RENTON, Wash. — While Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright remain in place as starters, the Seattle Seahawks have overhauled the rest of their linebacker group this offseason.
D.J. Alexander — acquired in a trade just before the start of training camp — joins free-agent additions Michael Wilhoite, a Washburn and Highland Park product, and Terence Garvin as part of a mostly retooled position group.
Wilhoite and Garvin are competing for the starting job at strong-side linebacker with Mike Morgan, who started three games at the spot last season and didn’t re-sign with Seattle until Day 2 of training camp. Wilhoite comes over from the San Francisco 49ers while Garvin spent last year with the Washington Redskins.
“The way they go about handling their business seems like they’ve been part of our program for years,” linebackers coach Michael Barrow said.
Morgan and Dewey McDonald are the two significant holdovers of note from last year’s squad.
Head coach Pete Carroll had said at the end of last year that he was disappointed in the production from the team’s depth at the position.
“We need to address that,” Carroll said in January. “We didn’t get anybody that made a difference in the last couple of years that can really fight to take those guys jobs. Think if someone can battle K.J. and Bobby for their starting time, that’s what we need to draft toward.”
While Seattle didn’t add to the group through the draft, the team infused it through other means.
Alexander was acquired from Kansas City for former fifth-round linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis, who appeared in 34 games with Seattle over the last three seasons. Alexander made the Pro Bowl last season as a special teams performer.
Wilhoite and Garvin both join Seattle as former inside linebackers in 3-4 defenses that are adapting to a new role in the Seahawks’ 4-3 scheme.
“It’s different from the vantage point,” Wilhoite said. “You’re just seeing things from a different spot and you’re getting to the ball from a different angle.”
Garvin played as a defensive back in West Virginia’s 3-3-5 defense in college. Though he’s been a linebacker in the NFL, his ability to cover in the passing game is a trait Seattle’s coaching staff covets.
“Unlike most (strong-side) linebackers, we put a lot on our Sam (linebacker) to cover, to make plays in space, so he’s one of those guys that can do both,” Barrow said. “… That (defensive back) background helps him do the things that we require him to do.”
When Morgan was lost for seven games because of surgery for a sports hernia, the Seahawks had to employ a revolving door of options as the strong-side spot last year. Cassius Marsh, Brock Coyle and Jordan Tripp each started games in Morgan’s place. Seattle also used its nickel package with an extra defensive back more frequently to adapt to its personnel issues.
The hope is that the additions of Wilhoite, Garvin and Alexander will help stabilize a group that saw too much uncertainty a season ago.
“The new faces have been doing a really good job,” Richard said. “… We have some established veterans in that group. And then we also have some young guys that are just scrapping, man, trying to get every piece that they can get. Collectively again, they are all doing a really good job.”