The Seahawks’ 2011 draft harvest, which already has produced four starters — fourth-round SLB K.J. Wright and fifth-round CB Richard Sherman on defense and first-round OG James Carpenter (out for the rest of the season) and third-round OG John Moffitt, who has replaced Carpenter at left guard, on offense — just keeps getting more bountiful.
Performing well in a starting role at weak-side linebacker in place of the injured Leroy Hill (ankle) the last couple of weeks, we hear Malcolm Smith, the Seahawks’ final pick last season (seventh round, 242nd overall), has been making a strong case to remain in the starting lineup. As was the case with fellow second-year USC alum Mike Morgan, who more than held his own when called upon to replace the injured Wright (concussion) in one game, the Seahawks’ defense has not lost a beat with Smith replacing Hill.
“He’s got great speed and good instincts, too. He always seems to be around the ball,” one daily team observer said of Smith, also a key special-teamer whose awareness was highlighted when he recovered a muffed punt in the endzone for a TD in Seattle’s recent 58-0 rout of the Cardinals. “He’s faster than Leroy, more athletic. What you lose in experience and Hill’s ability to defend the run you gain with Smith’s speed and aggressiveness, which really fits the team's defensive style.”
It would be inaccurate, though, to consider Hill completely over the hill just yet.
“I never thought I’d say this about Leroy, but with the LB corps becoming so young, he does offer genuine leadership,” the observer said of Hill, who has become one of the team’s longest-tenured players. “He’s outlasted a lot of good linebackers (Lofa Tatupu, David Hawthorne). He’s got those skins on the wall, and that means something.”