Training camp status report: Defense

Line play in scrimmageThe Seahawks open the preseason against the Denver Broncos tonight in Seattle. Here is our breakdown of the defense, what we will be watching in the first game and our updated roster projections:

DEFENSIVE LINE
Veterans: Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, Brandon Mebane, Ahtyba Rubin, Jordan Hill, Cassius Marsh, Greg Scruggs, Demarcus Dobbs, D’Anthony Smith, Jesse Williams, David King, Jimmy Staten, Julius Warmsley
Rookies: Frank Clark, Obum Gwacham, T.Y. McGill

Pete Carroll says this defensive front is the fastest he has had in Seattle — clearly a nod to the addition of Clark. The coach was stoked about the unit after the scrimmage last weekend, and he is clearly excited about a pass rush that features Bennett, Avril, Clark, Hill and Bruce Irvin.

The one bummer was the release of Tony McDaniel, who turned out to be the cap casualty over Mebane after the big contracts given to Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner.

Bennett still is unhappy with his contract, and he even told McDaniel he would love to be back in Tampa Bay (he probably saw the Bucs’ salary cap space: $13.7 million).

But Bennett has been mentoring Clark, who is going to be Bennett Jr. this season — an inside-out player.

“I lean on him a lot; he looks out for me a lot,” Clark said of Bennett. “He’s a guy that’s been in the league for a numerous amount of years. He has experience. He’s a great player, as well as Cliff Avril, Big Mebane; they teach me a lot of things, just the proper techniques of how to play NFL football.”

Rubin basically is McDaniel’s replacement, but he should be up for it.

“We’re really excited about him,” Carroll said. “He’s a very physical guy at the point of attack. He moves right up into that role of the big guy who can stop the line of scrimmage. He’s an unusual player in pursuit for a big man; he chases the ball like crazy. So we have a really good alternative now as he steps up (to replace McDaniel).”

Carroll also has sung the praises of Mebane, who is coming off a hamstring injury that ended his 2014 season early.

“Gosh he’s come out flying,” Carroll said. “I think Brandon is probably in the best shape of his life, so he’s ready to play nose tackle, and Rubin will play three-technique for the most part. But both those guys could flip. There will be times when we might want to match up and we’ll do different things. We’ll uncover the versatility as we go through camp and the early season.”

Bennett, Avril, Clark, Mebane, Rubin and Hill seem to be the locks — leaving perhaps three open spots.

Marsh is working purely as a LEO in this camp. The coaches seem to love him, which would leave probably two spots.

Scruggs, Dobbs and Smith would seem to be the top candidates, but the fan favorite surely has to be Williams, who had surgery for kidney cancer three months ago and is going to play in the first preseason game.

What to watch: Clark mimicking Bennett’s role and Williams finally getting to play.

Projected (9): Bennett, Avril, Mebane, Rubin, Hill, Clark, Marsh, Dobbs, Smith

LINEBACKER

Veterans: Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, Bruce Irvin, Mike Morgan, Kevin Pierre-Louis, Brock Coyle, Eric Pinkins
Rookies: Alex Singleton, Quayshawn Nealy, Tyrell Adams, Dakorey Johnson

Pierre-Louis and Irvin have been the notable players on this unit — KPL because of his speed and Irvin because he has bulked up. Carroll has praised both players as among the standouts of camp.

KPL apparently will be held out of the first exhibition game with a shoulder strain, so we will have to wait to see him. But Carroll gushed about him Thursday:

“He is a classic (weakside) linebacker. He’s exactly the type of guy you’re looking for in terms of speed and movement and all of that. We’ve been recruiting and drafting for a long time to find a guy that runs 4.4 (40-yard dash) that can play the linebacker. He’s done a great job. He’s really an exciting player for us.”

Pinkins is another conversion project, moving from the secondary to the second level of the defense, and Carroll has said he probably has come the farthest of any player in camp. Of course, that might not say too much considering how far he had to go.

There seems to be very little mystery about this unit. It should be basically the same as 2014 (minus Malcolm Smith).

What to watch: How has Pinkins adjusted?

Projected (6): Wagner, Wright, Irvin, Morgan, Pierre-Louis, Coyle

LEGION OF BOOM
Veterans: Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Cary Williams; CBs Will Blackmon, Tharold Simon, Jeremy Lane, Marcus Burley, Mohammed Seisay; safeties DeShawn Shead, Steven Terrell, Dion Bailey
Rookies: CBs Tye Smith, Triston Wade, Doug McNeil; safeties Ryan Murphy, Keenan Lambert, Ronald Martin, Ty Zimmerman

As we wrote Thursday, it’s the Legion of Baby Boomers right now — with none of the mainstays available for the first game or perhaps the second.

But Carroll is very excited to see the new corners perform. It will be a great chance for Burley, Seisay and the rookies to show what they can do. If they show well, it could make the Hawks think twice about removing Simon from PUP — if he stays on, the team could stash him for the first six weeks of the season and see where the corner situation sits at that time.

The competition at safety has been pretty hot, too, with Bailey pushing Shead and the three rookies taking turns making big plays in practice.

“We’ve had great battles out here. Our guys have gone after it,” Carroll said. “So I’m going to tell them to keep playing like we’ve been playing and see what the game brings you. We have a lot of competition going on in the corner spots in particular. The safeties are crucial right now with Earl and Kam not going, so it’s huge for them, too.”

What to watch: What not to watch? It’s the most intriguing position of camp, and every snap counts for these Baby Boomers.

Projected (10): Sherman, Thomas, Chancellor, Williams, Blackmon, Shead, Bailey, Seisay, Burley, Smith
PUP: Lane, Simon

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