he speed off the edge.
Green came from the right defensive end spot to beat left tackle Joe Haeg for a sack of Colts quarterback Andrew Luck on the second series of the game. Green shoved Haeg's hands out of the way and turned the corner for a clean sack of Luck.
"He’s really active. Technique wise, in terms of pass rush, he shows some really good stuff. His hand movement, his hips, getting skinny on the pass rush, he did some really good things that you hope an experienced player would do. He took advantage of a couple opportunities in the pass rush and got sacks on them. That’s a really big, big plus for us," head coach Pete Carroll said of Green.
Green wouldn't be a Seahawk if the team hadn't traded down in the first round of the NFL Draft in April. Seattle didn't have a second- or third-round pick after trades to acquire Sheldon Richardson and Duane Brown last year. But in sliding back in the first round, Seattle managed to add Green to their pass rush.
Despite being the youngest player on the Seahawks' roster, Green already has a strong set of tools to his game. Now it's a matter of adding onto the skills he's already developed.
"He's got a good pass rush base," defensive line and assistant head coach Clint Hurtt said. "Where a lot of kids come out of college (and) have no idea how to rush the passer, how to use their hands, he has a very good side scissors, a very good chop swing that he brought it. But now it's understanding protections, where the slide is going, when they are going to squeeze based on what fronts and things like that we play. So that's the stuff for him that he's learning and trying to figure out, but he's a quick study.
"He's a very smart kid. Now trying to refine the long-arm rush with him because he's got 35-inch arms. So that's something that he really didn't have in his repertoire that we're trying to get built up with him. So he's coming along nicely. Just really happy for him."
Green is already showing his versatility as he played both inside in passing situations and as a LEO pass rusher off the edge.
"He’s not having any trouble at all, scheme-wise," Carroll said. "I’ve said this a couple of times, he’s been coached really well and he’s just got good awareness. He understands the game. He had a couple really nice, physical plays with leverage at the line of scrimmage in the running game as well as his pass stuff. That carries over to different positions if it doesn’t burden him, which it didn’t. It’s just really all positive stuff, in the plus category for him."
Martin has been playing both at end and as a strong-side linebacker during training camp. He spent most of his time this spring working at end, but is now getting more on his plate as well.
Martin beat Austin Howard around right tackle for a would-be sack only to be beaten to the punch by Barkevious Mingo. Martin would later pick up his half sack in tandem with Green as they met at the quarterback as Green beat guard Braden Smith and Martin came off a block from Howard to pull Jacoby Brissett to the turf.
"The fundamentals of it, understanding rush angles, the importance of get-off, hand usage, when he has to set an edge if he's out there on run downs, he got all that stuff in the spring playing D-line with us," Hurtt said. "Obviously he's made the transition to SAM, but we've kept him sharpened up on his pass rush stuff and he's done a really nice job as well."
Defensive tackle Jarran Reed said on the second day of camp that he was tired of hearing about the players that weren't on the roster anymore. He believed the Seahawks - and in particular their defensive line - had all the talent it needed to get the job done.
While Clark is easing back into team work now, Jordan remains sidelined and may not be ready for the start of the regular season. Add that to the departures of Avril, Bennett, Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor and it's easy to understand why there are questions surrounding the defensive side of the ball.
But if Green and Martin can provide impact performances right out of the gate, itwould help answer many of the questions surrounding Seattle's restructured defense.
"We got plenty enough talent in the D-line room," Hurtt said. "I like the fact that we're looked at as an underdog and the guys have done a great job since the spring of busting their ass, coming out here and grinding... They understand what all the naysayers say, but they believe in each other. So they've been outstanding."
Photo Credit: SEATTLE, WA - AUGUST 09: Quarterback Andrew Luck #12 of the Indianapolis Colts is sacked by defensive end Rasheem Green #94 (R) of the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field on August 9, 2018 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)