Hill developing into pass rusher on Seattle's line
That's essentially what happened to Hill during Seattle's Super Bowl run a season ago. Slowed by injuries and never finding his way into Seattle's defensive line rotation, Hill spent the majority of his rookie season as a spectator on the Seahawks sideline.
That time spent watching and learning is finally paying off for Hill and the Seahawks.
''He's more confident, sure. He's healthy too now. He was banged up for a little while in there,'' Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. ''We're very fortunate that we're coming together.''
Hill has quickly developed into an important part of Seattle's pass rush that has improved dramatically the second half of the season. After having just 13 sacks in the first 10 games, the Seahawks have 20 sacks in the past five games.
And Hill has been right in the middle of the improved quarterback chasing. Hill has been responsible for five of those 20 sacks.
''I didn't plan on being injured and stuff like that, but the more and more game experience I get the better I have a chance to be,'' Hill said. ''I just want to take advantage of all the opportunities I'm getting. Even though I'm playing a little bit better, I still feel I left a lot out on the field that I could have capitalized on.''
Hill has moved into the pass rushing defensive tackle role occupied a season ago by Clinton McDonald. Hill doesn't play a ton of snaps - he's been in for 45 percent of the defensive plays this season - but when he's on the field the objective is simple: collapse the pocket and make the quarterback move around.
Hill missed three games in the middle of the season with an ankle injury and Seattle's pass rush picked up when he returned. He recorded his first sack in Week 12 against Arizona and had two sacks against San Francisco in Week 15. Despite being blanked for the first 10 games, Hill is third on the team in sacks.
''He's so explosive, so much quick twitch muscles that he could be one of the best inside rushers in the game right now. He's figuring it out right now,'' Seattle defensive end Michael Bennett said.
''This is the best part of the year for him to finally get a chance. He got hurt early on and him getting the reps and doing it over and over and over and that's really what it is for him right now is being able to believe that he can do and go out there and play the way he's capable of playing.''
Part of Hill's success can be attributed to Bennett, both during games and during the week. Bennett has spent time with Hill before and after practices this season passing along tips in rushing the quarterback to help the youngster. It's also helped grow the chemistry of how Seattle's pass rush can best work.
Last Sunday's win over Arizona was a perfect example. On the play Hill got his one sack, Bennett occupied a pair of offensive linemen. That gave time for Hill to loop around unblocked and sack Arizona's Ryan Lindley.
''You have to rush as four. You can't go in there and rush by yourself. You have to have all four guys on the same page,'' Hill said. ''You've got to have a feel. It's like a quarterback and his receivers being on time with the timing. All four guys have to know how each person rushes.''
NOTES: Carroll said it remains unlikely that WR Jermaine Kearse (hamstring) would return for Sunday's finale vs. St. Louis. ... LT Russell Okung has a ''really good chance'' to get back this week. Okung missed last week's game with a bruised lung. ... CB Tharold Simon suffered a shoulder injury vs. Arizona, but there is a chance he could play vs. the Rams. ''This will be an amazing recovery if he is able to do it,'' Carroll said.
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