RENTON — On a team that counts continuity among its greatest strengths, the Seattle Seahawks are hoping that change can be a good thing for the defensive line.
Veterans Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett and Tony McDaniel were brought in to add depth and their value could become even greater while Bruce Irvin serves a four-game suspension and Chris Clemons recovers from knee surgery that has his status for the season opener in doubt.
The Seahawks will begin to see how the changes are shaking out starting Thursday night when Seattle opens the preseason at San Diego.
“We’ve been watching all these guys play for years,” veteran defensive tackle Brandon Mebane said. “They bring a lot of qualities we love.”
For all its strengths, the line was the one area of the defense that appeared to be in need of some upgrade during the offseason.
While there were no big names like the additions of Antoine Winfield and Percy Harvin, the Seahawks did use a lot of resources in addressing the defensive line. In addition to the veteran free agents, Seattle used two draft picks on defensive linemen, getting tackle Jordan Hill in the third round and former Alabama starter Jesse Williams in the fifth round.
“The three-techniques are really important, and all of those guys are going to play,” coach Pete Carroll said this week. “It’s going to take us all the way through preseason to figure that out, I think. All of those guys will get play time.”
Avril, Clemons and Irvin can play the Leo position, which is a hybrid end/linebacker, although Irvin has moved back and is playing more of a traditional outside linebacker role during training camp. On the other side of the line, defensive end Red Bryant is a converted defensive tackle who has unique size (6-foot-4, 323 pounds) for an end rusher.
Inside, the Seahawks have plenty of options behind projected starters Mebane and McDaniel. Along with Hill and Williams, Seattle also has Clinton McDonald and Jaye Howard as options who can be used inside. Thursday’s preseason game could provide some answers as to who and how the Seahawks will use their deep group of defensive linemen.
“We’ve all played in different defenses, but they were similar,” Bennett said. “We’ve got a lot of good players who can do different things and fill different roles.”
The only thing that seems to be missing is a nickname. Bennett joked that the defensive line wants to be called “Legion of Doom,” a play on Seattle’s defensive backfield and their nickname of “Legion of Boom.”
“We don’t need a nickname,” said Mebane. “We just want to go out and play our game.”
While Seattle’s secondary, led by All-Pros Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas, gets most of the publicity, the Seahawks believe their defensive line has already made a name for itself.
“I don’t think we’re under the radar at all,” Bennett said. “We’ve got a lot of great people, guys who have led the league in sacks and can do a lot of things . guys who have made a lot of big plays.”
The Seahawks seem to have plenty of depth along their line, and that should come in handy while Irvin and Clemons are out.
“We’ll miss them,” Mebane said. “But we’ve got to do what we’ve got to do. We’ve still got to make plays.”