Michael Bennett might not look the part shuffling through the locker room, but the versatile defensive lineman has played a valuable role as a relentless pass-rusher during the Seahawks’ 3-0 start.
On Monday, Pete Carroll was effusive in his praise of the way Michael Bennett has played in the Seahawks’ first three games.
On Wednesday, the team’s fourth-year coach continued to beat the Bennett drum because of the defensive lineman’s versatility, relentlessness and high-rev motor.
“We saw him as a guy who could have a special role for us – a makeup of guys that we didn’t have because of he’s kind of slippery and sneaky fast,” Carroll said of Bennett, who was signed in free agency in March – actually re-signed because he entered the NFL in 2009 as a rookie free agent with the Seahawks.
“So he’s just been intense and more physical than we could picture. So we’re really pleased with it.”
Intense? Relentless? Tenacious?
Those aren’t the words that come to mind when you see Bennett shuffling through the locker room or down a hallway at Virginia Mason Athletic Center. Laid back. Mellow. Just chillin’. Now those are tags that fit the 6-foot-4, 274-pound Bennett off the field.
How does that sleepy-eyed shuffler with the old-school beard become the whirling ball of butcher knives that has produced a team-high 2.5 sacks and made plays that defy explanation in the first three games for the NFL’s No. 1-ranked defense?
“I’ve got three daughters, so I just try to feed them every day,” Bennett said in the locker room when asked how he flips the intensity switch once on the field. “It’s motivation. I’ve got three weddings to pay for, so that’s all I think about, that’s all I care about.
“I’ve got three of them, three weddings coming. So I just try to play as hard as I can.”
Bennett’s return to the Seahawks does seem to be a marriage made in pass-rush heaven, at least as far as Carroll is concerned.
Carroll has been preoccupied with improving the Seahawks’ pass rush since he arrived in 2010. That’s why the club made the trade with the Philadelphia Eagles that offseason to acquire Leo end Chris Clemons, who responded with 33.5 sacks the past three seasons. That’s why the club used its first-round draft choice last year on Bruce Irvin, who led all NFL rookies with eight sacks. That’s why Cliff Avril and Bennett were signed in free agency this offseason.
But it’s Bennett who is providing even more than was anticipated, in large part because of his ability to play multiple positions. Versatile? He lined up at five different spots along the defensive line in Sunday’s 42-17 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars – end and three-technique tackle in the base defense; Leo end and three-technique tackle in the nickel line; and even nose tackle in the latest wrinkle involving the nickel line.
“I always played multiple positions since I’ve been playing football – inside, outside – so I’m used to doing that,” said Bennett, who seems less impressed with his efforts than everyone else. “It’s just going out there, chasing the man with the ball and trying to get him down.”