These are the Seahawks’ snap counts from their 20-3 win Thursday night at San Francisco that left them 3-4 entering a weekend off then game at Dallas a week from Sunday:
When Seattle’s defensive front was at its most dominant, during the 2013 season leading to the franchise’s first Super Bowl championship, its depth was so strong that the starting linemen only had to play 75 percent or less of the snaps. That kept them fresh for fourth quarters, when they swarmed opposing quarterbacks who had to throw because the Seahawks were leading.
This season -- and most of last -- starting defensive ends Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril have played far higher percentages of snaps than the Seahawks would prefer. That’s because the depth is nowhere near what it was two seasons ago. Top rookie draft pick Frank Clark got 21 snaps -- roughly half -- against the 49ers but has been injured. The other backup end, 2014 fourth-round draft choice Cassius Marsh, is coming off a broken foot and gets varying work depending on the week. Last year’s main pass-rushing, reserve end, O’Brien Schofield, was invisible and ineffective before Seattle let him leave for Atlanta this offseason.
So Bennett played 36 and Avril played 39 of the 46 defensive plays Thursday night. Yet with the way they are producing this season, who can blame the coaches for keeping them on the field?
Bennett woke up Friday tied with Cincinnati’s Carlos Dunlap for the league lead at 6 1/2 sacks after his career-high 3 1/2 at San Francisco.
The quieter (by far) Avril has 3 1/2 sacks after 1 1/2 Thursday, and he’s spent the season dominating offensive linemen, living in backfields and ruining short-yardage runs. As I mentioned last night, I think Avril has been the most consistent and disruptive player on the Seahawks’ defense.