SEATTLE — Michael Bennett needs a different positional label.
He’s listed as a defensive end, though he often plays inside. Yet, by some NFL standards, he’s too small to be a tackle — 6-foot-4, 274 pounds.
Perhaps his position should be called “menace.”
Bennett has 21/2 sacks in two games for the Seattle Seahawks after missing the season opener because of a preseason knee injury.
He’s squat and square with quick feet and relentless motion. That’s enough to have surprised Seahawks coach Pete Carroll.
“He’s more than we thought he was,” Carroll said. “He’s got more variety to his game, it comes out of just the tenacity and the motor that he has. We are real excited about it.”
Bennett’s signing as an unrestricted free agent in March also was a surprise. The Seahawks knew Bruce Irvin and Chris
Clemons would be in the fold at some point. They also had signed Cliff Avril, gobbling up a player who many people considered to be the top defensive end available in free agency.
The Seahawks signed Bennett anyway. Bennett, who had nine sacks last season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, received a one-year contract worth $5 million.
“This is a classic example that I’ve tried to explain, that we were looking for guys with special qualities,” Carroll said. “We’re not just looking for just cookie-cutter guys. We want guys to have something. He has something really unique about him.”
That quality has allowed the Seahawks to put a lighter, faster defensive line on the field at times. Bennett was joined by Clemons, Avril and O’Brien Schofield for 14 plays Sunday against Jacksonville. Bennett is the heaviest of that group at 274 pounds.
“For years, we have been looking for an inside presence in the pass rush,” Carroll said. “I think that’s the best shot that we have right now. That’s not to mention the other guys are doing well too, but he has really jumped out.”
That has Carroll delighted when he thinks about what is to come.
Irvin, who had eight sacks last season, will return in Week 5 after he finishes serving his NFL suspension for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances.
Clemons played Sunday for the first time since tearing the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his left knee during last season’s playoff game against the Washington Redskins. He led the Seahawks with 111/2 sacks last year and has had at least 11 sacks in each of his three seasons in Seattle.
Avril missed the opener because of a hamstring problem. He picked up a sack against San Francisco in Week 2 and averaged 9.7 sacks in the past three seasons.
“We’re a very fast group, and a couple of weeks from now we’re going to be flying, we’re going to be really fast,” Carroll said. “When we put all of that together, we’re still going to be in a mode of still trying to find our way right now for a while. I don’t feel like we have it nailed yet.
“We have some choices, so we’ll try to take advantage of our matchups, and we’ll mix and match those guys and move them around. They all feel comfortable in those kinds of roles. So it’s a good, adaptable group that should be really fun to watch as we grow. I think it’ll take seven or eight games before we really know what we’re doing.”
That could be bad news for the rest of the league.
Defensive tackle Red Bryant has a sore back after experiencing back spasms Sunday. Carroll said Bryant should be healed in three or four days. … Wide receiver Jermaine Kearse has a sprained ankle. Carroll said Kearse is “moving around pretty good” and is out of a walking boot. … Right guard Breno Giacomini has a sore knee, which forced him to exit Sunday’s game early. It also limited his practice time last week. … Left tackle Russell Okung was officially placed on injured reserve with a designation to return. To fill Okung’s roster spot, Seattle signed tackle Caylin Hauptmann from the Cleveland Browns’ practice squad. He’s listed at third-string left tackle on the depth chart.
seahawkstodd.dybas@ thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/seahawks @Todd_Dybas