August 18, 2009 in Sports

Seahawks work to get heavier on defensive line

Danny O’Neil Seattle Times
 
Associated Press photo

Cory Redding adds beef to Seahawks defense.
(Full-size photo)

RENTON, Wash. – More to love.

That was coach Jim Mora’s first reaction to the exhibition debut of a defensive line that was made bigger this offseason with the hope of getting better.

“We just seemed more firm up front,” Mora said.

Call it a size-mic shift, which started in March when Seattle signed free agent Colin Cole, a 330-pound defensive tackle from Green Bay.

“That was a primary reason for bringing him in,” president Tim Ruskell said, “just having a guy who’s not going to move from that point. Anything he gives you beyond that, that’s gravy.”

Did someone say gravy? Because Seattle’s defensive tackles appear to answer to that question with the words, “Yes, please.”

There’s Cole and Brandon Mebane, who is 20 pounds lighter than last year but still checks in at more than 300. Backup Red Bryant is 318.

Factor in that Seattle also added Cory Redding, a 292-pound defensive end, and the Seahawks have a significantly larger defensive line than they did last season. The sum of the parts is that Seattle’s starting defensive line as currently configured will be heavier – on average – than at any point since Ruskell became the team president in 2005.

Ruskell said the Seahawks began the offseason with the plan of getting a bigger defensive tackle. The idea was to get someone with enough sand in his pants to wade into the middle of the line and hold his ground against a double-team block.

“You can base everything on the run game off of that as your pillar,” Ruskell said.

They believe they found that in Cole, who has started exactly eight NFL regular-season games since entering the league as an undrafted free agent in 2003. The Seahawks saw a building block for a bigger defensive line.

“The organization saw me as a priority,” Cole said, “which basically made it a no-brainer for me. For the last couple of years, I hadn’t been the priority for the teams I was on … to have somebody outright say, ‘OK, we need you here.’

“I definitely felt at home.”

Seattle’s former coach, Mike Holmgren, always advocated for size up front. Fritz Shurmur was Holmgren’s defensive coordinator in Green Bay, and Shurmur wasn’t all that interested in looking at a nose tackle if he wasn’t 320 pounds. After the 2007 season, Holmgren made reference to needing another “big honker” up front. The Seahawks drafted Bryant, but he suffered a knee injury during training camp and played in only four games.

Now, Seattle has that in Cole, the man moored in the middle. He will line up between the guard and center and stand his ground as the offense uses everything short of a crowbar to pry him out.

“I’m definitely going to garner two, sometimes three guys at a time, trying to get me out of there,” Cole said. “My job is to be stout.”

No trouble there. Cole is built like a 6-foot-1 fire hydrant, and his job is to keep opposing linemen occupied so they can’t tee off on Seattle’s linebackers. Essentially, he’s a 330-pound buffer who is supposed to keep middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu from being blocked.

But Cole’s girth wasn’t the biggest thing noticed by Patrick Kerney, who at 272 pounds is the smallest starter.

“The thing that jumped out to me was how the guys with size played fast,” Kerney said. “You had Colin Cole chasing down screens and capping off on a sack.”

Jones leaves early

Nine-time Pro Bowl left tackle Walter Jones has left Seahawks practice early with an apparent back injury.

The 35-year-old linchpin to Seattle’s offensive line for the past decade was practicing Monday for the third time since training camp began July 31. He took part in one series with the starting offense when he left the field in pain.

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