#10 – Chris Clemons

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He led the team in sacks, he’s the best all-purpose defensive end on the team, he’s the only guy along the line who can both get pressure on the quarterback and hold his own against the run … yet he’s only the 6th-best defensive player on this team?

Well, here’s the deal.  Defensive ends are generally the most over-rated guys on the team, period.  They’re rated by one stat and one stat alone:  sacks.  Get a lot of sacks, all of a sudden you’re one of the best defenders in the league.  Get no sacks, you’re a bum and it’s time for you to go.  I’m trying to be fair in my assessment, and in my judgment, a guy who gets you 11.5 sacks is the 6th-best defender on a team with a really good defense.

Since there doesn’t appear to be a good way to chronicle the abstract concept of “Quarterback Pressure”, it’s hard to really pin down what a Chris Clemons means to a team like the 2012 Seahawks.  I mean, the guy was a starter, playing starters’ snaps, for 16 games plus one more in the playoffs.  Out of ALL those snaps, he ended up with 11.5 sacks.  Essentially, you’re talking about 12 snaps where the end result was Total Success.  When you figure, the goal of a defensive end on every drop-back snap is a quarterback sack, that’s not really a great winning percentage.

But, how many other snaps was Clemons instrumental in forcing the quarterback to throw the ball away?  How many other snaps did Clemons alter a throw into an incompletion?  How many times did Clemons pressure the quarterback into the arms of another lineman?  How many times did a quarterback second-guess his primary receiver because he didn’t think he’d have enough time to get the ball out there because Chris Clemons was coming around the edge?  There are all these instances of potential Partial Success, it’s impossible to quantify Clemons’ importance unless you’re a professional who’s watching all the tape of all the snaps until you’re dead inside.

So, I give Clemons a 10th-best rating on this team and I call it a day.  He had 11.5 sacks.  He had 7 games where he had at least a sack, which means he had 10 games (including playoffs) where he had zero sacks.  In the Seahawks’ five losses, Clemons had a combined 2 sacks.  He all but disappeared in the 49ers and Lions games.  In fact, there was a 4-game stretch where he had zero sacks and only 5 tackles.

Consistency.  If you want to have your name up there with the greats in the NFL, you need to be more consistent than that.  I mean, Clemons REALLY padded his fucking stats in the first half of that Green Bay game where he had 4 sacks against what was just the worst offensive line performance I’ve ever seen.  Take away that one, and the 2.5 against the Bills, and you’re looking at a guy who had 5 sacks in the other 15 games in 2012.

Oh, and let’s not forget:  ACL injury in that Redskins game.  For all we crowed around these parts about the Seahawks staying healthy in 2012, the guy we could least-afford to lose to injury was lost to injury right before our most important game of the season.  It turned out to be our LAST game of the season, and not having Clemons around was a big reason why.

On top of that, Clemons JUST re-signed with the team before 2012 (even though he had 1 year left on his deal, thank you very much).  Fortunately, it doesn’t sound like too much of a hardship to waive the guy before 2013.  Which, make no mistake, the Seahawks absolutely MUST do.  Are you REALLY going to roll the dice on another ACL?  On a guy who’s going to be 32 years old this October?  I mean, I hate losing the guy for 2013 as much as anyone, mostly because I don’t think Bruce Irvin will be ready to take over his role full time, but to invest all that money and a roster spot on a guy who likely won’t make much (if any) of an impact is reckless.  He’s not Adrian Peterson.  He’s a defensive end who has to grapple with the biggest men in the NFL on a down-by-down basis.  Constantly putting wear and tear on his lower extremities play after play after play.

You don’t get any FASTER after an ACL injury either!  At best, you hope to regain the speed you once had before the tear (see:  Adrian Peterson, Freak Of Nature).  Realistically, you’re a step or two slower on the wrong side of 30 living off of your reputation alone.

The Seahawks need a Plan A.  Shit, they need a Plan A and a Plan B!  They can let Clemons be their Plan C, if all else fails, he’s willing to take a pay cut, and we’re resigned to the fact that he’ll start the season on the PUP list.  But, to think that he’ll be ready to rage from the first pre-season game is totally irresponsible.  The Seahawks should know better, and I think they do.

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