RENTON, Wash. – While the Seattle Seahawks had more high profile additions this offseason, the signing of defensive tackle Tony McDaniel could prove to be a quiet steal.
As the Seahawks were trading for dynamic receiver Percy Harvin and adding defensive ends Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett in free agency, McDaniel's addition in April flew under the radar. McDaniel signed with Seattle after spending the last four seasons with the Miami Dolphins. Seattle hoped McDaniel could serve as a replacement for Alan Branch, who signed with the Buffalo Bills.
Branch had spent the last two seasons anchoring the interior of the Seahawks' defensive line alongside Brandon Mebane but Seattle elected to let him walk in free agency and turned their focus toward McDaniel.
"He's a big man, he takes up a lot of space, he's tall, he can reach, he can get right in the way of a quarterback's throwing lanes and all that," Seattle coach Pete Carroll said of McDaniel. "I think that he's going to be a nice addition and he's just going to continue to get better and he is just learning from what we expect from him."
McDaniel earned the starting job alongside Mebane and did something in his first game that Branch was unable to accomplish in his two years with the Seahawks. McDaniel recorded five tackles in Seattle's 12-7 season-opening victory over the Carolina Panthers last week. Branch never recorded more than four in any of his 31 games with the Seahawks.
"It was great for me to get out there, play a whole game and show my coaches and my teammates some things I can do when I'm healthy," McDaniel said.
"I think I fit perfectly," he added.
McDaniel's spot on the roster was up in the air in the closing weeks of training camp. McDaniel missed significant time in camp due to a groin injury. Carroll repeatedly said they needed to see more of McDaniel to fully understand what he could bring to the table.
Sitting on the sidelines wasn't giving the Seahawks the information they needed.
McDaniel was healthy enough to play in the team's third preseason game against Green Bay and did well. In addition, rookie Jordan Hill suffered a strained biceps in practice and has been sidelined ever since. It allowed McDaniel to get a firm grasp on the starting job.
At 6-foot-7 and 305 pounds, McDaniel is an imposing force along the line. Mebane said McDaniel fits well into the team's defensive philosophy and understands how to make the most out of the tools he has at his disposal.
"For his size and his height, he uses leverage real well," Mebane said.
Both McDaniel and Mebane were battling groin injuries leading up to the game with the Panthers. With depth at defensive tackle a bit thin, Seattle needed to rely heavily on both players to carry the load. McDaniel's performance was just what Carroll was hoping to see.
"He was physical. He got his hands up in the face of the quarterback couple of times," Carroll said. "He didn't get any sacks, but he was forceful at the line of scrimmage. He defeated some good blocks in double-team situations and all that. He looks like he could really help us. I was really fired up about that."
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