2010 Position Preview: Defensive Line

NorthwestFootball.net is taking a position-by-position preview of the Seattle Seahawks roster heading into 2010 training camp. The series switches to the defensive side of the ball.

Position Preview – Defensive Line

Holdovers: Lawrence Jackson, Red Bryant, Nick Reed, Brandon Mebane, Colin Cole, Craig Terrill
Newcomers: Chris Clemons (trade), Robert Henderson (trade), Ricky Foley, E.J. Wilson (4th round), Dexter Davis (7th round), Kevin Vickerson (trade), Jonathan Lewis, Rob Rose
Departures: Patrick Kerney (retired), Darryl Tapp (trade), Cory Redding, Brandon Miller
Short-Stays: DeMarcus Granger, Barrett Moen, Will Tukuafu

Depth Chart Heading Into Training Camp

LDE – Lawrence Jackson, Red Bryant, E.J. Wilson, Robert Henderson, Rob Rose
DT – Colin Cole, Kevin VIckerson, Jonathan Lewis
DT – Brandon Mebane, Craig Terrill
RDE/"Leo" – Chris Clemons, Nick Reed, Ricky Foley, Dexter Davis

Even though a new front office and defensive-minded head coach arrived in Seattle, defensive line coach Dan Quinn was one of the holdovers from Jim Mora's coaching staff.

The Seahawks' defensive end position did see significant turnover during the off-season.

Patrick Kerney retired, no effort was made to retain Cory Redding—who signed with the Baltimore Ravens, and restricted free agent Darryl Tapp was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles. Kerney, Redding, and Tapp combined for 22 starts for the Seahawks last season—Lawrence Jackson started the other 10—so replacing them is no small task, but it's easier to do when you're adjusting the role of the defensive end position in Pete Carroll's version of the 4-3 defense.

The left defensive end requires a bigger, almost "5" technique end whose primarily role will be holding up in run support. As much as Jackson, the team's first-round pick in 2008, has been a disappointment as a pass-rusher, this might be a role the 6-4, 271-pound is better-suited to play. Jackson also stands to benefit from playing for his old college coach.

The 6-4, 318-pound Bryant, another perceived disappointment from the '08 draft, has played defensive end during the OTAs and mini-camp, and has drawn praise from Carroll for his progression this off-season.

On the other side, lies the "Leo".

A bit different from the traditional defensive end, the "Leo", or "Elephant" in earlier incarnations, that is a hybrid linebacker-defensive end position, which will be occupied by speed-oriented players.

Chris Clemons, acquired from Philadelphia in exchange for Tapp, is the projected starter at the "Leo" position, which will also be manned by 2009 first-round linebacker Aaron Curry and CFL signee Ricky Foley. Seventh-round picks Nick Reed (2009) and Dexter Davis (2010) are also in the mix at the "Leo", with Davis also seeing time at strong-side linebacker.

Regarding the Tapp trade, Seahawks general manager John Schneider should be applauded for turning Tapp, who did not fit in what the Seahawks were planning to do defensively, into two players—Clemons and E.J. Wilson—that do.

Wilson and Jackson also have the versatility to be used as inside pass-rushers, which would allow the ‘Hawks to send a combination of their speed-rushers off the edge.

Inside, not much figures to change.

Brandon Mebane is the "3" technique tackle, with Colin Cole projected to start at the nose. Veteran Craig Terrill will be used as back-up at both tackle positions. Seattle acquired 350-pound restricted free agent Kevin Vickerson from the Tennessee Titans in the LenDale Whtie trade to back-up Cole, and if healthy, Vickerson could be the wide-bodied defender that can rotate in and help keep blockers off the middle linebacker.

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