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This probably shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, considering I’ve got three other defensive linemen on this list, and I’ve been harping on it all offseason. But, yeah, pass rush. Duh.
I won’t belabor this one too much, because we all know the score. Ziggy Ansah, when healthy, is one of the best pass rushing defensive ends in the league. In odd-numbered years dating back to 2015, he’s had double-digit sacks (reason for hope, 2019!); in even-numbered years, he’s been injured and his production has fallen off a cliff.
The other reasons for hope are that he’s on a 1-year prove-it deal, he’s only 30 years old (still in the prime of his career, one would assume), and he’s super-motivated to put monster numbers up to get a mega contract in 2020. The reasons for pessimism include the fact that last year’s injury was pretty severe, and he’s still not yet cleared for practicing. We might not know if he’ll be ready for the regular season until right before the regular season starts. At that point, how much can you trust a guy who had no training camp to speak of, to just jump right in and be his usual elite self?
I’m pretty down on the group of pass rushers we’ve got on this team, and have been saying time and time again that it might come, but it’s going to be from someone unexpected (even moreso with the news of Jarran Reed’s 6-game suspension). I HATE that type of uncertainty, particularly from a spot on the team that’s so important. I don’t think I would’ve changed anything about what the Seahawks did this offseason from a Frank Clark perspective, or a draft perspective, but I do sort of wish they’d made more of an effort to get at least one more veteran free agent in here with a track record of success. Cassius Marsh and whatever other yokels we’ve got in there now just won’t cut it when it comes to soothing my fears.
Bottom line, if Ansah comes in and plays at a high level this season, the sky’s the limit for this team defensively. He solves a lot of problems. He allows the linebackers to focus on what they do best (instead of trying to make up for a lacking pass rush) and he shortens the time cornerbacks have to stay glued to their guys in the secondary. He creates turnovers with his forced fumbles, his sacks (particularly on third down, which usually forces teams to punt), and in getting opposing quarterbacks to rush their throws or mis-read their progressions.
But, if he struggles, or he flat out doesn’t play – while the contract isn’t a killer – it would be devastating for this defense. Worst case scenario for this team is if Ansah is on the field, but playing through injuries and not getting anything done against the quarterback. That would mean not only is he a non-factor, but he’s also clogging up a roster spot for a younger guy. If he’s hurt and off the field, at least that gives our younger guys some valuable experience on the edge. If this season is going to hinge on Ansah, and it’s not going to be a Super Bowl season either way, then the best thing for the Seahawks would be to coach up the future of this team for a hopeful run in 2020 and beyond.
My biggest wish for the Seahawks in 2019 is for the stars to be healthy and have the metaphorical stars align. I’d love nothing more than for the Best Case Scenario to take place in all of these key areas on the Seahawks’ roster, to see if 2018 was an aberration, or if it was a stepping stone to bigger and better success. In my opinion, that starts at the top with Russell Wilson, but right behind him it largely hinges on Ansah. Where he goes, so goes this defense. The more help Wilson can get from this defense, the better this team will finish as a result.