Seahawks Chris Clemons gets his shot at ‘elephant’ position

Published on April 28, 2010 by     

After last week’s draft, the Seattle Seahawks appear to still need a dynamic pass rusher coming off the edge.

But part of the reason that they did not go after that player early in the draft is the fact that Seattle likes the competition at the position.

Chris Clemons, who Seattle received back as part of the Darryl Tapp trade to Philadelphia, is penciled in as the starter at right end, and will compete for time with Ricky Foley, Nick Redd and Dexter Davis.

Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said the Clemons’ acquisition was part of the Seahawks’ concerted effort to get faster off the edge of the defense.

Bradley said one of the conclusions the coaching staff reached after evaluating film from last season is that they needed to get leaner, more mobile bodies rushing from the edge.

“There’s no doubt that’s the plan,” he said. “That was one of the things that we needed to improve on, and we felt like to have the ability to get a pass-rushing type at the Leo end spot, if we can get a guy off the flex-side like we’re talking about, that will improve the pass rush.

“That’s the whole part of the defense is to have a guy coming off of the edge like that.”

Chris Clemons is expected to improve the pass rush, courtesy of Seattle Seahawks

Clemons will play the “elephant” position, which is basically a stand-up defensive end in a 4-3 alignment that lines up on the weak side of the defense opposite of the tight end.

“It gives you some flexibility,” Bradley said about the new position. “Sometimes you can use an elephant, and he has the ability where maybe you can go a little lighter-type defensive linemen, because he’s usually away from the tight end. And it gives him a little more ability to pass rush. It’s a fun spot for those guys.”

Asked about Aaron Curry playing the elephant position, Bradley said right now he will focus on playing linebacker.

Clemons said after the trade Carroll told him that he would be competing for time at the elephant position. Clemons, 28, is looking for a new start after seeing his playing time diminish in Philadelphia.

“I actually smiled,” Clemons said when he found out the trade went down. “With Coach Reed, I went from playing a lot to not playing kind of at all. And that was a thing that kind of had me in the thought process of, ‘Can I really do what I know I can do?’ And coming out here, it was just eye-opening to me, and letting me know that somebody liked what I did and wanted me to play.”

So was Clemons upset with the lack of playing time?

“It all depends on how you look at frustration,” he said. “Everybody wants to play. In our position we were very deep. We had a lot of good guys at the end positions, and a lot of guys were getting banged up. It was just something you have to fight through, regardless of the situation. One thing about me, I never get really frustrated about stuff. I just ask questions.”

Bradley said Clemons give Seattle a leaner body coming off the edge.

“His length and his speed,” Bradley said about what he liked about Clemons at the Elephant position. “As you can imagine, if he’s always on the end you need a guy who has great speed coming off of the edge and great pass rush. So I think his length and his speed are assets for him.”

Bradley went on to say that both Foley and Reed are similar guys to Clemons and will compete for time at that position.

Clemons said he came into the league as a linebacker at Georgia, so covering running back and tight ends is nothing new. He had a career-high eight sacks at Oakland in 2007, and his hoping to get back to that type of play with Seattle. He looks to someone like New York Jets hybrid defensive end Jason Taylor as a person he would like to emulate in terms of play.

“From Day 1, they told me all they wanted me to do is focus on playing that position, and that’s what I’ve been doing,” Clemons said.

“My thing is getting acclimated to the scheme and learning exactly what to do. The coaches are going to play the best player anyways. I can only control what I’m able to do and how fast I’m able to learn it. And that’s what I’m aiming towards. If coach wants me to be the starter, then I’ll be the starter.”

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