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Opportunity knocks, and Allen Bradford and Benson Mayowa answer
Benson Mayowa helped finish what Allen Bradford started on Thursday night.
These two unlikely candidates when training camp opened two weeks ago turned out to be just-as-unlikely key contributors to the Seahawks’ 31-10 victory over the San Diego Chargers in their preseason opener at Qualcomm Stadium.
Bradford, the linebacker-turned-running-back-and-back, last started a game on defense when he was 17-years old and a senior at Colton (Calif.) High School – where Pete Carroll recruited him to USC and moved him to running back. But Bradford not only was in the middle of everything for the Seahawks’ No. 1 unit because middle linebacker Bobby Wagner did not play, he produced a team-high eight tackles.
Mayowa, meanwhile, had one sack, shared another with linebacker Heath Farwell and came tantalizingly close to a third as the Seahawks dominated the second half. And Mayowa’s unexpected road to this evening is even more farfetched than the one Bradford traveled. It began at a Regional Combine at Virginia Mason Athletic Center in March, moved to him being invited to the Seahawks’ rookie minicamp on a tryout basis in May and took a quantum leap when the team signing the 252-pounder to see how he would do at the hybrid Leo end position.
But there they were, making the kinds of plays that show they deserve more chances to make even more in next Saturday night’s preseason home opener against the Denver Broncos at CenturyLink Field.
“I feel good, but I also feel like there’s a lot I’ve still got to improve on,” Bradford said in the locker room. “I made tackles when they came, but I feel like I could have played faster.”
The Seahawks yielded a 13-play, 74-yard drive to the Chargers on the game’s opening possession that ended in a field goal, and Bradford did not have a tackle. But then they tightened things up, and Bradford had two tackles on the Chargers’ next possession, two more on the next, and two more on the next. He made plays against the run. He made plays against the pass.
And it left him wanting more.
“There’s a lot to improve. I just feel I could have played better,” Bradford said. “But I’m satisfied with what I did do. I just want the roof to be higher. There’s still more.”
While Bradford knew he was going to start the opener because Wagner has been sidelined with a sore shoulder, Mayowa wasn’t sure what to expect. He had been working with the No. 1 nickel defense the first week of camp, but Mike Morgan stepped into the role during the second week.
“I didn’t know coming in that I was going to have that much time in there, so I just took advantage of it,” Mayowa said.
Did he ever. Mayowa got to Charlie Whitehurst, the Chargers’ backup QB and former Seahawks backup, for a 4-yard sack on the Chargers’ first third-down play of the second half. He and Farwell then combined to drop Whitehurst for a 6-yard loss on the next third-down play.
But then that’s what Mayowa has been doing since the rookie minicamp, when Carroll referred to him as “the kid from Idaho.” If Mayowa keeps it up, everyone will know his name.
“It’s been tough,” he said when asked about the process that led him to Thursday night. “I’ve just got to grind it out every day I come to practice. I’m not worried about getting noticed, I’m just out here trying to do my thing.”
Which is, obviously, rushing the passer against offensive linemen who outweigh him by 90 pounds – as the Chargers’ Max Stark does.
“I’m not worrying about people noticing me anymore, it’s just about what I feel in my heart,” he said. “I came in with the mindset that I’m going to rush my (butt) off, and that’s what I did.”
People did notice, and not just anyone.
“What I thought I saw in this game was the guys who had been doing stuff in practice did it in the game,” Carroll said. “We’ve seen Benson rush like crazy all the way through camp. … So what I was really excited about is what happened in practice happened in the game for the most part.”
With Mayowa and Bradford definitely doing their part.