The significance of David Hawthorne
Posted by Danny O'Neil
November 23, 2009 at 5:12 PM

Linebacker David Hawthorne was credited with 11 solo tackles Sunday in Minnesota, four assists and on those occasions that Seattle played dime coverage with six defensive backs, he was the only linebacker on the field.

That's not what anyone imagined before this season began when the linebackers were considered to be the strength of this team. After all, Seattle has invested millions in rookie Aaron Curry, fifth-year linebacker Leroy Hill and Lofa Tatupu, who is injured and out for the season.

After all that, it's an undrafted free agent in his second year out of Texas Christian who is making the biggest impact on a weekly basis?

Well, some of that has to do with the position he plays. As the middle linebacker, that's the position that tends to get opportunities both to finish off opponents and to stay on the field.

"The position he plays lends itself to making more tackles," coach Jim Mora said, "so sometimes his statistics are a little bit better. But he has to develop more consistency as well."

The other reality is that Curry, the rookie who became the highest linebacker to be drafted in nine years when Seattle chose him fourth, has been coming off the field more and more frequently. He is no longer part of Seattle's nickel coverage as Seattle's coaches have sought to reduce his responsibilities to base coverage.

Curry had 33 solo tackles and two sacks over the first six games of the season. In the past four, he's been credited with nine solo tackles. He's gone five games since his last sack.

Has the rookie hit some sort of wall?

"I don't know if he's hit a wall or, you know, there's a little bit of this in every rookie," Mora said. "You watch rookies throughout the league, and there's some up-and-down and I'd like him to be a little more steady in his improvement."

One of the struggles for Seattle's linebackers has been their inability to drop to the correct depth in zone coverage. Combine that with the almost complete lack of a pass rush from the defensive line and it has been a recipe for quarterbacks like Kurt Warner and Brett Favre to get all surgical in their dissection of Seattle's defense.

Mora said the hope is that having Curry take a step back in terms of playing time will help him end up taking a leap forward.

"What we've tried to do the last couple of weeks is take a little bit off his plate," Mora said. "Let him focus a little bit more on being a first and second-down linebacker. Now that we've got Leroy back, and Leroy can do some of the things in nickel, and hopefully that gives him a little surge as we go down the stretch."