The Seattle Seahawks are still waiting for their loaded pass rush to get going.
Through three games, the Seahawks have recorded six sacks (tied for 21st) and have generated pressure on the quarterback on 17.9 percent of their opponents' dropbacks (30th), according to ESPN Stats & Information. The Jacksonville Jaguars have more than doubled those numbers while ranking first in each category with 13 sacks and a 41.1 percent pressure rate.
The early results have been underwhelming for a Seahawks pass rush that was expected to be among the NFL's best after adding Sheldon Richardson to an already strong trio of Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril and Frank Clark. But there's more than what meets the eye. Defensive coordinator Kris Richard was quick to point that out this week when asked for an assessment of how Seattle's defense has gotten after the quarterback so far.
"We've taken full advantage of the opportunities that we've had," he said.
And the issue -- at least part of the issue -- has been that opposing offenses have at times limited those opportunities with quicker throws designed to get the ball out of a quarterback's hands before the pass rush can arrive.
The Green Bay Packers made that adjustment in Week 1. The Seahawks sacked quarterback Aaron Rodgers four times in that game. All were in the first half, when his average pass attempt traveled 8.3 yards beyond the line of scrimmage, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The average distance was 4.8 yards in the second half.
In Week 2, the San Francisco 49ers employed that approach throughout the game. Of Brian Hoyer's 27 attempts, only four were thrown 10-plus yards down the field, all for incompletions. Seattle sacked Hoyer twice in that game, with one coming on a play in which free safety Earl Thomas blitzed.
That was also a factor last week against the Tennessee Titans, when Seattle hardly generated any pressure on quarterback Marcus Mariota and didn't sack him once. His average passing attempt went from 12.7 yards in the first quarter to 5.1 yards for the final three quarters, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
"The ball has been coming out fast," Richard said. "We recognize that. I think a lot of teams are playing to that. They want to get the ball out as fast as possible."
And when that happens, Richardson said, "It makes the rush null and void. It doesn't matter who your D-linemen is if the ball's out in two steps."
The Seahawks will have an an opportunity to get their pass rush going Sunday night against an Indianapolis Colts offensive line that has struggled. The Colts have allowed 11 sacks this season, tied for fourth-most in the NFL, and they'll again be without their best offensive lineman, center Ryan Kelly. Playing in the din of CenturyLink Field should give Seattle's pass-rushers another advantage.
If Indianapolis goes with a steady diet of the quick throws that Seattle has seen plenty of this season, Richard stressed the importance of defensive linemen doing their part to contest them.
"We just need to make sure that if that's going to be the case, then when we're coming off the ball, we got to get our hands up," he said. "That's going to be the next phase for our growth and development is recognizing when teams are going to try and attack us with the quick game or things of that nature. So if that's going to be the case, then we need to make sure we get our hands up."