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Seattle Seahawks Defensive Line Full Of Unknowns Due To Injury, Changing Roles

The Seattle Seahawks preach “competition, competition, competition.” They believe an ultra-competitive environment makes a stronger team. Among the Seahawks’ defensive lineman, the biggest competition might be for prime spots in the training room.

Not long ago, Seattle looked to be overstocked at the defensive line positions. With the arrivals of new veterans Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett and Tony McDaniel added to holdover veterans Chris Clemons, Red Bryant, Brandon Mebane and Bruce Irvin, the Seahawks were well-stocked. In April’s draft, they added three more young bodies for the line: defensive tackles Jesse Williams and Jordan Hill and defensive end / linebacker Ty Powell.

What looked like a glut is now arguably one of the team’s greatest question marks as we head into the fourth game of the preseason and final roster cuts.

Fifth-round draft pick Williams was just placed on season-ending injured reserve due to a knee injury. New veteran import defensive end Avril was back in the training room on Monday with an ongoing hamstring issue. Head coach Pete Carroll said via Seahawks.com he does not know if Avril will be ready for the Seahawks’ regular season opener against the Carolina Panthers.

Last season’s sack leader, defensive end Clemons, has yet to play in the preseason and is far from a sure bet to be ready for week one against Carolina. Hill, Seattle’s other rookie defensive tackle, is still sidelined with a biceps injury that forced him out of the Aug. 23 preseason matchup against the Green Bay Packers. Projected starting defensive tackle Mebane injured his hamstring in Monday’s practice. It is unknown how severe the injury is.

The news is not all bad and the cupboard is far from bare. Undrafted rookie free agent Benson Mayowa out of Idaho has been a pleasant surprise at defensive end. Former Arizona Cardinal linebacker / defensive end O’Brien Schofield has also provided a spark.

New veteran defensive tackle McDaniel turned in a stellar performance from the three-technique spot against the Packers last Friday. It was his first preseason action as he battled to overcome a groin injury. With the lack of availability of Seattle’s new young defensive tackles and the continued absence of starters and role players along the entire defensive line, Carroll and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn must have breathed a huge sigh of relief that McDaniel was able to rise to the occasion in his first game action as a member of the Seahawks. Defensive end Bennett suffered a knee injury against the Packers, but it appears it was minor.

Complicating the personnel mix on the defensive line is the status of Irvin, who led all NFL rookies with eight sacks last season. Irvin is being tried at the strong-side linebacker position. No matter where he plays, he faces a four-game suspension to open the regular season. Seventh-round draft pick Powell is also being tried at outside linebacker and will consequently not add any support to the defensive line rotation.

As the Seahawks go about finalizing their roster, solidifying the defensive line is atop the priority list. With all of the injury absences, suspensions and role-shuffling going on, there’s an outside chance brand-new veteran Sealver Siliga could make the team, in part to pick up the slack caused by the absences of Williams and Hill. The 325-pound Siliga came to the Seahawks last week in the trade for guard John Moffitt.

Like all NFL teams, the Seahawks will make their final roster cuts prior to 3 p.m., Pacific on Aug. 31. As it stands now, Seattle may have to make final defensive line roster choices based more on health projections and availability than just football ability.

Julian Rogers is an NFL writer for Oregon Sports News. Follow him on Twitter (@mrturophile), or connect with him on LinkedIn and Google+

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