RENTON — On the day the Seahawks drafted linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis in the fourth round this year, Todd Brunner, one of Seattle’s area scouts, didn’t hide his impartiality.
“Regardless of the grade I gave the guy, he is my favorite player in this whole draft,” Brunner said. “Just to watch.”
Then he offered a comparison.
“There was a guy when I was down in San Fran that he reminds me of that we took,” Brunner said. “That would be Navarro.”
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That Navarro would be Navarro Bowman, the 49ers linebacker who is considered one of the best in the NFL. When Seahawks general manager John Schneider heard of Brunner’s comparison later, he laughed and said: “Slow down, Todd. Guys get excited when you pick players in their area.”
But here’s the thing: It wasn’t the first time Pierre-Louis, who played collegiately at Boston College, had heard the comparison. At the NFL combine in February, Pierre-Louis met with the linebackers coach for the 49ers who offered the same comparison.
“Can I say I’m him?” Pierre-Louis said. “No, I’m going to be the player I can be. But just to even get that from one or two people, that’s definitely a great compliment. That just shows me that I have talent and I have potential. I’m definitely going to make sure that I reach that potential.”
Pierre-Louis played a season-high 33 percent of Seattle’s defensive plays against the Panthers last weekend, and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said Pierre-Louis will play plenty on Sunday against the Raiders with Malcolm Smith likely out with a groin injury.
Filling in for Smith against the Panthers, Pierre-Louis displayed the speed that enticed the Seahawks to draft him. Quinn pointed out one play in the third quarter in which the Panthers threw a screen to running back Jonathan Stewart that initially looked like a healthy gain. But Pierre-Louis quickly closed on Stewart and tackled him for a 1-yard gain.
“It was no surprise to us to see how fast he was playing,” Quinn said. “I think over the last few weeks us as coaches have felt maybe the game has slowed down for him where he’s able to play fast and physical.”
Part of that process has just been getting Pierre-Louis time on the field after injuries sidelined him.
“I wasn’t able to play earlier this season just because of a little bit of immaturity in knowing how to take care of my body,” he said. “I realize this isn’t college anymore so I have to do things like getting in the hot tub, cold tub, getting the massages and doing everything I can to make sure I feel right for practice. Now I haven’t missed any time, so I’ve been able to get the reps that I need and get the ball rolling. The biggest thing is while you’re feeling good making sure you’re still doing those things.”
Pierre-Louis is also still learning the discipline required to be a successful piece of Seattle’s defense. In college, he felt responsible to make every play. But the Seahawks’ defense relies on each player being in proper position, and one out-of-place link can break the integrity of the chain.
“It’s not really about trying to make every play,” he said. “It’s about doing my job first so if that’s turning in a block for another linebacker to make the tackle or spilling it to somebody else, that’s what I have to do.”
The Seahawks used Pierre-Louis’ speed by blitzing him against the Panthers, and he should continue to do that in spots. He isn’t the biggest linebacker at 236 pounds, but the Seahawks have a blueprint with Smith, who is 226 pounds but effective because of his speed in the open field.
Smith and K.J. Wright will be unrestricted free agents after this season, and Pierre-Louis is a logical replacement if one or both aren’t back.
“Really, it’s a matter of consistency right now,” Carroll said. “We really think he can play. We don’t have any question that he can be a factor and help us.”