Renton – A raw but talented defensive end with an explosive first step, Texas A&M’s Michael Bennett fell through the cracks of the NFL draft and into the eager hands of the Seattle Seahawks.
General manager Tim Ruskell signed the free agent Bennett soon after the April draft.
The Seahawks envisioned the 6-foot-3, 280 pounder as a disruptive force at left defensive end. However, after a few days working with defensive line/assistant head coach Dan Quinn, Bennett was moved inside as a pass-rushing defensive tackle, a change that has been fruitful so far for Bennett and the team.
And going into the exhibtition game Thursday against Oakland on, Bennett could be on the verge of making the team’s final roster.
“The more I was around him I thought he had really good initial quickness,” Quinn said. “And as an inside tackle when you play three-technique that’s one of the things you look for in a guy, because at that position (the pass-rushing tackle) you need to be disruptive and have a fast first step, and he had those. And he has enough size at 280 pounds, so I thought I could train him to become a pretty good three-technique.”
Bennett did not overwhelm offenses in the pass-happy Big 12 Conference. During his senior season at Texas A&M, he finished with 42 tackles – including 12 tackles for a loss – and just 21/2 sacks.
Rob Rang, a senior draft analyst for NFL.DraftScout.com, said Bennett had no serious character issues that would have caused him to drop but noted Bennett’s falling draft status could have been because of inconsistent performance at the collegiate level.
However, like the Seahawks, Rang considered Bennett a diamond in the rough as well.
“The most intriguing thing to me about him is that he can be that swing guy who can play inside and out,” Rang said. “And I think that’s exactly what you’re looking for when you’re getting down to crunching the numbers on who’s going to make the final roster.”
Bennett considers being passed over in the draft as something that eventually worked in his favor.
“I was surprised because I was rated one of the top defensive ends in the country,” Bennett said about not being drafted. “But I just realized things happen for a reason, and ever since then I’ve just been trying to work hard, especially with a guy like (Seahawks coach) Jim Mora. He just told me to come in and work hard, regardless of what people said about you, you got a new start here, so it’s worked out pretty good.”
Bennett has stepped up his game in his first year as a pro. He’s recorded two sacks and four tackles for loss in three preseason games for Seattle, and is solidly in the conversation as someone who could make the team’s final, 53-man roster.
His solid play has gotten Mora’s attention.
“We had him playing end on first down and then we moved him in to tackle on third down, and he did a nice job,” Mora said about Bennett’s play against Kansas City last week. “So we kind of moved him into that three-technique. He’s an explosive guy.”
Bennett got Mora’s attention for all the wrong reasons early in training camp, when the eager rookie twice tackled running backs in team drills – a no-no when going against your own teammates. After a word or two from Mora, Bennett got the message.
Bennett also has a brother in the league, Dallas Cowboys tight end Martellus Bennett, who is 16 months younger but actually entered the league first after his junior season. He is in his second season with the Cowboys.
The two brothers played together for the Aggies, where they also were teammates with current Seahawks defensive tackle Red Bryant.
As the younger brother, Martellus Bennett is the more boisterous, while Michael Bennett plays the introspective, big-brother role.
Michael Bennett said he talks to his brother often.
“That’s my brother,” he said. “He’s my best friend so we talk every day, three or four times a day whenever we get a chance. We talk football. We talk family. He tells me what’s going on with his team and we’re just learning from everything. We talk about the whole journey as far as what he did as a rookie and what I’m doing as a rookie.”
Now a rookie gleaning new techniques from more seasoned players, Bennett said he’s learned a lot from veteran defensive linemen Colin Cole, Cory Redding and Patrick Kerney – and plans to keep improving as a player.
“They teach you how to be a pro,” he said.
The Seahawks waived wide receiver Michael Bumpus to reach the required 75-player limit before Tuesday’s deadline. The Washington State product originally signed with Seattle as an undrafted rookie free agent in April 2008. Bumpus played in four games with one start, catching five balls for 48 yards with one touchdown. The Seahawks must make their final cuts by Saturday to reach the 53-man roster limit. ...
Players sitting out practice Tuesday included defensive backs Marcus Trufant (back), C.J. Wallace (ribs) and Travis Fisher (hamstring); offensive linemen Walter Jones (knee), Cory Withrow (unspecified) and Chris Spencer (quad); wide receivers T.J. Houshmandzadeh (soreness) and Logan Payne (leg); and quarterback Seneca Wallace (groin).
Eric D. Williams: 253-597-8437