Heaps: Why Seahawks LB K.J. Wright’s position change has been huge success

Oct 13, 2020, 8:12 AM
Seahawks LB K.J. Wright...
Seahawks LB K.J. Wright has played well since moving to SAM LB from WILL. (Getty)

K.J. Wright has been a star for the Seahawks for a long time, and over Seattle’s last two wins, he’s played as well as any member of that defense, putting in two straight great performances. Those great outings for the Seahawks’ longest-tenured player have coincided with a recent position change for the veteran linebacker.

Seahawks Observations: Clayton on 5-0 Hawks going into bye week

Wright, who was drafted in 2011, has played weakside (WILL) linebacker since entering the league, and he and middle linebacker Bobby Wagner have been arguably the NFL’s best linebacker duo since Wagner was drafted in 2012.

Those two have played alongside many strongside (SAM) linebackers in their years in Seattle, such as Bruce Irvin, who returned to the Seahawks this offseason. But when Irvin tore his ACL in Week 2, that prompted a change on the defense, as first-round rookie Jordyn Brooks became a starter for Week 3 and assumed the WILL spot. Even when Brooks got hurt and missed Week 4 and 5, Wright stayed at SAM with Cody Barton taking over at WILL, which lines up on the strong side of the defense, typically close to the line of scrimmage near the opposing tight end.

Former NFL quarterback Jake Heaps said on 710 ESPN Seattle’s Tom, Jake and Stacy that moving Wright to SAM has been the best position change the team has made this season.

“K.J. Wright is the one who has benefited the most from a position change,” he said. “You look at him being at that WILL linebacker moving over to the SAM linebacker position and playing on the edge, I think it suits him very well.”

In Week 4, Wright was a force, getting eight tackles, a tackle for loss and three pass breakups that were all nearly intercepted. In Week 5, Wright had just three tackles, but he recovered a fumble, broke up two passes and recorded this fantastic one-handed interception.

Heaps said Wright is a natural fit for a SAM linebacker at this stage of his career.

“K.J. is long – he has long arms – and he is a guy who can really hold the edge very, very well in run containment,” he said. “You just look at his ability to play in space, he’s still got that. I think sometimes at that WILL linebacker position, he is put in spots where he has to cover a little too much space whereas at the SAM linebacker position, I think he’s able to use his instincts.”

Wright still has to play in space at SAM, as evidenced in his interception, but Heaps said the move allows Wright to match up with players who he is better suited to defend.

“Really all he needs to do is either play the flat or he’s going to be matched up on a running back, a tight end – someone that is more apt to his skillset at this stage of his career,” Heaps said. “I think K.J. moving to the SAM linebacker position was really, really fun to watch and when Jordyn Brooks comes back, maybe he takes over as the permanent WILL linebacker.”

Follow Jake Heaps on Twitter.

Carroll Show: Seahawks show ‘championship poise’ after poor first half

Jake and Stacy

Seahawks Drew Lock...
Stacy Rost

Seahawks Practice Snapshot: Good day for QB Drew Lock and offense

Stacy Rost details the latest from Seahawks practice as they're just days away from beginning the preseason against the Steelers on Saturday.
2 months ago
Michael Bumpus Stacy Rost...
SeattleSports.com Staff

New Seattle Sports show: ‘Bump and Stacy’ with Michael Bumpus and Stacy Rost

The next chapter of middays on Seattle Sports begins Monday with the debut of Bump and Stacy, co-hosted by Michael Bumpus and Stacy Rost.
4 months ago
Seahawks Sean Desai...
Brandon Gustafson

What new assistants Desai and Scott revealed about Seahawks’ defense

Jake Heaps breaks down some encouraging comments from new Seahawks defensive assistants Sean Desai and Karl Scott about the defense.
4 months ago
Seahawks Broncos Drew Lock...
Brandon Gustafson

Should Seahawks be OK going into 2022 with Smith or Lock at QB?

Are the Seahawks really comfortable with Geno Smith or Drew Lock as the starter? Jake Heaps thinks that isn't "an ideal situation."
4 months ago
Jake Heaps Stacy Rost...
SeattleSports.com Staff

Seattle Sports’ Jake Heaps announces departure from Jake & Stacy show

After four years with Seattle Sports, Jake Heaps will be leaving the Jake and Stacy show to enter a new chapter in his career.
4 months ago
Seahawks 49ers Jimmy Garoppolo...
Stacy Rost

3 things Seahawks fans should know about potential Jimmy G trade

The possibility of the Seahawks acquiring quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has picked up steam this week. Stacy Rost examines its viability.
4 months ago
Heaps: Why Seahawks LB K.J. Wright’s position change has been huge success