LB pair add flash and bash
ERIC D. WILLIAMS; Staff writer
RENTON – Linebackers Malcolm Smith and K.J. Wright embody the Seattle Seahawks’ desire to get bigger, faster, stronger – and younger – on defense.
Smith, a 22-year-old seventh-round draft choice out of the University of Southern California, created some buzz last week against San Diego with a couple explosive plays that had defensive coordinator Gus Bradley singing his praises on Thursday.
“The big thing I’ve talked about is don’t do the up-and-down, like you sometimes see rookies do,” Bradley said. “We’ve seen flashes for three and four days, and we’re saying, ‘OK, keep going, Malcolm, don’t fall into that.’ And so far he’s done a nice job.”
At 6-foot, 230 pounds, Smith ran the 40-yard dash in 4.46 seconds on his pro day and gives Seattle another talented playmaker at linebacker.
“I bring a lot of speed to the position,” Smith said. “I’m definitely trying to work on everything. I feel like I cover pretty well. And I got a good feel for where the ball is, but I’m always trying to get better. I’m always watching to catch what other guys are doing and trying to get around the ball more.”
Wright, a 22-year-old fourth-round pick out of Mississippi State, plays bruiser to the cat-quick Smith.
The Seahawks initially had the 6-4, 250-pounder pegged to play behind Aaron Curry at outside linebacker. But because of his intelligence and athleticism, Bradley put him at inside linebacker behind starter David Hawthorne.
And Wright excelled in his first exhibition, finishing with a team-high eight solo tackles against San Diego.
“You really don’t see many guys like that,” Bradley said. “But we wanted to try him in there because he’s so sharp and smart, and picks up things really quick.
“And as he’s progressed through training camp we saw some things. And then in the game it took off for him. He really did a nice job in there.”
Wright said his size helps him make plays in the interior.
“You’ve got to take on (offensive) guards and fullbacks all the time,” Wright said. “And I can also move, too. So it’s real good for me. I can use my body and use my long arms.”
Bradley said playing Wright at middle linebacker is good training because he has to know everybody else’s assignments.
“It helps,” Bradley said. “This is the biggest stress on him right now. That’s the guy that makes all the checks and gets us lined up.”
Smith has had some help with the transition to the NFL because older brother Steve Smith is already in the league. The Pro Bowl receiver, four years older than Malcolm, was formerly with the New York Giants but just signed with Philadelphia. Both played for Sea-hawks coach Pete Carroll at USC.
“I was just talking to him right now,” Malcolm said of his older brother, whom he talks to almost daily. “It’s just normal brother talk, making sure he’s taking care of himself and doing well. I’m excited to see him get to play when he gets a chance. I’m always excited to get to watch him.”
Smith said the two had a natural big brother-little brother relationship growing up, which included some tussles.
“I started to try and fight him back, but he was too old for that by the time I was able to,” joked Malcolm. “I got a couple licks in, but not as many as I would have liked to when I was younger.”
Smith and Wright said they are leaning on each other as they go through the NFL rookie experience.
“We ride to the practices and after practices to the hotel together,” Wright said. “We’re always hanging out, going to the mall or whatever on our off days. So we get along pretty good.”
And they’re also getting some mentoring from older players such as Leroy Hill and Hawthorne.
“They’re definitely professional,” Smith said. “They know how to do this, and they’ve been doing it for a long time, and they’ve done it well. And we talk to them. A lot of time we spend is just trying to figure out how to approach the game. So they have a lot of information for us.”
Eric D. Williams: 253-597-8437 Eric.email@example.com blog.thenewstribune.com/seahawks
Exhibition: Minnesota at Seattle, 7 p.m., Ch. 5, 710-AM