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Strength in numbers: Seahawks have a surplus at linebacker

Brock Coyle is making a strong case for a roster spot in one of Seattle's most competitive position groups. (AP)

RENTON – K.J. Wright hasn't exactly been alone at linebacker the past couple of weeks.

He's just been the one Seahawks starter from last season who has been healthy.

"It has been a little different," Wright said.

Not bad, mind you. Mike Morgan earned a Super Bowl ring with the team a year ago, and he's in the midst of his best training camp, while undrafted rookie Brock Coyle has been better than anyone could have expected while filling in for Bobby Wagner, who has been out with a strained hamstring.

Add him to the list of Seattle's limping linebackers. Malcolm Smith was continuing to rehabilitate from offseason ankle surgery, Bruce Irvin was working his way back from hip surgery and Korey Toomer – one of the team's most improved players this offseason – suffered a strained hamstring.

"It has been thin all throughout the camp," coach Pete Carroll said.

That started to change this Monday when Smith and Toomer returned to practice. Wagner isn't far behind. He could begin practicing next week, and while Irvin has not been activated from the Physically Unable to Perform list, Carroll has indicated he could be ready to practice in the days after the team's preseason finale against Oakland on Aug. 28.

And while no position was thinner the past two weeks than linebacker, perhaps no position will be deeper when it comes time for Seattle to trim its roster to 53 players.

Last year, cornerback was the hot spot. Seattle let go of Will Blackmon, who went on to have a heck of a season in Jacksonville. The Seahawks also cut Ron Parker, who was claimed by Kansas City, where he's still playing.

This year, linebacker is where Seattle has a surplus. The Seahawks have never kept more than seven linebackers entering the regular season under Carroll. Seattle has kept an average six per season, which means a numbers crunch is inevitable.

Wagner, Wright, Irvin and Smith are returning starters and fourth-round draft pick Kevin Pierre-Louis is a player the team is very encouraged by.

"It was a good group going into camp," defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said. "Then we had some injuries. And what an opportunity for guys who may have not got the same amount of reps. Like a hidden blessing for some of these guys."

That would be Coyle, who has proven to be a very heady rookie. A promising ski racer growing up in Bozeman, Mont., he fixated on football early on and played his way to the University of Montana, where he led the team in tackles his past two seasons.

Throw in Morgan – who has starting experience – as well as Toomer and special-teams ace Heath Farwell and there's eight guys who are more than qualified candidates.

"It's a really competitive group," Quinn said.

NAME TO KNOW

Brock Coyle | 6-1, 243 | 23 years old

Profile: Coyle hoped the Seahawks were going to choose him in the NFL Draft. Instead, he chose them after going undrafted. Once Wagner strained his hamstring on the second day of practice, Coyle got his crack at the first-unit defense. Halfway through the preseason, it would be a surprise if Coyle didn't make the team.

Coach's corner: "He's a good instinctive pass defender," Carroll said of Coyle. "He was looking around trying to do too much the first couple of weeks. Hopefully he will settle down a do a better job there."

LOOKING BACK

Seattle has carried an average of six linebackers into the regular season since 2010.

2013 (6*): K.J. Wright, Bobby Wagner, Malcolm Smith, Heath Farwell, Allen Bradford, John Lotulelei. *Bruce Irvin was suspended for the first four games.

2012 (6): K.J. Wright, Bobby Wagner, Leroy Hill, Heath Farwell, Mike Morgan, Malcolm Smith.

2011 (7): Aaron Curry, David Hawthorne, Leroy Hill, K.J. Wright, Matt McCoy, Malcolm Smith, David Vobora.

2010 (5*): Lofa Tatupu, Aaron Curry, David Hawthorne, Matt McCoy, Will Herring. *Leroy Hill was suspended for the first game.

About the Author


Danny O'Neil is the host of "Danny, Dave and Moore". He's the son of a logger, a graduate of the University of Washington and has been a working journalist in Seattle since 1999, first at newspapers and since 2012 at 710 ESPN Seattle. Follow Danny: @dannyoneil

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