RENTON – Rookie Bruce Irvin’s mentor finally arrived in Seattle when veteran defensive end Chris Clemons signed his contract extension and reported to training camp over the weekend.
The 30-year-old Clemons showed his displeasure with a lack of a new deal by not showing up to most of Seattle’s offseason workouts. And that decision affected the development of Irvin, who was selected No. 15 overall by the Seahawks in the first round as the heir apparent to Clemons.
But with Clemons now in camp, Irvin can begin to study how the University of Georgia product gets to the quarterback on a regular basis.
“It’s a big help,” Irvin said about having Clemons back in the fold. “I felt like when Clem wasn’t here, I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off. Now that Clem is here and I get can a visual of what he’s doing, it really helps me out a lot.”
And Clemons, who signed a reported three-year, $21 million deal, is eager to help.
“He’s super fast, so you know it’s going to help me,” Clemons said about Irvin. “Hopefully I’m able to help him throughout the season and help him mature as a football player.”
The Seahawks want to replicate the kind of success they had rushing the passer two years ago, when Clemons finished with 11 sacks and veteran Raheem Brock had nine sacks.
Last year, Clemons again posted 11 sacks, but the team’s second-leading pass rusher was linebacker Leroy Hill, with four. Seattle finished tied for 19th in the league with 33 sacks.
Even worse, the Seahawks had 12 sacks on third down last season, fourth-worst in the league.
Seattle defensive line coach Todd Wash stressed the importance of generating a consistent pass rush with just the four defensive linemen so the Seahawks do not have to blitz to get pressure.
“You see a lot of juice on the field,” Wash said. “And you see a lot of speed, obviously, with the two ends and J.J. (Jason Jones). And then we’re in the process of finding two more rushers to fill in – we need at least six rushers every Sunday to play.
“We’re excited about our progress, but we still have a long ways to go.”
Along with the speed off the edge, Seattle added a player who can push the pocket in 6-foot-5, 276-pound defensive tackle Jones, who was signed as a free agent. The former Tennessee Titans player will rush the passer from inside on passing downs and back up Red Bryant at defensive end.
“He’s a pretty good, big key to our inside,” Clemons said about Jones. “Last year, we didn’t have that – Red (Bryant) and (Brandon) Mebane started rushing at the end of the year.
“So now having him, it’s going to help us because he’s going to be that fresh body coming off the sideline.”
Along with Jones, third-year pro Clinton McDonald subs in for Mebane during passing situations. Seattle received McDonald in a trade with Cincinnati last season for cornerback Kelly Jennings. The 6-2, 300-poundMcDonald has the quickness and brute strength to collapse the pocket, making it easier for Irvin and Clemons to get around the edge.
The defensive line also is fueled by playing in front of one the best defensive backfields in the league, with cornerback Brandon Browner and safeties Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas all playing in the Pro Bowl last year and second-year pro cornerback Richard Sherman not far behind.
“We understand that they are physical guys,” Clemons said. “We understand that wide receivers are not going to be able to just get off the ball on them, and (that will) give us a split second more of an opportunity to get to the quarterback and cause problems in the backfield.”
No one appeared to be more pleased with the fact that the Seahawks were putting the pads on for the first time at Monday’s practice than second-year linebacker K.J. Wright.
Wright welcomed running back Robert Turbin to the league by drilling the rookie from Utah State, knocking Turbin on his back a couple of yards behind the line of scrimmage on a running play.
Wright again flashed that physical attitude during a running drill by standing up fullback Kregg Lumpkin, the lead blocker on the play.
And Wright finished the day by pancaking receiver Antonio Bryant on a crossing route during team drills.
“I had to come out here and show these boys what’s up, especially with these rookies,” Wright said. “You’ve got to put a pop on them and let them know how practice is going to be from here on out.
“This is the big boys. We’re hitting so get your pads low.”
Rookie quarterback Russell Wilson took the majority of the first-team repetitions on Monday, with Tarvaris Jackson working with the second unit and Matt Flynn working with the third unit.
Wilson appeared to be in command, doing a nice job of stepping up and throwing down the middle of the field when he felt pressure from the outside.
He said playing with veteran receivers Sidney Rice and Kellen Winslow has helped in his development.
“It’s been good to be out here with guys who have played in the National Football League and have excelled at a very high level,” Wilson said. “To try to figure out, ‘OK what are you going to do here if it’s man (coverage). Or if this guy’s on this leverage and it’s zone, what are you thinking?’ That’s how you have to talk to them, because you never know when your name is going to be called to be out on the field.”
Tight end Kellen Winslow returned to practice after sitting out Sunday. … Offensive lineman Allen Barbre was on the field for the first time in training camp after tending to a family situation. … Along with offensive lineman James Carpenter, wide receiver Jermaine Kearse and cornerback Walter Thurmond, all of whom are on the PUP list, others who did not practice Monday were defensive linemen Alan Branch and Jason Jones, linebackers Jameson Konz and Matt McCoy, cornerback Ron Parker and tight end Anthony McCoy.firstname.lastname@example.org 253-597-8437 blog.thenewstribune.com/seahawks @eric_d_williams