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Quinton Jefferson could help Seahawks replace Malik McDowell

Malik McDowell's absence makes second-year DL Quinton Jefferson a player to watch. (AP)
LISTEN: How Quinton Jefferson can help replace Malik McDowell

RENTON – As the Seahawks look to fill the defensive-line role they had in mind for top pick Malik McDowell, who’s expected to be out for “quite a while” and possibly his entire rookie season, one under-the-radar name to keep in mind is Quinton Jefferson.

A fifth-round pick last year, Jefferson dealt with a hand injury and then suffered a season-ending knee injury after appearing in only three games as a rookie. On Wednesday, coach Pete Carroll said Jefferson did the most he’s been able to do in any practice this training camp. While he sounded cautious about Jefferson’s status as he works his way back into form following his knee injury – he also tore his ACL in college – Carroll sounded excited about what Jefferson can bring to Seattle’s defensive-line rotation.

“I didn’t see him much during the practice, but it’s really important for us to get him back in the mix. We’ve been counting on that,” Carroll said. “I don’t have much to report, but it’s great that he’s back finally. He’s worked really hard to get here. It’s a long haul and the fact that he made it through today is a great statement. We’ll see how he is tomorrow.”

Something Carroll didn’t see during Wednesday’s practice was Jefferson blowing by offensive lineman Rees Odhiambo with a speed move for one of the most impressive victories of training camp in the one-on-one pass-rush drill.

Jefferson was lined up inside on that play but can also play defensive end. That versatility is something that appealed to the Seahawks last year when they traded up to draft him out of Maryland, where he recorded 12.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks during his final season.

Jefferson is not the same type of athlete as McDowell, which is why one was considered a first-round talent and the other was taken in the fifth. While their times in the 40-yard dash at the scouting combine weren’t significantly different – 4.95 seconds for Jefferson, 4.85 for McDowell – Jefferson is two inches shorter and about 10 pounds lighter, listed at 6-4, 291. He doesn’t look quite as stout, particularly in his lower body.

But what the Seahawks believe Jefferson can do sounds pretty similar to what they saw in McDowell, which was someone who can provide interior pass-rush in nickel situations and also play defensive end.

“He’s got some versatility that he can play three-technique and five-technique for us,” Carroll said of Jefferson. “Honestly, I’m not sure where he’s going to be best with this group and the mix that we have. We’ll find that out in time. We would like to see him play five-technique for us if we could. That would help us out. But he’s a high-motor guy, he has good movement skills and the versatility and his athleticism allows him to play more than one spot. So we’ll see how it works out.”