Seahawks Insider

Clemons gets his shot at ‘elephant’ position

Post by Eric Williams on April 28, 2010 at 8:03 am with 32 Comments »
May 4, 2010 1:41 pm

Seattle Seahawks defensive end Chris Clemons, Courtesy of the Seattle Seahawks

After last week’s draft, the Seattle Seahawks appear to still need a dynamic pass rusher coming off the edge.

But part of the reason that they did not go after that player early in the draft is the fact that Seattle likes the competition at the position.

Chris Clemons, who Seattle received back as part of the Darryl Tapp trade to Philadelphia, is penciled in as the starter at right end, and will compete for time with Ricky Foley, Nick Reed and Dexter Davis.

Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said the Clemons’ acquisition was part of the Seahawks’ concerted effort to get faster off the edge of the defense.

Bradley said one of the conclusions the coaching staff reached after evaluating film from last season is that they needed to get leaner, more mobile bodies rushing from the edge.

“There’s no doubt that’s the plan,” he said. “That was one of the things that we needed to improve on, and we felt like to have the ability to get a pass-rushing type at the Leo end spot, if we can get a guy off the flex-side like we’re talking about, that will improve the pass rush.

“That’s the whole part of the defense is to have a guy coming off of the edge like that.”

Chris Clemons is expected to improve the pass rush, courtesy of Seattle Seahawks

Clemons will play the “elephant” position, which is basically a stand-up defensive end in a 4-3 alignment that lines up on the weak side of the defense opposite of the tight end.

“It gives you some flexibility,” Bradley said about the new position. “Sometimes you can use an elephant, and he has the ability where maybe you can go a little lighter-type defensive linemen, because he’s usually away from the tight end. And it gives him a little more ability to pass rush. It’s a fun spot for those guys.”

Asked about Aaron Curry playing the elephant position, Bradley said right now he will focus on playing linebacker.

Clemons said after the trade Carroll told him that he would be competing for time at the elephant position. Clemons, 28, is looking for a new start after seeing his playing time diminish in Philadelphia.

“I actually smiled,” Clemons said when he found out the trade went down. “With Coach Reed, I went from playing a lot to not playing kind of at all. And that was a thing that kind of had me in the thought process of, ‘Can I really do what I know I can do?’ And coming out here, it was just eye-opening to me, and letting me know that somebody liked what I did and wanted me to play.”

So was Clemons upset with the lack of playing time?

“It all depends on how you look at frustration,” he said. “Everybody wants to play. In our position we were very deep. We had a lot of good guys at the end positions, and a lot of guys were getting banged up. It was just something you have to fight through, regardless of the situation. One thing about me, I never get really frustrated about stuff. I just ask questions.”

Bradley said Clemons give Seattle a leaner body coming off the edge.

“His length and his speed,” Bradley said about what he liked about Clemons at the Elephant position. “As you can imagine, if he’s always on the end you need a guy who has great speed coming off of the edge and great pass rush. So I think his length and his speed are assets for him.”

Bradley went on to say that both Foley and Reed are similar guys to Clemons and will compete for time at that position.

Clemons said he came into the league as a linebacker at Georgia, so covering running back and tight ends is nothing new. He had a career-high eight sacks at Oakland in 2007, and his hoping to get back to that type of play with Seattle. He looks to someone like New York Jets hybrid defensive end Jason Taylor as a person he would like to emulate in terms of play.

“From Day 1, they told me all they wanted me to do is focus on playing that position, and that’s what I’ve been doing,” Clemons said.

“My thing is getting acclimated to the scheme and learning exactly what to do. The coaches are going to play the best player anyways. I can only control what I’m able to do and how fast I’m able to learn it. And that’s what I’m aiming towards. If coach wants me to be the starter, then I’ll be the starter.”

Leave a comment Comments → 32
  1. With their first round selection in the 2011 NFL Draft, the Seattle Seahawks select “someone/anyone who can be a good elephant.”

  2. Eric – thanks for the role clarification from Bradley. Now we can put a bit of this speculation to rest (although I’m not happy with the news, we can move on to something else).

  3. vichawkfan says:

    Can we hire Rufus Porter as the Elephant Trainer?

  4. JMSeaTown says:

    Oakland was his best year with 8 sacks… did he play the elephant that year? His other years with the Redskins and Philly he was around 3 and 4 sacks/year. He’s definitely got the size. I like Curry at the position he’s played his whole life.. I would like to see more blitz packages this year. Getting pressure on the QB makes them release the ball quicker which allows our CBs to not have to cover for as long. Look at what blitzing on passing downs did for the Jets.. Revis is one of the best CBs in the league – but forcing QBs to throw the ball sooner only made him better…

  5. Dukeshire says:

    BobbyK – You should be very happy, I would think. This is using players that best suits their strengths. Hasn’t that been one of the significant criticisms of previous staffs, putting round pegs in square holes?

    And let’s give the boys (Clemons, Reed, Foley) an opportunity to see what they bring in this role before we write off the lot. I understand you’ve been skeptical and weary of getting too enthusiastic for the Carroll / Schneider regime (perhaps for good reason) but to date, they’ve done nearly everything we’ve been wanting to see. I look forward to watching you slowly relax the death grip as time goes on. :)

    I’m not going to lie, after yesterday’s thread, this felt good to read…

    “Asked about Aaron Curry playing the elephant position, Bradley said right now he will focus on playing linebacker.”

  6. It doesn’t seem like PC takes the conservative approach to football so I don’t think he would back away from starting a rookie. If Dexter Davis has a great training camp/pre season he could be the starting elephant.

    Okung and Thomas start for sure. Good chance Tate starts. Thurmond and Chancellor could work up to starter during the season. PC wants the Hawks to get younger. Wow, six rookie starters in December?

  7. piperfeltcher says:

    I think Foley may surprise in this role. He was a dominant passrusher in the CFL where they line up a full yard off the ball and the D-end has a little more time before engaging the block much like you do playing with your hand up in the elephant position. To be honest I am more worried about how these guys will stand up against the run.

  8. BobbyK, it appears you have mistaken Jake Locker for an elephant rusher.

  9. Hopefully Cam Chancellor starts, I remember the days of Babineaux as the SS, it wasn’t pretty.

  10. Orgy_of_Baal says:

    Hey did you guys fire your grammer-checker because of the recession?

    Clemons will play the “elephant” position, which is basically a stand-up defensive end in a 4-3 alignment [who] lines up on the weak side of the defense opposite of the tight end.

  11. Dukeshire, you’re happy that Curry is playing a position he’s lousy at? I thought Carrol said he’s best “going forward” and that dropping him into coverage 80% of the time was a waste.

    Curry needs to be starting at the elephant. He can’t play linebacker in a 4-3. At least there he would have the chance to develop into a Willie McGinest type.

    Otherwise he may end up being a huge bust.


  12. Just to add to my last comment, seems to me the best lineup for the defense would be:

    e- Curry rdt – Cole ldt – Mebane le – Jackson

    olb – Hawthorne mlb – Lofa olb – Hill

    cb – trufant ss – Thomas fs – Chancellor cb – Wilson

  13. Dukeshire says:

    dbara43 – I couldn’t disagree more with you. What he’ll be asked to do under Carroll is not what Mora tried to have him do. Mora had him rotating between both the strong and weak side and his responsibilities included coverage and playing away from the line. Carroll will be playing him as the Sam right above the TE and on the line. His primary responsibility will be setting the edge and redirecting the play back to the middle of the field. He will be attacking and driving forward, full aggression. Mora had him playing inside the tackles and trying to cover zones in the flat. Yes, I’m very excited he’ll be able to now take advantage of his strength and speed. Curry’s talents would be reduced to one dimension as “elephant” and I believe he’s capable of so much more.

  14. I know we disagree on this but I’d rather have the one dimentional player who is capable of double digit sacks. I know it’s new to him, but you can tell he has that special talent that not too many have. I think that’s more important than what he’ll do (and I know he’ll do a good job at it, and that it’s more important in Mr. Happy’s defense, but, in the end, I’ll take the sack artist he can become over a strong side linebacker).

  15. Orgy-of_baal: Ha, I wondered the same thing. Eric knows football, so I guess this was just a typo: “the elephant is… a stand-up defensive end in a 4-3 alignment that lines up on the weak side of the defense opposite of the tight end.”

    Um, no. The elephant is… a stand-up defensive end in a 4-3 alignment that lines up on the weak side of the defense opposite the offensive tackle, while the strong side defensive end lines up opposite the tight end.

    Just so no one is confused. ;) The conversations is here get confusing enough as it is. ;-)

  16. dbara43:
    I can’t agree with your lineup. LoJack is too slow to be RDE and he knows it. And Tapp was too short and heavy for what they want more of: speed off the edge. Jackson is a prototypical LDE and he’ll do great if they let him stay there and grow.

    And we should be happy to have Curry dedicated to the SOLB, who needs to be the biggest LB to shed blocks from the TE and FB to keep the strong-side running plays contained, as well as blitzing from the SOLB. Curry had a little trouble dropping into coverage against TEs last year, but he has the speed to improve at that. Stopping the run comes first.

    One thing that I hope Carroll does not let Gus Bradley do is drop the DEs into coverage often like he did last year. Tapp and Redding got embarrassed too many times doing that. I think that will change for the better.

  17. Don’t forget people that the idiot Mora told Curry that he needed to “calm down” out on the field, and I think that got into his head. Remember the first game against the Rams and Curry was all over the field smashing people and getting into fights? Mora put an end to that and conservatized (is that a word?) Curry. Do some research on PCs defensive scheme with the elephant while he was at USC. Really hard to stop.

    I have to agree with Dukeshire. I just can’t question this coaching staff and front office anymore at all. I have put 100% faith in this staff and FO now after the last weekend that they had.

    By the way, no starters have been set in stone on this team at all. Best guess is that won’t happen until opening day. If they think Clemons is the man for that job, then he is the man for that job period. PC is going to have people compete at every position, which will bring out the best in each player every week. Just imaging if you had a person sitting right next to you at your job waiting to take it if you screwed up. You would probably work your best and hardest if you knew what was good for you. This is going to be one exciting football team no doubt about it.

  18. I think PC will take more deep shots downfield which would seem to favor Charlie over Matt and Butler over Branch. Of course, that only happens if the O line can sustain blocks a little longer than last season.

    This will be the most interesting preseason in a long time.

  19. I think Mr. Happy will have plenty of opportunities for Curry to get after the QB. I agree, after the draft, this front office has earned some of our trust to do the best thing. I love playing players to their strengths, my agrument simply is that a dynamic pass rushing DE is more important than an OLB on the strong side. Again, I know the position Curry will be in is even more important than the average defense because of the weak side being overloaded. We shall see what becomes of this and I think Mr. Happy will have some (smart) ways to utilize Curry. They have done a good job, up to this point, of turning this franchise around. I like the direction we’re headed in.

  20. Bobby, some day I want to be there to see you call Coach Carroll “Mr. Happy” to his face. I just want to see what he does with that. ;-)

  21. I will b/c it’s not intended to be negative.

  22. nighthawk2 says:

    If we’re being the grammar police, no one picked up on this: “Chris Clemons, who Seattle received back as part of the Darryl Tapp trade…” Isn’t it whom rather than who?

    When Carroll was first hired and started talking about his defensive scheme, the word was Aaron Curry was going to play this “elephant” position, and I was glad to hear it because as was mentioned earlier, the 4th overall pick of the 2009 draft sucked at outside linebacker. Now they’re going to put him back at outside linebacker? And if he’s playing the strongside, then once again Leroy Hill is going to have to play out of position, because he’s a strongside linebacker and has been forced to play the weakside since he’s been here; first with Peterson and now with Curry on the strongside.

    I like our draft overall but a couple of things puzzled me. One was taking Thurmond over a healthy Dominique Franks and the other was drafting Dexter Davis or DT Jeff Owens. Seems to be a redundancy there, Davis is Nick Reed (but not Nick Redd).

    Can’t see Kam Chancellor ever playing FS as dbara43 charts it, he doesn’t have the coverage skills for that. Thomas is the guy who’ll be the ballhawks at FS and Chancellor will be the strong safety. I’m waiting to see him lay out Crabtree and Fitzgerald on crossing routes.

  23. edstang45 says:

    excellent thread today, Duke and Bobby great opinions , lots of good reading here todau from almost everyone.

    But have some patience, I really like the mind of PC and Bradley lets see how this works out. This could be a replay of Jimmy Johnson and the Boys, I’m excited about the potential here.

  24. We need to trade Julius Jones for a bunch of draft picks:)

  25. JJ has no future in Seattle. Maybe PC can pull a rabbit out the hat for him, but I doubt it. Hopefully someone will give us a bag of footballs and a 6th rounder for him. I hear Chris Johnson is holding out now, maybe he can move down south.

  26. maddog12 says:

    BobbyK I’d vote for that but I think we will be lucky to get the proverbial bag of footballs.

  27. maddog12 says:

    Julius Jones should become BOF (bag of footballs).

  28. OutSydeDog says:

    snydro…lol thanx

    I, for one, have a lot of faith in this staff and front office. I’m optimistic every day for this team, and this year is no different…except that we’re gonna be WAY more competetive when it comes time to tee it up.

    GO HAWKS!!!

  29. EyeAmBaldman says:

    Does everyone remember that Curry did NOT rush the passer in college? He dropped into coverage a lot, had 3 INTs his final season there. He’s a beast that was never allowed to rush the passer in college. I think he had 1 sack that last year. So PC is just putting him where he’s most comfortable, I’m guessing.

  30. Your going to play Curry as an OLB at 254 pounds and Coleman at the elephant at 240? Hmm… makes little sense to me.

    I think bobbyk has it right; dynamic DE over SSLB any day.


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