RENTON — A year after J.R. Sweezy became the biggest surprise of the Seattle Seahawks preseason — OK, maybe that Russell Wilson guy caught a few folks off guard too — the defensive-tackle-turned-guard has improved to the point that he didn’t just win a starting job, he did enough to make the Seahawks decide that his competition for that spot was expendable.
And the Seahawks apparently weren’t overly concerned with what they got in return for John Moffitt. Because after Monday’s trade to send Moffitt to Cleveland was voided on Tuesday — reportedly due to concerns about the health of Moffitt’s knee — Seattle quickly came up with another deal to send Moffitt to Denver for defensive tackle Sealver Siliga.
Sililga, who is listed at 6-2, 325, came into the league as an undrafted rookie out of Utah in 2011. He originally signed with San Francisco, then was signed to Denver’s practice squad after the 49ers cut him prior to the start of last season. Siliga was on Denver’s 53-man roster last season, though he appeared in just one game.
So while Siliga could go on to do big things in Seattle, the fact that Moffitt has been traded twice in as many days for undrafted players with little NFL experience says this deal was more about the Seahawks liking what they have in Sweezy and their young depth than it does about their concern over getting value for Moffitt.
Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said the trade happened not just because Sweezy had won the competition at right guard, but also because of the development of rookie linemen like Alvin Bailey, Michael Bowie and Ryan Seymour.
“We alternated all through camp to see if (Moffitt) could get J.R., and J.R. beat him out,” Carroll said. “We would not have been able to do a trade like that if the young guys hadn’t been doing such a great job. I think that it’s really a statement about those guys growing and coming in and helping us. We had the opportunity to and hopefully we can help ourselves with what we get.”
For Sweezy, taking hold of the starting job was just the latest indicator of how far he has come in the last year. When the Seahawks drafted Sweezy and announced the plan to move him to offense, most figured it would be a long-term project, but he played so well in camp that he ended up starting the opener while Moffitt battled injuries. Sweezy was a part-time starter as a rookie, sharing time with Moffitt, but feels like he is a very different player now than he was last season.
“It’s finally coming together,” he said. “I finally feel like an offensive lineman. I know the combos, I know my responsibilities, and now it’s just a matter of doing them fast.
“It’s night and day. It’s unbelievable how much I didn’t know last year compared to this year. So I’d say it’s a big jump.”
Tight end Zach Miller came off the physically unable to perform list and returned to practice Tuesday. Miller confirmed what Carroll had said previously — that the injury was not related to the plantar fascia injury he played through in the playoffs — and said now that he is fully recovered, the injury should not be an issue moving forward.
“It’s a one-time thing and once it heals, it’s supposed to heal stronger,” Miller said. “So I don’t expect any issues with it for the rest of the year or the rest of my career.”
Miller said he hopes to see time in one of Seattle’s final two preseason games, but Carroll said Miller won’t play Friday in Green Bay, and that the priority with veterans like Miller and wide receiver Sidney Rice is to have them healthy for the regular season opener.
“Well we’re going to be careful,” Carroll said. “If you noticed he was involved in the early part of practice, but we kept him out of team periods and all of that. We’re going to go one game at a time. We’re still, for the long run, shooting for the opener, and we’ll see how that works out.”
Also returning to practice on a limited basis were defensive end Bruce Irvin and defensive tackle Tony McDaniel, both of whom have been sidelined by groin injuries. Fullback Michael Robinson was absent due to illness, but Carroll said he should be back in plenty of time for Friday’s game. Rookie defensive tackle Jordan Hill suffered an arm injury during practice, Carroll said, though the severity of the injury was not immediately known.
Herald Writer John Boyle: email@example.com.