Pete Carroll wants to play defense a certain way, which requires certain types of players.
The Seahawks’ second-year coach needs a pass-rushing end to fill the “Leo” spot in his scheme, and compensates for going small on one side of the line by going extra large on the other. That’s why Chris Clemons was acquired in a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles last year to be the “Leo,” and the 323-pound Red Bryant was move from tackle to be the five-technique end.
In the middle of the line, Carroll wants tackles that are stout, but also quick enough to be disruptive. That’s why Brandon Mebane has been moved from the three-technique spot to nose tackle and Alan Branch was signed in free agency last month to replace Mebane.
In the secondary, Carroll wants a centerfield of a free safety and a thumper of a strong safety – which is why the Seahawks made Earl Thomas the 14th pick overall in the draft last year and then added 6-foot-3, 232-pound Kam Chancellor in the fifth round. Carroll also has been looking to get bigger at the spot opposite left cornerback Marcus Trufant, so 6-4 Brandon Browner was signed to a future contract in January and 6-3 Richard Sherman was drafted in the fifth round.
The linebacking crew also has a new look, with David Hawthorne sliding into the middle to replace Lofa Tatupu and Leroy Hill stepping back in on the weakside for Hawthorne opposite side-strong ‘backer Aaron Curry.
Piece by piece, the puzzle that has been the Seahawks’ defense is starting to look the way Carroll envisioned. And the job of coordinating all these new parts falls to Gus Bradley.
With training camp ending on Thursday, Bradley offered what he learned during camp and what he still needs to find out in the three remaining preseason games – starting with Saturday night’s home opener against the Vikings at CenturyLink Field.
What he learned: “It’s those young linebackers. Malcolm (Smith, a seventh-round draft choice) has really shown up and done a nice job. And K.J. (Wright, a fourth-round pick) is a young linebacker doing a good job. Leroy Hill has come in in the best shape that he has in a couple of years. That’s a great sign. At corner, Brandon Browner really has been a nice addition for us – a free agent that’s tall, something that we wanted to go up against (Larry) Fitzgerald and the taller receivers we face. So I think there have been a lot of good surprises.”
What he still needs to find out: “As always, you’re always looking for pass rush. Third downs regenerated some last year through different packages. But really the first and second downs, can we get pressure with our front four?”
One of the biggest surprises has been the 6-4 Wright, who has been moved to middle linebacker to backup Hawthorne and is growing into the role. He had a game-high eight tackles in the preseason opener against the Chargers in San Diego last week.
“Where it started as an experiment – let’s see where it goes – after that first game we’re really excited about his progress,” Bradley said.
Here’s a look at the depth chart:
DE: Red Bryant, Jimmy Wilkerson, Ryan Sims, Pierre Allen
NT: Brandon Mebane, Junior Siavii, Jay Alford, Pep Levingston. On PUP: Colin Cole
DT: Alan Branch, Kentwan Balmer, Teryl White
DE: Chris Clemons, Raheem Brock, Dexter Davis, A.J. Schable
OLB: Aaron Curry, Matt McCoy, Neal Howey
MLB: David Hawthorne, K.J. Wright, Michael Johnson
OLB: Leroy Hill, Malcolm Smith, Mike Morgan, Jameson Konz
LCB: Marcus Trufant, Richard Sherman, Kennard Cox, Jesse Hoffman. On PUP: Roy Lewis
RCB: Brandon Browner, Kelly Jennings, Walter Thurmond, Byron Maxwell, Ron Parker
SS: Kam Chancellor, Atari Bigby, Josh Pinkard, Jeron Johnson
FS: Earl Thomas, Mark LeGree, Rickey Thenarse