Moving around: How Seahawks’ D-line is fitting into new scheme

Jun 13, 2024, 12:30 PM

Seattle Seahawks Leonard Williams 2023 49ers...

Seattle Seahawks defensive lineman Leonard Williams sacks 49ers QB Brock Purdy in 2023. (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

(Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Positional versatility is one of the primary facets of new Seattle Seahawks head coach Mike Macdonald’s cutting-edge defense.

Secondary shines during Seahawks’ minicamp

During his success-filled stint as Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator, Macdonald’s ability to creatively move players around was a major factor in an NFL-best unit that befuddled opposing offenses with a constantly shifting array of looks.

“When you have guys that can do multiple things, play different gaps in the run game and rush at different levels in the pass game, it just opens up more personnel groups (and) more looks you can generate,” Macdonald said.

There’s plenty of intrigue as to what that will look like in Seattle, especially along a defensive line that’s stocked with promising talent.

Veteran defensive lineman Leonard Williams gave some insight into the scheme prior to the team’s final minicamp practice on Wednesday.

“They kind of have me playing like six different spots – from the zero (over center) all the way out pretty much to both sides,” he said.

Williams certainly isn’t the only defensive lineman who will be moving around up front. Dre’Mont Jones played both inside and outside during minicamp. Nose tackle Jarran Reed said he’s moving outside more often in the new scheme. Even rookie first-round defensive tackle Byron Murphy II has the flexibility to mix and match.

“We’ve got a lot of guys that can play a lot of different positions,” Reed said during OTAs. “I’m excited to see where we can go with this. … I think (the versatility) will benefit us a lot. Guys won’t know where we’re gonna be at as much, so we can create some confusion along the offensive line.”

With all the moving parts, Williams said it’ll be a challenge for opposing offenses to game plan for them.

“They may see Dre’Mont at a 5-technique (outside the offensive tackle) on film, and then when we line up and play against them, he’s probably going to be playing a zero or a 3-technique (in between the guard and tackle),” Williams said. “So it’s harder for an offense to scheme against one specific player because we move around so much.”

The installation

For the Seahawks, the increased positional versatility means more information to soak in as they work to install their new-look defense.

“At the same time of learning the defense, we’re not just learning one position. We have to learn multiple positions at the same time,” Williams said. “So it’s kind of a lot of load on us right now, but I think it’ll pay off in the long run.”

Williams said the coaching staff is taking an individualized approach to moving players around. As he explained, it’s not simply a matter of lining players up in different spots.

“The coaches are doing a good job of knowing that we’re all different,” Williams said. “So even though he might say get from point A to point B, he’s gonna tell me to get there differently, or he’ll allow me to get there differently than the way (Jarran) Reed would get there. And I think to me, that takes a great coach to understand that we’re different players, and even though we can do the same job, we may do it differently.”

As a coaching staff, Macdonald said they are still assessing how all the pieces fit together. Even as they get into the season, he said they will continually be mixing things up.

“You’re gonna constantly evolve of where you’re gonna put guys and how you’re gonna interact and what groups you’re gonna put out there,” Macdonald said during OTAs. “If you’re not doing that, you get static and offenses kind of get a beat for what you’re doing, so you’ve gotta keep it moving.”

More Seattle Seahawks coverage

• After standout spring, JSN primed to be ‘massive piece’ of Seahawks’ offense
• Are LB injuries a concern for Seahawks? A look at where things stand
• Jake Bobo: New Seahawks OC Grubb is moving all the WRs around
• DK Metcalf excited for Seahawks’ future under Mike Macdonald
• An update on Seattle Seahawks injury news as minicamp begins

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