Mike Morgan making the most of any and all opportunities

Posted Aug 4, 2013

A linebacker in his first two seasons with the Seahawks, Mike Morgan is getting reps at the Leo end spot in training camp and “adding value to myself,” as he puts it, with his ability to rush the passer.

For the record, Mike Morgan says he has yet to get confused about just where he’s supposed to be and just what he’s supposed to be doing on any given snap during the Seahawks training camp.

If only the same could be said while trying to keep track of the third-year linebacker/rush-end from the sideline of the practice fields at Virginia Mason Athletic Center.

Sunday, Morgan went through the linebacker drills early in practice. Once the team drills started, he was at the hybrid Leo end spot in the No. 1 base defense and the No. 1 nickel defense. Outside linebacker? Not on this day, although it’s often difficult to tell if Morgan is at Leo end or strong-side linebacker because even as the Leo he rarely rushes from a three-point stance.

Morgan is getting so much work at Leo because sack-leader Chris Clemons is completing his rehab from offseason knee surgery, free-agent addition Cliff Avril is sidelined with a sore hamstring and Bruce Irvin sat out Sunday because of a sore groin.

But Morgan also is being featured at the position where Clemons has produced 33.5 sacks the past three seasons because he too is making plays. Like Sunday, when Morgan had a pair of “sacks” – plays whistled dead because he would have gotten to the quarterback in drills where the QB cannot he touched. Like Friday’s mock game, when Morgan had impressive plays against the run as well as rushing the passer.

“Mike is doing great,” coach Pete Carroll said, pointing out that Morgan is up to 241 pounds – 15 more than his listed playing weight last season. “He’s had a tremendous offseason. Now he’s played Sam (strong-side linebacker) and Leo, and he can play Will (weak-side linebacker) as well.

“So he’s building a strong resume that makes him a strong bid for making the team because he does so much.”

Carroll and Morgan have a history, of course, because Morgan played for Carroll when both were at USC. They were reunited when the Seahawks signed Morgan as a rookie free agent in 2011, when he appeared in the final five games after spending most of the season on the practice squad. Last season, Morgan played in all 16 games and started one at strong-side linebacker when K.J. Wright was out because of a concussion.

Morgan also was a core special teams player last season, finishing fifth on the club with seven coverage tackles.

Now, Morgan is taking to the Leo end spot as if it was his position all along.

“I’m adding value to myself,” he said. “And I like the Leo spot a lot. We’ve got some injuries, so however I’m able to step in and help out the team I’m willing to do it.”

Morgan as the Leo isn’t totally injury related. The coaches have had him working there since the OTA practices began during the offseason. It’s the old the more things you can do theory, not to mention how well you can do them.

And the confusion Morgan’s presence on the line creates for those trying to chart him during practice should be able to carry over to games when the Seahawks open their fourth preseason under Carroll on Thursday night against the Chargers in San Diego.

“Pretty much it looks like a 3-4 defense, when both your Leo end and your (strong-side linebacker) are both standing up on the edge,” Morgan said of being at end, but not in a three-point stance.

All of this has first-year coordinator Dan Quinn smiling, because being more aggressive is among his priorities as he inherits a unit that last season yielded the fewest points in the NFL and also ranked a franchise-best No. 4 in average yards allowed.

“The thing I’m finding out that some of the other coaches already knew is just the position versatility that Mike Morgan brings,” said Quinn, the Seahawks’ D-line coach in 2009-10 before spending the past two seasons as the D-coordinator at the University of Florida.

“You count on a guy who tries to do things right, and that’s what Mike does.”

Regardless of whether he’s at outside linebacker or Leo end.

So, what is Morgan? A linebacker who can play rush-end? A rush-end who has been playing linebacker? And at linebacker, he is better on the strong side (Sam) or the weak side (Will)?

“I think he’s a Sam who can play Leo,” Quinn said. “But most of all he’s a football player. A guy who does things right and really works to make sure he does. I couldn’t be more fired up to keep developing him.”