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An end for Seahawks' defensive problems?

The Seattle Seahawks are moving in the wrong direction when it comes to sacking the quarterback.

Seattle finished with just 28 sacks in 2009, tied for 26th overall in the league after totaling 35 the season before. Even worse, the Seahawks had just one sack in the final four games, all losses.

So what did they do to help improve those putrid numbers? Well, they lost two of their top pass rushers in this offseason’s roster purge by head coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider, as 33-year-old defensive end Patrick Kerney retired last week, and the Seahawks recently traded Darryl Tapp to Philadelphia.

Seattle’s tentative starting defensive front line, defensive ends Lawrence Jackson and Chris Clemons, who came to Seattle in the Tapp trade, and defensive tackles Colin Cole and Brandon Mebane, combined for nine sacks last season.

But Carroll’s not concerned with what happened in the past. He plans to create more pressure defensively by using faster, more nimble rushers off the edge.

The numbers show Seattle needs to at least consider selecting a player in the first round of the NFL draft on Thursday who can potentially develop into an elite pass rusher. They haven’t had one since Kerney finished second in the league in sacks with 14.5 in 2007, his first year in Seattle.

Georgia Tech’s Derrick Morgan might not be that guy, but he’s the safest pick likely to still be on the board, in terms of future production in the league.

At 6-foot-3, 266 pounds, Morgan has the build for a defensive end on Seattle’s front line. And Morgan also has the athleticism to create explosive plays off the edge. He was timed in 4.6 seconds for a 40-yard dash during his pro day and had a 36-inch vertical leap.

But more than anything, when scouts watch a recording of the Georgia Tech product – who just turned 21 years old in January – they see a polished pass rusher with a lot of different ways to get to the quarterback.

“I think that he is the safest defensive end in this class in that not only is he a developing pass rusher, but he’s stout against the run and he plays with a high motor,” said Rob Rang, senior draft analyst with NFLDraftScout.com. “The combination of those skills is why he is a good fit.”

Morgan is one of four talented Georgia Tech players who declared for the draft after the Yellow Jackets won the Atlantic Coast Conference title for the first time since 1990. Morgan was the catalyst for the defense, totaling 181/2 tackles behind the line of scrimmage and 121/2 sacks in 2009. He finished his college career with 191/2 sacks.

Morgan said he’s not just a pass-rush specialist, but rather considers himself an every-down defensive end who is just as good against the run.

“I really like to pride myself in playing the run as well as the pass,” he said. “It’s really stressed a lot in practice from our coaching staff. You’re going to get third-down opportunities. But you have to get to third down by playing the run first. And I really took pride on playing well against the run, and then getting after the quarterback on third down.”

The Seahawks have shown interest in Morgan. He reportedly visited Seattle last month, and Seattle defensive line coach Dan Quinn put Morgan through position drills during his pro day at Georgia Tech.

But even with all of the success his junior season, Morgan struggled with Iowa offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga, a player with sound technique, in his team’s final game of the season, the Orange Bowl, finishing with just three tackles. Like Morgan, Bulaga will likely be a top-15 pick in this year’s draft.

Eric D. Williams: 253-597-8437

Eric.williams@thenewstribune.com

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