RENTON — Malik McDowell was called “too unique” to pass up by Seattle Seahawks general manager John Schneider after the team selected him with the 35th pick in the NFL draft.
On their first day of rookie mini-camp Friday, the Seahawks began to explore the versatility of their newest defensive lineman.
The Seahawks envision a substantially different role for McDowell in Seattle than he had at Michigan State. McDowell frequently lined up over the center as a nose tackle in the Spartans’ 3-4 defense last year. With the Seahawks, he’ll be playing more defensive end with the plan to move him inside as an interior rusher in passing situations.
“We’ll play him a little more at defensive end,” coach Pete Carroll said. “He played inside a lot, he was on the center a lot. He doesn’t look like that kind of a player in our system to us.”
The differences in roles was glaring even on the first day of rookie camp.
“I’m playing a whole different position,” McDowell said. “… Moving outside and going from taking double teams to taking single blocks here mostly.”
“I like it.”
Schneider said following the selection that they’ve been seeking a player of McDowell’s abilities since they first got to Seattle eight years ago.
“He’s too unique,” Schneider said. “We’ve been looking for a pass rushing 3-technique since we’ve been here together.”
McDowell — a prospect who was viewed as a possible first-round selection before his final year of college — as plagued by evaluations that panned his effort at times. McDowell did deal with ankle issues throughout season that ultimately brought his season to an end prematurely in November. However, it is an area the Seahawks have acknowledged was an issue
“It is what it is,” McDowell said. “No excuses for it. I was out there playing.”
McDowell played primarily at defensive end during his first day on the field with the Seahawks. Listed at 6-foot-6, 299 pounds, McDowell doesn’t look nearly that big. He’s lean and sleek and has the explosiveness to get around the edge and pressure the quarterback. During the practice, McDowell blew by sixth-round pick Justin Senior at left tackle for a would-be sack of tryout quarterback Michael Birdsong.
Carroll said that McDowell will probably put on 10-15 pounds over the next few years just naturally as he gets stronger.
The Seahawks will need to keep McDowell’s focus dialed in to see the greatest potential reward from his selection, but Carroll was quite happy with the first impression.
“Instantly, almost, you could see how comfortable he is with his movements, his body control and stuff,” Carroll said. “He’s got an awareness already how to use his hands that I’m surprised to see with that background technically. They did a really nice job with him at Michigan State so he got off to a really nice start and he looks great.”