2005 Seahawks Player Analysis: The Linebackers

With the veterans reporting today, the Seahawks' 2005 training camp truly begins. Seahawks.NET continues our look at the current roster with in-depth profiles of the inside and outside linebackers.

Inside Linebackers

Niko Koutouvides Age: 24  HT: 6-2  WT: 238  YR: 2 Purdue 

DEFENSIVE STATS

Year

Team

G

Total

Tckl

Ast

Sacks

Int

Yds

Avg

Lg

TD

Pass Def

2004

Seattle

16

62

49.0

13

1

0

0

0.0

0

0

0

CAREER

16

62

49.0

13

1

0

0

0.0

0

0

0

Mike Holmgren has been the head coach of the Seahawks since 1999. During his tenure, Seattle has never had a reliably effective long-term solution at the middle linebacker position. Coming into the 2005 season, there might be two. Koutouvides was selected by Seattle the fourth round of the 2004 draft and played in every game in his rookie year. Starting out on the return team, he led the Seahawks in special teams tackles with 16, and began to establish a presence at the middle linebacker slot late in the year when he started in the last two regular-season games and in the wild-card loss to St. Louis.

2005 Outlook: Koutouvides will begin camp as the projected MLB starter. However, that’s not a sure thing by any means. Although he impresses with his toughness, his technique needs further refinement. He had best bring his A-game all along, because there’s a new kid waiting in the wings who has everyone very curious as to what he can do…


Lofa Tatupu Age: 22 HT: 6-0 WT: 240 YR: R USC

YEAR

TKL

TFL

SACK

INT

PBU

FF

FR

2004

104

13.5

6

3

8

2

3

CAREER

269

37.5

12.5

10

20

4

5

Many teams make mistakes on draft day because they look at measureables (height, weight, speed) instead of intangibles. Problem is, they can miss out on some great players whose heart and determination outshine their perceived athletic inadequacies. Tatupu is just such a player. Tatupu began his college career at the University of Maine and started as a true freshman. After sitting out a season because of transfer rules, he started his final two seasons of college ball for the Trojans and helped lead the team to two national championships. Tatupu is a tackling machine, using great instincts, good speed and solid technique to shed tacklers and bring the ballcarrier down. Some assumed that he would be moved outside when he headed to the NFL, but at this time, the Seahawks have him in the mix at middle linebacker.

2005 Outlook: Tatupu is a winner, and his attitude is infectious. His demeanor is something that has been lacking on the Seahawks’ roster and the hope is that he can utilize his skills and drive to push Koutovides for the starting spot in the middle. His intelligence, especially for a rookie, appears to be frightening – the stories of his calling Oklahoma's plays before they happened in the 2005 Orange Bowl have passed into legend, and he was barking out the play calls for the Seahawks’ defense in his very first minicamp. Many are projecting that Tatupu will be starting by the middle of the season, but at minimum, he will be a very solid backup in his rookie season.


Solomon Bates Age: 23  HT: 6-1  WT: 243  YR: 3 Arizona State 

DEFENSIVE STATS

Year

Team

G

Total

Tckl

Ast

Sacks

Int

Yds

Avg

Lg

TD

Pass Def

2004

Seattle

10

34

22.0

12

0

0

0

0.0

0

0

2

CAREER

17

37

25.0

12

0

0

0

0.0

0

0

2

2005 Outlook: Bates is a solid interior linebacker with the ability to plug the lanes and drop back into occasional zone coverage. He saw his first starting time for the Seahawks against Buffalo on November 28, after injuries to Chad Brown and Tracy White forced Bates to step up. This he did, amassing six tackles on the day. Bates started the next two games. With Koutouvides and Tatupu clogging up the starting/backup spots, Bates might hang on as a rotational reserve if he displays enough versatility in training camp.



Outside Linebackers

Jamie Sharper Age: 30  HT: 6-3  WT: 239  YR: 8 Virginia 

DEFENSIVE STATS

Year

Team

G

Total

Tckl

Ast

Sacks

Int

Yds

Avg

Lg

TD

Pass Def

2004

Houston

16

137

96.0

41

2

0

0

0.0

0

0

6

CAREER

128

831

607.0

224

25.5

2

49

24.5

45

0

37

Signed to a five-year, $17.5 million contract by the Seahawks in April of 2005, Sharper was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in 1997 and excelled as a strongside linebacker in their dominant 3-4 defense through 2001. Selected by the Houston Texans in the 2002 expansion draft, Sharper moved inside and anchored their young defense. He led the NFL in tackles in 2003 with 164 total (105 solo), and he has amassed over 100 tackles in each of the last four seasons. Sharper will be asked to lead Seattle's defensive unit in 2005, a task for which he is more than qualified.

2005 Outlook: With the versatility to play Mike, Sam and Will in a 4-3 scheme, Sharper will move back outside in Seattle, replacing the departed Chad Brown as a defensive linchpin. What he will provide that Brown had not been able to over the last few seasons is durability – he has started 127 of the 128 NFL games in which he has played. Sharper is a very solid and well-rounded linebacker – although more skilled against the run than in pass coverage - who takes excellent pursuit angles, is very aware from the snap, and never gives up on a play. Sharper will join Grant Wistrom and Ken Hamlin as the emotional core of this defense.


D.D. Lewis Age: 26  HT: 6-1  WT: 241  YR: 3 Texas 

DEFENSIVE STATS

Year

Team

G

Total

Tckl

Ast

Sacks

Int

Yds

Avg

Lg

TD

Pass Def

2003

Seattle

15

65

47.0

18

0

0

0

0.0

0

0

1

2004

Seattle

0

0

0.0

0

0

0

0

0.0

0

0

0

CAREER

31

93

71.0

22

0

0

0

0.0

0

0

1

Lewis missed the entire 2004 season after undergoing offseason shoulder surgery. His absence was a big hit to Seattle's linebacker corps, because the 2002 undrafted free agent had been making solid strides until then. He played a valuable role as a backup and nickel linebacker in his rookie campaign, and saw starting time in the last half of 2003 when injuries to Chad Brown and Anthony Simmons decimated the depth chart. For a relatively unheralded player, Lewis has displayed a knack for playmaking on the outside, as well as the ability to fill in as the man in the middle, should the need arise.

2005 Outlook: Fully recovered and ready to build on a promising career, Lewis might have the inside track to Seattle's starting weakside linebacker spot. Lewis displays excellent strength in shedding blocks, he’s very aggressive – sometimes too aggressive – and 2005 could see D.D. Lewis bring his game to the next level. His ability to stay healthy will obviously be the key.


Isaiah Kacyvenski Age: 27  HT: 6-1  WT: 252  YR: 6 Harvard 

DEFENSIVE STATS

Year

Team

G

Total

Tckl

Ast

Sacks

Int

Yds

Avg

Lg

TD

Pass Def

2004

Seattle

16

89

68.0

21

1

0

0

0.0

0

0

0

CAREER

71

242

184.0

58

1

3

49

16.3

27

0

1

Kacyvenski is a smart, determined, high-effort player who has overcome withering personal obstacles to make a name for himself in the NFL. He’s the kind of guy you want to see succeed, and he’s done a decent job filling in for injured starters throughout his Seahawks career. What holds him back from a starting spot is the fact that he lacks the kind of athleticism elite linebackers must possess, even in the middle. Kacyvenski doesn’t fare well in space, he’s easily caught out of position for such an intelligent anticipator, and he’s not an effective side-to-side mover. If all it took was heart, he’d be an All-Pro every year.

2005 Outlook: Where Kacyvenski is truly dominant is as a special teams wrecking machine, where his straight-line speed and great motor serve him well. As the Seahawks continue to enhance positional depth at all three linebacker spots, Kacyvenski will hopefully see more time as a wedge-buster. This would be best for him and for the team.


Leroy Hill Age: 22 HT: 6-1 WT: 224 YR: R Clemson

YEAR

TKL

TFL

SACK

INT

PBU

FF

FR

2004

106

19

8

0

1

0

0

CAREER

311

47

16

3

4

1

1

Hill enjoyed a better junior season than senior season, but there is no denying that he was a very productive player at the collegiate level. In 2003, he finished second in the nation with 27 tackles for loss. Hill played on the inside at Clemson, but at the next level he will be an outside linebacker. He has good speed, sheds blocks well and is a sure tackler. Where he could run into problems is when he is asked to drop into coverage, as he has never really done that before. If he can master playing in space, the 'Hawks could have a good one.

2005 Outlook: Hill has excelled as an every-down player as well as on special teams, and that is where his main contributions will be during his rookie season. He is currently battling for a roster spot with veteran free agent acquisition Kevin Bentley. Hill has an excellent chance of making the final roster, as his overall athletic skills are exactly what Seattle needs on the outside and in the coverage units.


Cornelius Wortham Age: 23 HT: 6-1 WT: 234 YR: R Alabama

YEAR

TKL

TFL

SACK

INT

PBU

FF

FR

2004

99

3

1

0

0

0

0

CAREER

174

8

2

0

3

0

0

Wortham is an incredible physical specimen. He has a chiseled frame, excellent speed and explosiveness as well as football smarts. As a true freshman, he posted 15 tackles in one game against the University of Mississippi. He plays with abandon, hustles every play and is a sure tackler. The reason he fell all the way to the 7th round, where the Hawks were able to nab him, is that he is viewed as a one-dimensional player who lacks the overall skills and instincts to be solid in coverage. If he can develop his skills in that regard, Wortham could be the steal of the draft for the Hawks.

2005 Outlook: Wortham is on the bottom looking up as he enters his rookie season. He is a raw player who has only been asked to do one thing in his football career – play the run and play it well. Seattle linebackers coach John Marshall has an excellent athlete in the rookie from Alabama, but it remains to be seen whether he can develop him into the every-down player the Seahawks are hoping he can become. Look for Wortham to make the practice squad this year with an outside chance that he makes the final roster as a headhunter on special teams.


Tracy White Age: 24  HT: 6-0  WT: 230  YR: 3 Howard 

DEFENSIVE STATS

Year

Team

G

Total

Tckl

Ast

Sacks

Int

Yds

Avg

Lg

TD

Pass Def

2004

Seattle

10

39

30.0

9

1

0

0

0.0

0

0

0

TOTAL

21

48

38.0

10

1

0

0

0.0

0

0

0

2005 Outlook: White may be the Seahawks' best speed linebacker, which he proved in 10 games (2 starts) in 2004 before a hamstring injury ended his season. He reminds some observers of Anthony Simmons with his pursuit ability, and he’s better with the open-field tackle than his size might suggest. He also shows good range in coverage. His lack of power might not be that much of a concern – the Seahawks now have several strong ‘backers. With the loss of Simmons and Chad Brown, where they’ve taken a hit is in the speed department. White would be a nice fit as a situational outside linebacker or nickelback, where his quickness would provide the most effective contrast.


Kevin Bentley Age: 25  HT: 6-1  WT: 240  YR: 4 Northwestern 

DEFENSIVE STATS

Year

Team

G

Total

Tckl

Ast

Sacks

Int

Yds

Avg

Lg

TD

Pass Def

2004

Cleveland

16

62

43.0

19

0

0

0

0.0

0

0

0

CAREER

44

197

127.0

70

0

1

25

25.0

25

0

2

2005 Outlook: On March 11, the Seahawks signed Bentley to a one-year, $650,000 contract. The former Cleveland Brown played in all sixteen games in 2004, starting three. He was a starting OLB for Cleveland in 2003. Although he has good size and strength, Bentley is known as a “finesse linebacker” (there’s a contradiction in terms!) who will elude blocks instead of squaring up and taking them on, and he doesn’t always play with discipline. Bentley could see time as a nickel ‘backer with the Seahawks and as a backup on the outside. However, in a recent Seahawks.NET chat, NFLDraftScout.com Senior Analyst Rob Rang projected Bentley as a potential surprise cut.

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