Sweezy on the move

Posted May 9, 2012

The Seahawks saw enough in J.R. Sweezy that they sent offensive line coach Tom Cable to North Carolina State to determine whether the defensive tackle has what it takes to play guard at the next level.

Tom Cable looks for certain characteristics in his offensive linemen; even when that lineman might be playing on the defensive side of the ball.

That was the case when the Seahawks dispatched Cable, their assistant head coach/offensive line coach, to check out J.R. Sweezy, a defensive tackle at North Carolina State that the team was considering selecting in the NFL Draft – and moving to guard.

When it came time to make the 18th pick in the seventh round on April 28, Sweezy it was – with an approving nod from Cable.

“It was his demeanor, first and foremost,” Cable said this week, as the veteran players continued Phase 2 of their offseason program. “His intelligence. His toughness. And how he played on defense.”

That’s what attracted the team. As for Cable, he offered, “For me, what kind of pushed it all over the top was just how quick and athletic he was. That jumped out at me. You put that with those other characteristics and you’re thinking, ‘OK.’ ”

When the Seahawks look at the 6-foot-4, 298-pound Sweezy, they can’t help but think Kris Dielman. Not the Kris Dielman who bailed on the Seahawks in the middle of his free-agent visit in 2007, but the one who came out of Indiana as a defensive tackle and developed into a four-time Pro Bowl guard for the San Diego Chargers.

“There are certain guys that have a certain defensive mentality that you would like to have on your offensive line – the Kris Dielmans of the world – and he’s in that category,” GM John Schneider said after Sweezy was drafted. “Here’s a guy who is a really tough, aggressive, quick defensive lineman who the staff at N.C. State would tell you, ‘This guy has a chance to be a really good offensive lineman.’

“Once we heard that, we asked Tom Cable to fly down there and work him out and spend some time with him, and he came back raving about the workout.”

But when Cable looked at Sweezy, he was thinking Jeremy Newberry, a defensive lineman at California who became a Pro Bowl center for the San Francisco 49ers and also anchored Oakland’s offensive line in 2007 when Cable was the Raiders’ line coach.

“I’ve had guy like this before and made the transition,” Cable said.

To put Sweezy in the same class with either Newberry or Dielman at this point would be ludicrous, “But it’s the same kind of process that went on,” Cable said.

That process will kick into warp speed for Sweezy starting on Thursday, when the team’s draft choices, rookie free agents and a host of tryout players convene for the rookie minicamp that will include practices on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

“I talked about it with coach Cable, and we decided that it would be a good decision,” Sweezy said on draft day of his new position at the next level. “I’m looking forward to learning about and learning how to play the position.”

Sweezy played on the O-line was in Peewee football.

“That was the last time,” he said. “I’m ready. I’m excited. I’m just looking forward to something new. Pretty much my whole life people have been telling me that I should play offensive line. Now I get to see if I’m a good offensive lineman.”

Yes, other teams also talked to Sweezy about making the switch. Just not the way Cable talked about it.

“In such detail,” as Sweezy put it. “He came down and worked me out as an offensive lineman. And we had a great conversation. I am just excited. I was excited before draft, just talking to him. Now, being part of the Seahawks, it’s a great organization – especially coach Cable. He’s one of the best offensive line coaches in the league.”

Cable has been stockpiling linemen since arriving in January of 2011. He inherited center Max Unger, a second-round draft choice in 2009; and left tackle Russell Okung, the team’s first-round pick in 2010. The team’s top two picks in last year’s draft were right tackle James Carpenter and right guard John Moffitt. Last year, the club also signed Paul McQuistan, who had played for Cable in Oakland. This year, they added Frank Omiyale, who had played for Cable when both were with the Atlanta Falcons; and Deuce Lutui, who played for coach Pete Carroll at USC. After Carpenter and Moffitt went down with season-ending injuries last year, Cable had little-used holdovers Breno Giacomini and Lemuel Jeanpierre ready to step in and start.

That brings us to what Cable looks for in linemen to execute his zone-blocking scheme. Before the question was completed, he offered, “A smart, tough guy. Really. A smart, tough guy.”

Cable also wants to see “some athletic character that jumps out at you. Whether it’s hand strength, or just brute power, or it’s quickness. You know, two or three of those things. Or maybe all of them.

“But first and foremost, it’s a smart, tough guy.”

Does Sweezy have any of the above? Can be develop into a lineman who has all of the above? We’re all about to find out together, as he makes that transition from defensive tackle to offensive guard.

“You kind of keep your eyes and ears open,” Cable said. “Sometimes you’ll find one. They don’t all fit. You don’t really want them all to fit.

“But sometimes you find one and you think, ‘You know what? If this guy comes over, he maybe will have some special skills that can help us.’ ”


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