Now that their Steve Emtman hysteria was smothered by Miami Dolphins millions, Seattle Seahawks coaches returned to the practice field to tinker with the play of their defensive ends.
Wednesday was experimentation day. Linebacker David Brandon, a 240-pound linebacker, worked some as a full-time defensive end. Coaches liked what they saw. Only nine-and-ahalf of the Seahawks’ 29 quarterback sacks came from defensive ends last season, and Brandon, one of the best athletes on the team, could provide a spark.
Though not a proven pass-rusher, Emtman could have escalated intensity along the defensive line. If healthy, Emtman could have added a potential Pro Bowler at end. By not coming, though, Emtman won’t downgrade the competition at the corners of the defensive line.
It’s the hottest battle in camp.
“These are pretty good athletes, and we are working with David Brandon there today,” defensive line coach Tom Brasher said. “We are going to try and develop some guys who can play there. We didn’t count on the Emtman thing. We’ve just got to keep on keeping on.”
The move of Brandon from linebacker to defensive end leaves eight players competing at the position. About the only certainty is that Antonio Edwards will start at right end. Brasher said that Edwards played well enough last season to be considered among the top 30 percent of defensive ends in football.
Everything else, though, is up for grabs. Veteran Brent Williams is fighting it out with Michael Sinclair for the starting left end spot. Brasher praises the maturing talents of Michael McCrary, and gives him consideration for full-time duty.
Brandon, who has 26 career starts at linebacker in eight seasons, could pressure them all for pass-rushing duties. Youngsters such as Keif Bryant, Bobby Hamilton and former Washington State standout Dwayne Patterson are competing for quality repetitions in practice.
“It’s great; I like the competition,” Sinclair said. “Competition makes us all better because you have somebody pushing you to make you better. For competition, this is the best group I’ve seen since I’ve been here.”
Scheme changes in the defense calls for the defensive ends to rely more on quickness than bulk. Sinclair, who entered the league five years ago weighing 235 pounds, reversed his growing process for this camp.
“They want you to get after the passer in this scheme,” Sinclair said. “Last year, I came into camp weighing 282 pounds. I felt sluggish. I was still quick and still fast, but after three or four downs, I was shot.”
Sinclair weighed 263 pounds Wednesday. He feels up to the challenge of Williams, McCrary and others.
“Everyone here is confident in the guys that we have,” said Williams, who is entering his 10th NFL season. “I think we are going to be a lot better than people think. We have a great attitude. Everybody is focusing on us. That should help us to step up and make this defense what it can be.”
For the Seahawks’ new attacking defensive scheme to work, defensive tackles Sam Adams and Cortez Kennedy must create blocking chaos at the line of scrimmage. Their jobs are to shoot through the gaps in the defensive line and try to occupy as many blockers as possible.
Ends can then try to use their quickness to avoid the tackles and tight ends. The mission is to attack first.
“I think the system has been simplified and lets people play,” Williams said. “This is the kind of defense you love to play. Defensive linemen around the league all want to be in a 4-3. They all want to be in an attacking defense. Nobody wants to sit there and wait to get hit by a guy who is big as House Ballard (the Seahawks’ 325-pound right tackle).”
Losing Emtman might have eliminated a potential gate attraction for the Seahawks, but not signing him frees up money after this season for the winners of the starting job.