How did K.J. Wright end up Seahawks man in the middle?
Posted by Danny O'Neil
QB question also an opportunity
By Danny O'Neil | The Seattle Times
Tarvaris Jackson isn't the only new quarterback on Seattle's team this season.
For the past six years, that's the designation Lofa Tatupu held on the Seahawks defense. He was the nerve center of that unit, the rock everyone else leaned upon.
There were six different Week 1 starters at middle linebacker in Mike Holmgren's first six seasons with the Seahawks. There was just one his last four seasons.
But Seattle made a switch this training camp, replacing Tatupu with David Hawthorne, but now Hawthorne's status is uncertain because of a knee injury that kept him out of the final two exhibition games and has had him limited in practice this week.
Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley didn't rule out the possibility Hawthorne still might play, he sounded very much like a coordinator preparing to start a rookie middle linebacker when he talked about Wright after Thursday's practice.
"He has been playing really well in the preseason," Bradley said. "I don't know with the trainers what's the latest with Heater (Hawthorne), but whatever the case, I think our team's got a lot of confidence in K.J."
Wright was the first of two players Seattle chose in the fourth round of the draft. He was the second pick in the round, and you could almost hear the eyebrows raising when he was chosen.
A linebacker? Really? Had Tim Ruskell somehow snuck into Seattle's draft room? The expectation was that Seattle was moving away from the trend of piling up a bunch of resources at that particular position. And at a time when Seattle had serious need of more depth along the defensive line, the Seahawks were picking another linebacker?
But then everyone looked at his specs: 6 feet 4, 246 pounds. That's exceptionally tall for a linebacker, and the assumption became Seattle picked someone to rush the passer, a LEO in the parlance of Seattle's defense. That's the spot Chris Clemons plays, a position that's essentially a rush linebacker who puts his hand down at the line of scrimage.
And yes Wright did some of that in college, but only some. He is a conventional linebacker. That's why he was picked, and that's what Seattle expected him to play.
"Right away, we were thinking he would be more of an outside-type linebacker," Bradley said. "SAM like what Aaron Curry plays."
Then Ken Norton -- the team's linebackers coach -- wanted to try moving him to middle linebacker to see what would happen.
"It started off a little bit slow, but that first preseason game, I think he proved to us he has a chance to play there," Bradley said. "And then every game he just got better."
Wright had eight total tackles in the first exhibition game at San Diego, seven of them solo. He has exceptionally long arms, something that allows him to keep opposing blockers from really getting their hands on his body.
Wright said the impetus for the move was that Norton asked him if he wanted to play on the ball -- as the SAM linebacker does -- or off, which is the type of linebacker he was in college at Mississippi State. The latter was Wright's preference.
"It's just become something that's second nature to me," Wright said.
And what's the biggest adjustment?
"Probably just taking on the centers and the guards a lot," Wright said. "They get up on me fast sometimes so I've just got to learn to take on those blocks a little better."
Dec 24 - 6:10 AM Looking back: Revisiting Sunday's scouting report
Dec 24 - 1:09 AM Seahawks' scoring binge
Dec 24 - 1:01 AM Video: Summing Seattle's victory
Dec 24 - 12:58 AM Video: Russell Wilson post-game comments
Dec 24 - 12:21 AM Rookie passing roll call