While Aaron Curry is getting most of the attention in the Seahawks’ swap of starters at strongside linebacker, the play of rookie K.J. Wright also factored into the decision.
As five TV cameras and two dozen reporters were gathered around Aaron Curry in the hallway just outside the Seahawks’ locker room on Wednesday, K.J. Wright sat quietly in his cubicle.
The surprising saga of the rookie linebacker is the easily overlooked aspect of Curry being replaced as the strongside linebacker. Because it was the plays Wright made in his first two NFL games that had as much to do with last week’s decision as those Curry didn’t make.
“K.J. has done very well,” coach Pete Carroll said during his midweek news conference as the Seahawks spent the day preparing for Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons at CenturyLink Field.
“He’s been a guy that has just blown us away with how fast he could learn.”
When the club selected Wright with their fourth-round pick in the April NFL Draft, they envisioned him being the backup on the strong side to Curry, the fourth overall pick in the 2009 draft. There was Lofa Tatupu, the incumbent starter at middle linebacker, was released in late July. That prompted the move of David Hawthorne from the weakside to the middle, and Wright also moved inside to backup Hawthorne.
That’s also when Wright started raising more than just a few eyebrows. He led the team with eight tackles in the preseason opener. When Hawthorne went down with a sprained knee in the second preseason game, Wright started the final two and had a team-high five tackles in the finale. He also started the regular-season opener against the 49ers in San Francisco and had five more tackles.
“We put him inside to see his instincts behind the football and he showed all of that,” Carroll said. “He played stout, he got off blocks well, he didn’t get knocked around at all. He’s a physical kid at the point of attack and he’s good in pass coverage. So that all showed up.”
After Curry struggled in the Week 2 loss to the Steelers in Pittsburgh, along with the rest of the team, the coaches decided to see what Wright could do on the strongside – a position that now plays off the line and closer to the middle of the field this season, compared to what Curry was asked to do last season.
“Then we said, ‘OK, let’s take a look at you in another spot,’ and he could pick it up in a couple of days,” Carroll said, shaking his head. “That’s a strong message about a kid’s savvy, instincts and feel for the game.”
Told of Carroll’s comments, Wright smiled before offering, “I guess it’s genes. I’ve always been smart. I’ve always picked up things really fast. So I really pride myself on being a smart player. And when you can learn fast, absorb it and then put it out on the field, that really helps you out as far as playing.”
Reminded that you’re not supposed to be able to make quantum leaps while making the jump from college to the NFL, Wright’s smiled turned to a laugh.
“It’s not easy,” he said. “It’s just something I’ve been blessed with and just something I’m good at doing.”
Then came the clincher as far as the coaches are concerned. “And I’m going to keep doing it,” he said.
Because he’s 6 feet 4, Wright stands out when he’s just standing there. But that also plays to him being able to make plays, because it’s easier to defend what’s easier to see.
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Tags: Atlanta Falcons, coach pete carroll, Cubicle, curry, David Hawthorne, Eyebrows, J Wright, Locker Room, Lofa Tatupu, Middle Linebacker, Midweek News, nfl draft, nfl games, Preseason Game, Preseason Opener, Season Opener, Strong Side, Strongside Linebacker, Tv Cameras
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