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#HawksMailbag - October 23: What non high-profile defensive player is making their impact felt most?

Posted Oct 23, 2013

Former Seahawks linebacker Dave Wyman takes over this week's #HawksMailbag, answering your questions about the club.

Former Seahawks linebacker Dave Wyman takes over this week's #HawksMailbag, answering your questions about the club.

Wyman, a native of San Diego, Calif. who played his college ball at Stanford University - where he earned a degree in communications, was drafted by the Seahawks in the second round (45th overall) of the 1987 NFL draft. He spent six seasons in Seattle (1987-92), racking up 364 tackles in 61 games.

Wyman now co-hosts 710 ESPN Seattle's "Wyman, Mike and Moore" and Seahawks pre- and postgame shows. Look for more of Wyman's contributions to Seahawks.com throughout the season.

Without a doubt, it’s linebacker Malcolm Smith.

Smith was a huge question mark going into camp this year and I know a lot of Seahawks fans were concerned about depth at linebacker, especially after the Seahawks did not address that need in the draft or through free agency. But the Seahawks knew what they had in Malcolm Smith and they were right. Smith has been the Seahawks best linebacker this year. His breakout game was last week against the Cardinals in which he lead the team in tackles with eight, had one sack, two tackles for loss and broke up a pass. He’s played well all season. Smith had several good plays against the Carolina running game in Week One, caused a safety in Week 2 vs. the 49ers because of a holding call in the end zone and made some key stops against Tennessee two weeks ago including a spectacular open-field tackle on running back Chris Johnson.

What impresses me the most about him is how stout he is at the point of attack in spite of his smaller stature (6, 0” 226). He’s very physical and I love the way he takes on blocks. He uses his leverage very well and is surprisingly explosive. He also possesses great speed and excellent instincts.

With the return of middle linebacker Bobby Wagner from a high ankle sprain, it will be interesting to see how the Seahawks line up at linebacker going forward. Bruce Irvin is also playing very well and it would be tough to make a case for taking him off the field. With Wagner and the versatile K.J. Wright, you have four very good players for just three positions.

At a position that was seen as a weakness when the season began, there is now a log-jam of talent at the half way point. Because of Smith’s play, the Seahawks will have a very tough decision when filling out the starting roster this week. Problems like that are a coach’s dream!

With the myriad of formations the Seahawks run, I’m not sure it matters who the starters are. Sometimes the Seahawks start out the game with 3 or 4 wide receiver formations. In that case you may see Sidney Rice, Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin and Percy Harvin all on the field at the same time. I suppose it means fewer reps for someone but I’m not sure if it will directly take playing time away from a particular guy like Baldwin. In other words, it might mean fewer touches for everyone collectively, but I don’t see Harvin taking playing time or the football away from any one person. That’s because I believe they will line Harvin up in a lot of different places—on the outside, in the slot, and maybe even in the backfield. It will be very interesting to see how head coach Pete Carroll and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevel will use him. I think the Seahawks have one of the more diverse and imaginative offenses in the NFL. Harvin is a perfect match for that.

He’s an interesting player because though he is a receiver, he’s a lot like Golden Tate in that once he catches the ball; he turns into a running back. He has great moves, footwork and burst. I can’t wait to watch Harvin play, but I hope it doesn’t take Baldwin off the field because I think his precise route running ability and the chemistry he has developed with quarterback Russell Wilson is important to this offense.

There was never any mention of nutrition at all when I played. My first day as a Seahawk my rookie year in 1987, I didn’t realize that the team didn’t feed us or allow for much of a lunch break. If you didn’t bring anything to eat, you were out of luck. My linebacker coach Tom Catlin gave us a 15-minute break for lunch and it wasn’t enough time to leave the facility and get a meal. So I went hungry that first day. After that, sometimes I packed a lunch and being a bachelor, that meant a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and potato chips. The other option for lunch was that you could order out. Tight end Mike Tice owned a sandwich shop in Redmond called Fill-Yer-Belly Deli. For a small fee, our kicker Norm Johnson would take your order, call it in to Tice’s wife Dianne who ran the joint, and lunch was delivered to your locker around noon.

At night, I either ate out, or dined at home on Kraft Macaroni & Cheese! As you can see, there was never any nutritional advice offered. But today, Mac McNabb has breakfast and lunch ready for the players every day in the cafeteria at the VMAC. I’ve eaten there several times and the food is phenomenal. There are lots of choices and very healthy and nutritious options as well. Today’s Seahawks player is well fed!

What I’ve noticed about weight training is that it’s much more specialized and there is more concentration on injury prevention. I see strength coaches Jamie Yanchar and Mondray Gee putting the players through very specific exercises meant to protect their bodies. There is a lot of emphasis on core work which involves strengthening the lower back, abdominals and hips. The other thing I’ve noticed is that the basic lifts like squats, power cleans and bench press are still a part of the routine. But the way the lifts are executed has changed. There’s more emphasis on controlling the weight and performing more restrained and deliberate repetitions—no slamming weights around or unnecessary body movement.

There’s an old saying in the NFL: “The more you can do,” meaning the more you can do, the more valuable you are to the team. A player who is able to play two positions like Paul McQuistan (guard and tackle) makes him very valuable and allows the team to keep an extra player at another position.

That type of versatility was rare 20 years ago and that’s another thing that has changed since I played. The only player I remember with that sort of positional flexibility was Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews who went to the Pro Bowl as a center, guard and tackle during his career. Today, it’s commonplace to find a player like McQuistan or linebacker K.J. Wright who can play all three linebacker positions.

That will be up to GM John Schneider and Head Coach Pete Carroll and they’ll need to simply continue doing what they’re doing. Schneider and Carroll are the masters of finding young, undiscovered talent and putting it to work in the best possible way. The dilemma you bring up is that eventually hidden gems like Russell Wilson, Richard Sherman and Bobby Wagner play out their structured rookie contracts and eventually command the kind of money that puts upward pressure on the salary cap. The economic landscape of the NFL going forward will put a premium on teams’ ability to consistently find young talent and make young players with lower salaries a big part of the roster.

The good news for the Seahawks is that the combination of Schneider and Carroll is a special one and I don’t think it’s something that can necessarily be duplicated by other teams. That gives the Seahawks a distinct advantage going forward because every team faces that same challenge.

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