Seahawks’ Kevin Williams adjusting nicely to nose tackle role

Dec 18, 2014, 10:42 AM | Updated: 11:11 am
Kevin Williams took over at nose tackle for the Seahawks after Brandon Mebane went down to injury. ...
Kevin Williams took over at nose tackle for the Seahawks after Brandon Mebane went down to injury. (AP)

RENTON – Kevin Williams knew his role would be different when he signed with Seattle in the offseason, going from a starter for more than a decade in Minnesota to a complimentary part of Seattle’s deep defensive-line rotation.

Turns out, Williams is playing a different position entirely, taking over as Seattle’s starting nose tackle once Brandon Mebane went down with a season-ending injury last month.

“It’s getting better week in, week out,” Williams told 710 ESPN Seattle’s “Bob and Groz” on Wednesday. “I could always improve, but I think I’ve been doing better every week.”

Williams, 34, is one of the most accomplished defensive tackles of his generation. The resume he compiled during his 11 seasons in Minnesota included six Pro Bowls, five first-team All-Pro selections, 60 sacks and a spot on the NFL’s all-decade team.

He mainly operated out of the defensive-tackle spot known as the three-technique, which lines up just off one of the offensive guards. And that’s what he primarily played during the first nine games of the season, most of his playing time coming when Seattle went with its nickel defense in passing situations.

But when Mebane went down with a torn hamstring in early November, it left a sizable hole in the middle of Seattle’s defensive line that Williams has willingly helped fill.

“Kevin Williams has done really well,” coach Pete Carroll said last week. “I’m really fired up about what he’s done. He’s made the transition to somewhat of a new position for him and he’s been very effective.”

Williams’ position switch required a shift in gears. A three-technique defensive tackle in Seattle’s 4-3 defense lines up over one of the guards whereas the nose tackle is on the center, who gets as good a jump on the play as anyone since he’s snapping the ball. On top of that, the nose tackle often faces an instant double team from the center and guard, which means he has to react that much quicker.

“The nose is a step faster. It’s the fastest spot on the D-line as far as attack position,” Williams explained. “When you move out to the three it’s a little slower, to the end it’s a little slower, but being on the nose everything happens a step faster. You’re in the center of the action and the center gets on you quick. You and the middle linebacker kinda dictate the middle of the run defense, and if you’ve got big holes in the middle you know you’ve got problems.”

Seattle’s defense allowed an average of 80 rushing yards over the first nine games compared to 103 over the past five, and while that’s a notable difference, it’s not nearly the dropoff some feared given how good Mebane is against the run. It’s also worth noting that Seattle has faced three of the league’s better rushing offenses – Kansas City’s, San Francisco’s and Philadelphia’s – in four of those five games.

It hasn’t been a seamless transition, but it’s been about as smooth as you could expect considering how Williams is filling a different role than the one he had been accustomed to.

“He’s a terrific football player and we’re lucky to have him on our team,” Carroll said. “I’m really thrilled at how he’s come through.”

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