RENTON — Chris Clemons is the best Seahawk player about whom you know the least.
Either he likes it that way, or it’s just a by-product of his reluctance to share much of himself with the media.
Apparently, he had some issues with the press in Philadelphia and tends to be a bit peckish toward members of the Fourth Estate.
But his teammates and head coach are delighted to talk about the very significant influence he’s had on the Seahawks defense since he arrived last season.
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What’s most important about Clemons is what any fan can see. The man plays with such unrelenting energy that he’s an example of what’s known in the league as a high-motor guy. Revving up at the red line on every play.
He’s been injured and played hard. The team’s struggled and he’s played hard. Ahead, behind, tied ... he plays hard.
There is some source of motivation there, but it’s left to speculation.
In his first six seasons in the NFL (at Washington, Oakland, Philadelphia) as an undrafted free agent out of Georgia, Clemons started just three games and compiled a total of 20 sacks.
But in the past 27 games for the Seahawks, he’s had 19 sacks – 11 last year and 8 thus far this season.
As coach Pete Carroll and GM John Schneider studied players around the league when they arrived before last season, they sought a player who would fit their “Leo” position, a 4-3 defensive end who plays like a 3-4 linebacker.
“We really saw him much in the mode of guys we had at SC,” Carroll said. “He looked very much like (Brian) Cushing, very much like (Clay) Matthews. You could see him rushing and see him drop, he had to cover backs and tight ends at times. So we saw him in a real versatile type role. Although he wasn’t an every-week starter, we thought in the same system, he could fit (in) with us and be a regular.”
So they traded former second-round draft pick Darryl Tapp and got Clemons and a fourth-round draft pick in return. While the fourth-rounder (E.J. Wilson) didn’t produce, Clemons’ 19 sacks have been more than three times Tapps’ production (5.5) for the Eagles.
“He weathered his time in the league to show what he could do,” linebacker Leroy Hill said. “He got in the right situation and it’s paid dividends for us; he’s a playmaker and I definitely think he’s one of the top D ends in the league.”
On the opposite end of the line from Clemons, the Seahawks feature 340-pound Red Bryant, creating a diverse pairing that challenges opposing offenses.
“Clem and Red are two entirely different players, and that helps us so much,” Hill said. “(Clemons’) athletic ability is such we don’t have to worry about screens or any of that stuff over there because we know he’s athletic enough to handle all of that. He’s been perfect for us, and the timing and the system were perfect for him.”
Tackle Breno Giacomini goes against Clemons in practice, and cites Clemons for “trying to win every rep ... I respect him because that’s the way he is — a hard worker.”
Brandon Mebane was established on the defensive line when they brought Clemons in. And from the start he saw much more out of the new Seahawk than his resume would have suggested.
“The first time I saw his get-off, I said, ‘Oh, yeah, he’s a very good player,’ ” Mebane said. “He brings a lot of leadership, a lot of intensity. He works hard and plays hard. He’s probably not the most vocal leader, but he’s a leader in different ways – making plays, things like that.”
Thursday, Clemons gets to face the team that traded him. We may expect particular motivation for this game, but it would be hard to picture Clemons attacking this game with any higher competitiveness than any other.
“He’s a great competitor,” Carroll said. “It all panned out for us and he’s been beyond our expectations.”
Dave Boling: 253-597-8440 Dave.firstname.lastname@example.org