SEATTLE—Quicker, leaner and more explosive.
Those were the goals Seahawks guard Mansfield Wrotto set for himself this offseason when informed the offense would be switching to a zone-blocking scheme.
Gone are the complicated playbooks from Mike Holmgren's West Coast offense, with its hard-to-master blocking assignments that kept linemen up late at night studying. Zone-blocking fronts are simpler but require athletic linemen who can create confusion and seal off backside pursuit from defenders, leaving a gap for the running back to burst through.
"It's better for our O-line," Wrotto said. "We have a lot of young, quick O-linemen. It suits us."
Wrotto dove into offseason conditioning drills, heavy on the sprinting, and by organized team activities this spring his weight had dipped to 323. When training camp started last month, Wrotto checked in at a relatively svelte 312.
So far, he has spent time with the No. 1 unit - which has been beset by injuries this camp - at both guard slots. One of the benefits of the zone-blocking scheme is that it suits linemen who can play more than one position. Something that has been a theme of Wrotto's career.
The Georgia Tech product played three seasons at defensive end before moving to tackle his senior year. The Seahawks drafted him to play guard in 2007, and he made his first start last season against the New England Patriots.
The coaching staff already likes what they're seeing from their new running game.
"There were some creases that we hadn't had previously," coach Jim Mora said. "So I think they're getting a good feel for that. And I think they like it. I think they enjoy what we're doing."
The Seahawks' zone scheme has been installed by offensive coordinator Gregg Knapp, who has had success with it during his various stops in the NFL. From 2004-06, the Atlanta Falcons took advantage of quarterback Michael Vick's running skills to lead the league in rushing yards for three consecutive seasons. In his stint with the Raiders in 2007-08, Knapp also coached top-10 running games.
The Seahawks are hoping to see similar success after ranking 19th last season.
In the zone scheme, the linemen block specific areas, as opposed to other defenders, and the running backs are presented with a couple of options. They are then expected to make one cut and hit the hole hard. If executed properly, the system yields yardage in chunks because defenses are unable to pursue the ball carrier. Perfect for one-cut-and-go backs like Julius Jones.
"The quickness of it all creates confusion on the D-line, because they don't have time to actually read what's going on," Wrotto said. "Everything is very fast-paced."
NOTES: Linebacker Lofa Tatupu was absent from practice on Sunday, with the Seahawks saying he was receiving a rest day. ... Also sitting were center Chris Spencer (ankle), tackle Walter Jones (back), guard Grey Ruegamer (elbow), defensive end Michael Bennett (shoulder), D.D. Lewis (knee), CB Marcus Trufant (back) and LB Will Herring (groin). ... WR Jordan Kent drew cheers for several spectacular catches during 11-on-11 drills. Late in practice, the 6-foot-4 Kent made an impressive, leaping reception of an overthrown pass from Seneca Wallace. Kent is trying to wedge himself into a crowded receiver rotation.