A little Q&A

It’s been a while since we’ve dipped into the old mailbag. The buildup to the NFL draft and then the actual three-day process, which was sandwiched between a pair of minicamps, has dominated Seahawks.com’s corner of cyberspace.

But with this week’s lull in the action comes time to address your questions and concerns.

So let’s get to it …

Q: Now I see what our new coach is doing, but I am still a little lost at defensive end. I was wondering if there is a chance that, if needed, we would see Leroy Hill or David Hawthorne play end? I think if that does happen Jackson can move to left end and Hawthorne should be able to play right end. Just a thought I had when watching Friday’s minicamp video. – Eric, Yakima

A: You’re on the right path, Eric, you just have the wrong players. If any of the linebackers is going to rush the passer more this season it’s Aaron Curry, last year’s first-round draft choice. The coaches even had him doing some pass-rush work with the defensive ends at the weekend minicamp.

But Curry will not be moving to end on a fulltime basis. What the coaches plan to do is play bigger at the five-technique spot and use a smaller, quicker end at the spot they call “Leo” – the old “Elephant” role coach Pete Carroll learned as an assistant with the San Francisco 49ers and then used so successfully at USC the past nine seasons.

The five-technique usually plays on the side where the tight end is lined up. Former first-round draft choice Lawrence Jackson, who played for Carroll at USC, was working there with the No. 1 line during the minicamp practices. But 323-pound tackle Red Bryant got ample snaps there, as well, and made the most of the opportunity to make plays. Also getting reps there were Robert Henderson, a 275-pound end the Seahawks got from the Detroit Lions as part of the trade for guard Rob Sims; and E.J. Wilson, a 289-pounder rookie from North Carolina who was selected in the fourth round of the draft.

With more size at one end, it allows the coaches to play smaller at the “Leo” spot, with the idea being to generate more of a pass rush. The line at “Leo” in the minicamp practices started with Chris Clemons, a 254-pounder who was acquired from the Philadelphia Eagles in the trade for Darryl Tapp. But it also included Nick Reed, a 248-pounder who was a seventh-round draft choice last year; Ricky Foley, a 252-pounder who led the CFL with 12 sacks last season; and Dexter Davis, a 244-pounder rookie from Arizona State who was drafted in the seventh round.

Q: Season ticket holder here. How would you describe the type of offense and defense the Seahawks will be running this year? – Ernie, Federal Way

A: Glad you asked, Ernie, and not just because you’re a season-ticket holder. New offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates says the 2010 Seahawks will most closely resemble the Denver Broncos under Mike Shanahan. Not surprising, since Bates was Shanahan’s O.C. in 2008. What the Broncos ran that season was a hybrid of the West Coast offense. But unlike Mike Holmgren’s version, which the Seahawks used from 1999-2008, Bates plans to feature the running game and he also has had success using two tight-end sets.

On defense, the Seahawks will play more aggressively in their second season under coordinator Gus Bradley. While they used a lot of Tampa 2 concepts last season, this year should feature more press coverage by the cornerbacks and the tweaks on the D-line that were mentioned above.

The bottom-line assessment for Carroll’s return to the NFL is that he wants his units to play faster, smarter and especially better.

Q: John Carlson had a stellar rookie season catching the ball before being woefully underused last year. Does Pete Carroll plan to use Carlson as a regular part of the passing game this year? – Chris, Roy

A: In a word, Chris, yes. Carlson wasn’t underused last season; it’s just that he spent too much time helping in pass protection because of all the injury problems on the offensive line – especially at left tackle. He finished with 51 receptions (four fewer than his rookie season) and a team-leading seven touchdown catches. It’s just that his production in the passing game was erratic – six catches each in the first two games; then four catches total in one four-game span; followed by a seven-catch game; which was followed by four catches combined in the last two games.

But Bates and Carroll already have taken steps to “free” Carlson so he can be used, as well as two-tight end sets and the traditional tight end role. Chris Baker was signed in free agency to replace John Owens, last year’s backup. They also drafted former USC tight end Anthony McCoy in the sixth round, and he brings another big body (6-5, 259) to the mix.

Expect Carlson to be much more involved in the passing game this season – as a receiver, not a blocker.

Q: Who is/was Virginia Mason? The facilities look brand new – so new that it’s not even on the satellite picture on Google maps. What a great location to practice football. How about a pictorial tour of VMAC? – Chris, Kentfield, Calif.

A: You’re right, Chris, this is a fabulous complex – and it goes beyond the outdoor practice fields that are on the shores of Lake Washington.

Virginia Mason was the daughter of Dr. James Tate Mason, who co-founded what it now Virginia Mason Hospital in 1920 – when it was an 80-bed facility with six physician offices. Virginia Mason paid for the naming rights to the Seahawks’ new 225,000-square foot headquarters, which opened in August 2008.

You can take a “tour” of the facility here.

Q: After this year’s draft the clouds have lifted over a damp, dreich Scotland, and – dare I say it – over Seattle, too. This year’s class has the potential to make this upcoming season rather more exciting than first advertised. Plenty of holes filled with draft choices and trades. Definitely an A+. – James, Scotland

A: That’s more of a statement than an inquiry, James, but it’s hard to argue with the assessment from across the pond.

The real key to the draft was getting left tackle Russell Okung with the sixth pick overall to replace retiring Walter Jones. If they hadn’t gotten that tackle at that spot, it would have led to twinges of reaching for another tackle – a less talented tackle – later in the draft. But with Okung in hand, first-year GM John Schneider and Carroll were able to get a needed starting free safety at No. 14 (Earl Thomas); potential starters with their next two picks — wide receiver Golden Tate in the second round and cornerback Walter Thurmond in the fourth round; and a couple of intriguing prospects on the third day – strong safety Kam Chancellor in the fifth round and tight end Anthony McCoy in the sixth round.

The draft, as well as a couple of draft-day trades and recent free-agent acquisitions, transformed the team from the one that was on the field for the first minicamp in April and the one that practiced over the weekend. Check out this camp-wrap story for more details.

“Dreich,” by the way, is a Scottish term for bleak, miserable, dismal and cheerless. Thanks to Arlo White, the Sounders FC play-by-play man extraordinaire, for the translation.

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