Benson Mayowa eager to play a bigger role with the Seahawks
After an offseason of bulking up, Benson Mayowa is ready to contribute more for the Seahawks this season, specifically at the rush-end spot the team calls LEO.
Seattle Times staff reporter
RENTON — The weight is on.
And that means that once the Seahawks begin the 2014 season, the wait should be over for defensive end Benson Mayowa.
When the Seahawks concluded minicamp last week, Mayowa was right in the mix of those competing for playing time at defensive end — specifically, the rush-end spot the team calls LEO — behind projected starter Cliff Avril.
The team, though, doesn’t question whether Mayowa, a second-year player from Idaho, can rush the passer. If it were that simple, he would have seen the field for more than 24 snaps as a rookie in 2013.
Instead, the issue with Mayowa was about his weight, which in pounds was in the high 230s. He didn’t yet have the bulk necessary to be effective at that spot against the run, something opponents would target, even in obvious passing situations.
Now, after an offseason of conditioning designed to add pounds and muscle, Mayowa weighs 255. And, by all accounts, he has retained the speed and quickness off the edge that compelled the team to keep him in the first place.
“I needed to put that weight on and not just have speed, but look the part of a LEO defensive end,’’ Mayowa said. “I was looking at the people in front of me, and that’s what I wanted to look like.”
Said defensive coordinator Dan Quinn: “He had always shown some pass-rush stuff. But we knew for him to play all downs, he had to get bigger. And so that was one of the goals of the offseason. So for him to come back and have the added size and strength and still be moving well was going to be important, and that’s what I’ve seen.”
The truest test of Mayowa’s stoutness will come when training camp begins July 25 and the pads go on.
Mayowa, though, has proved he knows how to shine in the preseason.
He was the most surprising player of last year’s training camp, making the final 53-man roster as an undrafted free agent who had originally been spotted by the team in a regional tryout combine. He was signed to the 90-man roster only after participating in the team’s rookie minicamp on a tryout basis, then made the final cut after the preseason.
Mayowa was on the active roster for all of the season but played in only the first two games, when the team was low on defensive ends. He was inactive for every other game, instead becoming one of the young players Quinn and other coaches refer to as having “redshirted” last year.
With a deep and experienced defensive line a year ago that featured a seven-man regular rotation, the Seahawks could afford to keep Mayowa on the roster, but also let him bide his time. The Seahawks had to keep him on the active roster because they knew if they cut him and tried to get him onto the practice squad, he’d almost certainly be signed to another team’s active roster.
So Mayowa worked during the week, then knew on game day he would be watching from the sideline.
But understanding the long odds just to make the team gave Mayowa an appreciation for simply having any role on a Super Bowl champion.
“It was a life-changing process,” said Mayowa, a graduate of Inglewood (Calif.) High who played four years at Idaho, where he was productive but hardly high on the radar of NFL scouts. “I feel like I can’t take anything for granted. Every day I come out here to try to do my best.”
This year, though, the team needs more than potential from Mayowa.
Last year’s starting LEO, Chris Clemons, is in Jacksonville after being released. Avril will step into an even more prominent role to pick up the slack, but can’t do it alone — and also is in the last year of his contract. And Bruce Irvin, the team’s 2012 first-round pick who the team might use more in a pass-rushing role this year after playing at linebacker last season, could be questionable for the start of the season after having recent hip surgery.
As Quinn said, “Now the redshirt is off and it’s time to see what he (Mayowa) can do.”
Something Mayowa knows well.
“The approach is a little bit different now,” he said. “Last year was just ‘Welcome to the NFL.’ This year is more of a ‘We expect more out of you. We expect you to know more and do better.’ So it’s a different approach for me. I take everything a little bit more seriously now. A lot more seriously.”
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699