Conditioning keeps Seahawks’ rookie DTs a step ahead

May 12, 2013, 2:40 PM | Updated: May 13, 2013, 10:37 am

“They were not taxed by the workload,” coach Pete Carroll said of rookies Jordan Hill and Jesse Williams. (AP)

By Danny O’Neil

RENTON – The Seahawks’ plan along the defensive line became clear over the course of the three-day rookie minicamp, but only because Jordan Hill and Jesse Williams are in such good shape.

“They were in better shape than the other guys,” coach Pete Carroll said of his defensive linemen. “They were not taxed by the workload. You could see some of the guys were really tightening up and all of that. They did not have a problem.”

The Jordan Hill file

Position: Defensive tackle
School: Penn State
Height/Weight: 6-1, 303 lbs.
Drafted: Round 3, 87 overall
Notable: Can play both nose tackle and 3-technique. Totaled 64 tackles and 4.5 sacks as a senior.

That’s important because Seattle’s minicamp for its 11 draft picks and other assorted rookies gave the first evidence of just how significant the team’s plans are for its pair of rookie defensive tackles.

Hill, a third-round pick out of Penn State, is playing nose tackle, while Williams, the fifth-round pick out of Alabama, is the next spot over at what is referred to as the three-technique in Seattle’s scheme.

“(We’ll) see if he can play first and second down for us,” Carroll said of Williams.

That’s the starting point for what Seattle hopes will be a broader, more versatile role.

“We’ll probably wind up keeping Jesse at three-technique for a while,” Carroll said. “Then we’ll move him to five-technique to see how he does there and then we’ll bring him back to nose tackle in time. He has played all these spots.”

This is Carroll’s blueprint for integrating rookies into his team: Find a specific role, maybe even a niche, and broaden from there.

Now there are exceptions to that format. Two of Seattle’s rookies will be worked into the first-team rotation over the offseason workouts: receiver Chris Harper and tight end Luke Willson. Seattle’s defensive linemen, however, have more narrow roles.

The Jesse Williams file

Position: Defensive tackle
School: Alabama
Height/Weight: 6-4, 329 lbs.
Drafted: Round 5, 137 overall
Notable: A native of Australia and a starter on Alabama’s BCS Title teams in 2011 and ’12.

Hill will have a more narrow role to begin with, working behind starter Brandon Mebane.

“Jordan is an accomplished nose tackle,” Carroll said. “He knows how to play the position. He has been coached very well. He’s got good, long arms for his size and he uses his hands really well. He got in the backfield, penetrated a lot. He looks like he could be a really good addition to complement what Mebane does in there.”

Williams’ spot on the depth chart will remain to be seen as he’s playing the position where Alan Branch started the past two years. The Seahawks opted not to re-sign him, signing Tony McDaniel from Miami to a one-year contract as Branch left for Buffalo.

And while it’s only three days of minicamp, Williams showed he might even start at that spot. He’s a powerful man with a surprisingly lean lower body, and though he came in weighing 329 pounds, he was able to keep up with every drill.

That’s not a shock since he played for Nick Saban at Alabama, where the practices are at a brisk pace and the format of the defense is similar to the concepts Seattle uses.

“A lot of the plays are really similar to the schemes we ran at Alabama,” Williams said.

One big difference, though, is the music that plays during Carroll’s practice.

“I’m not sure coach Saban would like that,” Williams said.

But while the soundtrack has changed, the first weekend of work showed that Seattle’s pair of rookie tackles are in shape to add to Seattle’s defensive line sooner rather than later.

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