Jordan Hill and Jesse Williams making up for lost time

Posted Jun 11, 2014

Jordan Hill was limited during his rookie season by a biceps injury, while Jesse Williams missed the 2013 season after having knee surgery. But the defensive tackles the Seahawks drafted last year are back and battling.

Jordan Hill never had a redshirt season at Penn State. In fact, the defensive tackle the Seahawks selected in the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft didn’t miss a game in his final three seasons with the Nitty Lions.

But during his rookie season with the Seahawks, Hill played in only four games after damaging his left biceps during the preseason and then injuring his right arm once he returned from the first injury.

“I had never been injured like that before, so it was something new and it was frustrating,” Hill said Wednesday, when coach Pete Carroll canceled the team’s scheduled OTA practice at Virginia Mason Athletic Center and the players did conditioning drills.

“It was one of those injuries (the biceps) where when I was walking around I looked fine. But as soon as I got out there I just didn’t have the power.”


When it comes to OTAs, nine is just fine for the Seahawks.

NFL teams are allowed 10 Organized Team Activities sessions under the Collective Bargaining Agreement that ended the 136-day lockout in 2011. But the Seahawks will have only nine this year – just like last year – because benevolent coach Pete Carroll cancelled the OTA session scheduled for Wednesday at Virginia Mason Athletic Center.

“We’ve been going pretty hard, so we sure do appreciate it,” safety Jeron Johnson said with a smile.

And having a day of conditioning, rather than practicing, was a reward for the players because of how well they performed during the first eight OTAs. The final OTA session will be held on Thursday, completing Phase 3 of the offseason program.

“I feel like we’ve made great strides this OTA period,” Johnson said. “We’ve still got plenty of room to improve, but we’re getting some good work in right now – a great amount of work.”

Despite having one less OTA last year, the Seahawks managed the win the Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history.

The team’s mandatory three-day minicamp is scheduled for next week.

Hill is part of the group Carroll and his assistant coaches have dubbed the redshirt class – those players selected in recent drafts that have yet to play, or played sparingly, because of injuries. The group also includes Jesse Williams, a defensive tackle who was a fifth-round draft choice last year but spent his rookie season on injured reserve after having knee surgery in August.

“I didn’t redshirt in college, so I didn’t really know how it felt,” Hill said. “But you could definitely say I redshirted because I was basically sitting back and learning from the older guys.”

But Hill and Williams are back, and have even been working in tandem during the team’s OTA practices. Monday, Hill deflected a pass, pressured the passer into throwing an incompletion and stopped a running back for no gain. Williams, meanwhile, has been throwing his weight around against the run and more importantly – and impressively – running down plays that are run away from him.

“They’re doing well,” defensive line coach Travis Jones said. “Both have had a good offseason and trained really well. So they came in in much better shape than either one of them was in last year. It’s been real refreshing and fun to see them running around and competing in drills.

“I’m real pleased with the progress each has shown this spring.”

At one point last year, it appeared that the 6-foot-3, 325-pound Williams might fill the three-technique tackle spot in the base defense with the 6-1, 303-pound Hill taking over in the nickel. But injuries removed Williams and Hill from the mix, and Tony McDaniel and since-departed Clinton McDonald excelled in those roles.

The redshirt duo is doing its best to make up for lost time this offseason.

“We can’t wait to see these guys play,” defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said. “They’ve had a terrific offseason in the way they’ve approached it.”

Hill and Williams have two things working for them that work into the way that Jones likes to use his linemen. They are versatile, able to play both tackle position and even slide out to the five-technique end spot where Red Bryant started the past three seasons. And they also provide multiple options and differing skill-sets in the rotation preferred by Jones, as well as Carroll and Quinn.

“Absolutely,” Jones said. “The more versatility you have, the more a benefit it’s going to be for us on game day. When I get a limited number of guys who are active, everybody’s got to be flexible and be able to play multiple positions because you never know how the game is going to go.”

The competition this year has changed, but it’s still there. Bryant and Leo end Chris Clemons were released and signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars. McDonald turned his career season into a free-agent deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But nose tackle Brandon Mebane and McDaniel return, and so do the versatile Michael Bennett and Leo end Cliff Avril – who led the Super Bowl champions in sacks during the regular season. Also back are rush-end Benson Mayowa, another member of that redshirt class; tackles Michael Brooks, Dewayne Cherrington and D’Anthony Smith, who finished last season on the practice squad; and end Kenneth Boatright, who spent last season on IR.

The new competition comes from rush-end Cassius Marsh and defensive tackle Jimmy Staten, who were drafted in the fourth and fifth round this year; rush-end Jackson Jeffcoat and tackle Andru Pulu, who were signed as free agents after the draft; and end Greg Scruggs, a seventh-round draft choice in 2012 who spent last season on IR.

Hill is just happy to be a part of it, and healthy enough to do his part.

“Last year definitely made me want this even more, because I feel like I missed a year of football just not being able to be out there like I usually am,” Hill said. “So it’s just something I’m looking forward to getting back to.”