The Seahawks’ let’s-take-a-look experiment of moving rookie linebacker K.J. Wright into the middle has been a success so far. Saturday night, his next test involves starting against the Broncos.
If someone had told K.J. Wright when training camp began that he would be starting at middle linebacker in the Seahawks’ third preseason game, his initial reaction would have been to glance over each shoulder to figure out who they were talking to.
“I didn’t see this one coming,” Wright said. “But this is football, and sometimes things happen. When your name gets called, you’ve got to just step up and handle it.”
Don’t look now, but the rookie from Mississippi State will indeed start against the Broncos in Denver on Saturday night. The fourth-round draft choice is stepping in because David Hawthorne is out with a sore knee.
But that’s a story in itself, because Wright was drafted as an outside linebacker. He moved inside, as Hawthorne’s backup, after incumbent starter Lofa Tatupu was released on July 31.
And how did that happen? Coach Pete Carroll defers to Ken Norton Jr., because it was the team’s linebackers coach who saw something that made him think Wright had, well, the right stuff.
“Initially, in my conversations with him and with what he thinks he does best, I just felt it was worth a try,” Norton said, flipping through a list of Wright’s attributes that included the ability to run, hit and call the defense.
“He’s a guy that’s used to being productive and he wants to be in on every play.”
The Seahawks made a similar move last summer, when then-defensive line coach Dan Quinn suggested that Carroll give little-used defensive tackle Red Bryant a look at the five-technique end spot. That experiment blew up in the faces of opposing offenses until Bryant went down in Week 8 with a season-ending knee injury.
And so far, Wright is taking to his new position. He has worked with the No. 1 defense in practice all week and definitely looked the part – despite actually not looking the part, because he is 6 feet 4.
“It is an unusual Mike linebacker,” Carroll admitted. “You don’t see guys that big, but he’s done good things in coverage and I’m anxious to see if he can hold his own and make the hits and come through. I think he’s going to do just fine.”
Wright definitely did that while playing with the No. 2 defense in the first two preseason games. He had a team-high eight tackles in the opener against the Chargers in San Diego and added two more tackles and a QB hit in last week’s home opener against the Minnesota Vikings.
“He’s certainly grown into the position,” Norton said. “Understanding what the responsibilities are. Understanding the whole idea of being a middle ’backer. The whole role you have to play. He’s really understanding how to play at a high level on this level, and it’s really fun to watch.”
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Tags: Broncos, coach pete carroll, Conversations, David Hawthorne, Defensive Line Coach, Draft Choice, Initial Reaction, J Wright, Ken Norton Jr, Knee Injury, linebackers, Middle Linebacker, Mississippi State, New Position, Preseason Game, Right Stuff, Saturday Night, Seahawks, Sore Knee, training camp
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