RENTON — Cornerback Brandon Browner put it succinctly when asked why he prefers physical, man-to-man coverage over a passive zone look on Sundays.
“Mano-a-mano,” he said. “You against me – and that’s the type of mentality you have to have when you play cornerback.”
Browner should get more opportunities to get in receivers’ faces come September, when new Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn plans to put his Pro Bowl defensive backs on an island more often in order to create more pass rush opportunities up front.
“We have a real style of how to play three-deep (zone) and man-to-man,” Quinn said. “So I think it’s no surprise to see the increase
of that technique and style. It’s a culmination of really embracing that style and then having terrific guys who can do it.”
Former Seattle defensive coordinator Gus Bradley took more of a conservative tack to coverage in the back end of the defense, wanting to avoid giving up the big play.
According to ESPN Stats and Information, the Seahawks rushed five or more players 23.7 percent of the time in 2012, which was among the bottom third of teams in the NFL.
The league average was to rush five or more players 29.5 percent of the time.
The approach mostly worked for the Seahawks, who allowed just 40 receptions of 20-plus yards in 2012, No. 6 in the league. Seattle gave up just 15 passing touchdowns last season, tied for No. 2 in the NFL with Baltimore.
However, the Seahawks had trouble generating a consistent pass rush, finishing tied for 18th in sacks with 36. Playing more man-to-man defense would give Quinn a chance to run more exotic and aggressive blitz packages with Seattle’s front seven.
The Seahawks have the talent in the secondary to make it work. Richard Sherman is considered one of the best cover corners in the game. The Stanford product led the league in pass deflections last season with 32, and tied for second with eight interceptions. Browner, two years removed from a trip to the Pro Bowl, is pretty good too.
Rounding out Seattle’s secondary are two stellar safeties, hard-hitting strong safety Kam Chancellor and free safety Earl Thomas, who has the range and reflexes to play center field. Both can erase a lot of mistakes by the team’s tall, lanky corners.
“That’s who we are,” Seahawks defensive backs coach Kris Richard said, when asked about playing more man-to-man coverage. “It’s awesome to hear our guys are up for the challenge. But we’re going to play the call, and we’re going to execute the call — whatever it is — to the best of our ability. That’s first and foremost, and if it happens to be more man (coverage), so be it.
“The emphasis always is going to be on execution. But name one corner that doesn’t like man coverage?”
LYNCH RETURNS TO OTA
Absent during Monday’s organized-team-activity workout open to reporters, Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch was back at practice Wednesday.
Lynch also was in attendance at Tuesday’s workout, and is expected to be on hand during the team’s mandatory minicamp next week.
Lynch mostly worked with the second- and third-unit offense, giving Robert Turbin, along with rookies Christine Michael and Spencer Ware an opportunity to work with the starters.
Seattle coach Pete Carroll reiterated that he’s not concerned with how much or how little work Lynch gets during these OTA practices.
“He’s in really good shape,” Carroll said. “We’re trying to get him all the way through this offseason and get him ready for the real season.
“We know what Marshawn can do, as long as he’s in really good shape. And he’s in fantastic shape. He’s hard as a rock, and he’s worked really hard up until this point. There’s so much wear on the tires, and we don’t want to wear him down now. It’s not at that point that we should be pushing that.”
Along with defensive end Chris Clemons, who’s back in Georgia rehabbing from anterior cruciate ligament surgery, offensive tackle Breno Giacomini was absent from practice again Wednesday. Carroll said the Louisville product is back in New York to get some tests done on a knee that’s been bothering him. However, Carroll said Giacomini will not need surgery, and should be in attendance at the team’s minicamp next week. Rookie Michael Bowie continues to work at right tackle with the first unit with Giacomini gone. After three injury-plagued seasons, cornerback Walter Thurmond finally looks healthy, and has been one of the standout players during OTAs. Carroll said the University of Oregon product will get a chance to compete for the slot defender job with veteran addition Antoine Winfield. Six months removed from reconstructive knee surgery, Clemons could be available when the team opens the regular season in September, Carroll said. The coach expects to see Clemons at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center next week for the mandatory minicamp, but he will not participate in any on-field drills. “He does have a shot to be ready, according to the doctors,” Carroll said. “He’s got a chance, and we’ll just wait and see how it goes. Like I’ve said from the beginning, we’re not going to rush it. We’ll just make sure he’s really well, and ready to go and all of that. But he’s well ahead of schedule, and he’s in great shape. So we’re really pleased.”Eric D. Williams: 253-597-8437 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/seahawks