Seahawks rookie Wright adjusting to middle LB role
RENTON, Wash. -- When the Seattle Seahawks drafted Mississippi State linebacker K.J Wright in the fourth round of the draft back in April, head coach Pete Carroll talked about using Wright just about everywhere except middle linebacker.
Carroll and general manager John Schneider said they liked the thought of him as a strongside linebacker and believed he had the ability to even be a rush linebacker for them -- similar to how Carroll used Brian Cushing at Southern Cal.
So it was a surprise when Wright started taking reps at middle linebacker from day one of camp.
"We knew that he was a linebacker that was better off playing behind the line of scrimmage," Carroll said early in camp. "We didn't know if he would be better playing at the (strongside) spot. Because he's long we thought he might be a natural (strongside) linebacker."
"After looking at him we really think he's an inside guy that could do that if we wanted him to. But right now we need the depth, we need the competitiveness in there and the competition on the inside, so we're going to keep him there."
While Carroll wasn't sure exactly how Wright would fit in, linebackers coach Ken Norton Jr. had a plan right from the start for the athletic rookie. He thought his size, speed and intelligence made Wright a prototypical middle linebacker.
"Right when I saw him, I said I wanted to get a good look at him on the inside," Norton said. "When I saw his film in college, he played on the inside as well. He's getting everybody lined up. He's very poised. You can see he's very productive. ... He really wants to be a good player and he's ready to do the things that the good players do in order to be good."
With the sudden surprising release of three-time Pro Bowler Lofa Tatupu, the Seahawks were forced to shuffle their linebacking corps.
David Hawthorne spent the last two seasons as Tatupu's backup at middle linebacker. He started 11 games in place of an injured Tatupu in 2009 before earning the starting job at outside linebacker last season. With Tatupu gone, Hawthorne has moved into the middle.
It's been a process for Wright to get comfortable in the middle. He's had to take on the responsibility of getting the defense lined up correctly and making all the defensive calls. Getting comfortable with those aspects are the next step in Wright's development.
"At first I was just lost but now as the days go on and weeks go on, I've been improving every single day," Wright said.
"Probably the toughest thing is learning those plays. Learning how they're supposed to fit and everything. We just got on film and corrected everything as the weeks went on and I'm still getting better."
In the Seahawks preseason opener against the San Diego Chargers, Wright played nearly three quarters and led the team with eight tackles, including one on special teams.
"I was really pleased with the way he played," Carroll said. "He played better than I thought he would first time out, gauging from practice. As the game sped up, so did he and he made some nice hits and tackles in the game. He did some good things on special teams as well, so we're really encouraged."
Pete Carroll said QB Tarvaris Jackson will start and play the entire first half for the Seahawks this Saturday against the Minnesota Vikings. With a few exceptions, Carroll expects his starters to play the entire first half. ... S Atari Bigby said he also expects to play after concluding his first practice with Seattle on Wednesday. Bigby said he's "feeling great" after a hamstring injury caused him to miss all but four games in 2010.
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press
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