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The Quinn connection

Posted May 25, 2012

Jaye Howard, one of the team's fourth-round draft choices, became a more-productive player at Florida last season and credits former Seahawks coach Dan Quinn for improving his pass-rushing technique.


ROOKIE WATCH

Bruce Irvin: “After Bruce Irvin had finished smiling, grinning and laughing his way through an introductory news conference, one question still needed to be asked of the Seahawks’ first-round draft choice: What would be B.J. Irvin’s reaction to where Bruce Irvin found himself on Saturday? ‘B.J. would say, ‘Bruce, you were smart for changing your name. You’re smart for getting out of the situation that you were in, and hanging with the people you was hanging with and finally seeing the light before it was too late, ’ ‘ Irvin said. ‘Because God wasn’t going to keep sparing me.’ ”

Bobby Wagner: “Of all the positive things that have been said about Bobby Wagner since the Seahawks selected the Utah State linebacker in the second round of the NFL Draft, perhaps the most lasting was offered by Eric Stokes. ‘He’s a guy that jumps out,’ the team’s assistant director of college scouting said. ‘He definitely jumps out.’ ”

Russell Wilson: “It was only a rookie minicamp, and the first day at that. But make no mistake: It was Russell Wilson’s minicamp. The Seahawks’ third-round draft choice took every rep in every team drill during Friday’s two-hour practice – the first of three in this weekend that is all about the rookies. And no rookie got a longer and more intensified looked than Russell.”

Robert Turbin: “There’s his story, and obviously those arms. But there’s also a sidebar when it comes to Robert Turbin. After the Seahawks had selected the Utah State running back in the fourth round of the NFL Draft, several people over the course of that last Saturday in April offered, ‘And Sherman just loves this guy.’ That would be Sherman Smith, the Seahawks’ original running back who now coaches the position on Pete Carroll’s staff. The team was seeking a back with a more physical style to plug in when leading rusher Marshawn Lynch needs a breather or – worse yet – on those rare occasions when he can’t play.”

Korey Toomer: “Korey Toomer has followed a meandering path to the NFL. But now that he’s here, as the Seahawks’ fifth-round draft choice, the rookie linebacker from Idaho is not only making up for lost time, he’s doing it in a blur. At the rookie minicamp over the weekend, and again in the offseason program workouts this week, the one thing that has stood out about Toomer is that he does everything fast.”

Jeremy Lane: “On one of the first snaps in the Seahawks’ weekend rookie minicamp, Jeremy Lane read the play, broke on the ball and tipped the pass. A few plays later, he got his hand on another pass and almost intercepted it. Right on cue for the cornerback from Northwestern State in Louisiana, who has worked his way into the NFL by seizing the opportunity at the most opportune times.”

Winston Guy: “And with the 11th pick in the sixth round of the NFL Draft, the Seahawks selected … A safety? Really? A team that already has the Pro Bowl tandem of Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor – the third-year tandem of Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor – selected a safety? Well, it wasn’t just any safety. It was a safety – Winston Guy from Kentucky – that the coaches feel can step in and be the third safety in the big nickel package that has served the defense and the team so well in its first two seasons under coach Pete Carroll.”

J.R. Sweezy: “Tom Cable looks for certain characteristics in his offensive linemen; even when that lineman might be playing on the defensive side of the ball. That was the case when the Seahawks dispatched Cable, their assistant head coach/offensive line coach, to check out J.R. Sweezy, a defensive tackle at North Carolina State that the team was considering selecting in the NFL Draft – and moving to guard. When it came time to make the 18th pick in the seventh round on April 28, Sweezy it was – with an approving nod from Cable.”

Greg Scruggs: “The Seahawks thought enough of Greg Scruggs’ length and versatility that they dispatched defensive line coach Todd Wash to check out the Louisville lineman. It was on the Tuesday of draft week.”

Before Jaye Howard wrapped up his first ball carrier for the Seahawks, the fourth-round draft choice took a moment to wrap his head around the situation he finds himself in.

“It’s been an unreal experience,” the defensive tackle from Florida said of his first visit to Virginia Mason Athletic Center for the team’s rookie minicamp. “Walking into the same locker room and seeing Marshawn Lynch – a player that I look up to – and now I’m actually in the same locker room. It’s a great feeling.

“So I’m just embracing this moment right now.”

Once he got that out of his system, Howard started getting to the quarterback, as well as running backs before they could get through the hole.

“Jaye Howard showed up,” said coach Pete Carroll, and he wasn’t just talking about Howard being in attendance.

“He did some good things. He showed up on pass rush a couple of times. I know Todd (Wash, the defensive line coach) mentioned that he was surprised at his quickness. That’s a really good sign.”

It’s also the reason the Seahawks decided to select Howard with the second of their two picks in the fourth round of the NFL Draft (No. 114 overall). Carroll is looking for someone – anyone – who can provide more pass rush for a defense that ranked ninth in the league last season but generated just 33 sacks. If that player also has the size to slide out to the five-technique end spot on occasion, even better.

Enter the 6-foot-3, 301-pound Howard, who continued to impress the coaches this week during the team’s first three OTA practices – when he was working at the three-technique tackle spot behind starter Alan Branch as well as Pep Levingston, a seventh-round draft choice last year.

“Jaye is an explosive player,” Wash said. “He’s learning that this level is a little bit different once our veterans got here. But we’re very excited about his progress.”

Howard spends a lot of time before and after practice, as well as between reps, going over the nuances of plays and situations with Wash.

“He’s eager to learn,” Wash said. “He wants to know exactly what he can do better. He does a great job in the classroom, too. So we’re really pleased with what we’ve got so far.”

The Seahawks initially were attracted by Howard’s speed. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.82 seconds at the NFL Scouting Combine, but clocked a 4.72 in a later workout. They also liked the coaching he got at Florida – where former Seahawks D-line coach Dan Quinn is the Gators’ coordinator and Bryant Young, a four-time Pro Bowl D-tackle during his career with the 49ers, was his position coach.

After registering 29 tackles in each of the previous two seasons, Howard’s total spiked to 65 last season, including a career-high 5.5 sacks.

The difference? “Coach Quinn and Bryant Young,” Howard said. “Coach Quinn is one the best coaches I’ve had and Bryant Young was a player I watched growing up. You’ve got to take heed to someone like that and you’re going to listen to what they have to say.”

Howard felt a certain comfort level coming to the Seahawks, because Quinn was an assistant on Carroll’s first-season staff.

“Some of the stuff we used at Florida is the same here at the Seahawks, so it helped me out coming in because I knew what they were thinking a little bit,” Howard said. “Some of the drills we’re doing out here, I did them at Florida. So it definitely helps.”

Howard also credits Quinn with helping him get into the NFL, not just to the Seahawks.

“Coach Quinn and I worked in the offseason and the whole summer and he helped my pass rush,” said Howard, who had 5.5 sacks combined in his first three seasons at Florida. “He helped my technique, and I appreciate him coming in and getting me to where I need to be. He cleaned up my technique, and that should help me a lot going into this system.”

Now, it’s time for Howard to start helping himself as he competes for a roster spot in a group that includes ends Red Bryant and Chris Clemons and tackles Brandon Mebane and Branch, the incumbent starters; pass-rushing end Bruce Irvin, this year’s first round draft choice; free-agent addition Jason Jones, who was signed to rush the passer from the three-technique spot where Howard also has been working; Clinton McDonald, who worked in the tackle rotation last season; end Greg Scruggs, a seventh-round pick this year; holdovers Dexter Davis (end), Pierre Howard (end) and Levingston; and Cordarro Law, a rookie end who was signed just after the draft.

“Right now, I’m just trying to get better every day, take in what the coaching are telling me to do,” Howard said. “I’m just trying to get better.”

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