Saturday, July 26, 2014

2014 Training Camp News & Notes: July 26th Edition (2nd Practice)


OFF THE CUFF
Cassius Marsh looks promising
I am tempted to be even more bullish on Marsh after the burst and acceleration I have seen in his first two practices, but I need to see him in a padded practice and then against live competition. This must have been exactly how the front office and coaches felt when Marsh arrived late to OTAs (due to graduation rules) and they tempered their initial enthusiasm by saying he might just have "fresh legs." If what I saw today is an indication of what he will bring to the field on Sundays, Marsh will force his way into the rotation this season.



Norwood and Harvin sit
It is unclear if Percy Harvin has any injury to speak of, but he sat out today. He just spent half a press conference yesterday saying he has not felt this good for years, so my guess is they are putting him on a very conservative practice schedule to reduce wear and tear. Norwood, the star of practice yesterday, also was out. He is a young guy, so that indicates an injury. His absence allowed other receivers to get his snaps and some stood out as a result.

Jermaine Kearse shows up
Kearse was the breakout player of camp last season, but needs to re-establish himself this year. Paul Richardson, Norwood and others, are a direct threat to his future on the team. He will be a restricted free agent after this season, and needs to prove he is significantly more valuable than the young receivers they have added. After a quiet first practice, Kearse made a series of acrobatic catches in traffic to earn offensive player of the day honors. One catch came against Sherman along the sideline that was classic Kearse. He has a unique ability to catch the ball against tight coverage.

Not a good day for Justin Britt
Britt was running with the first string for the second straight day as Michael Bowie took it easy due to an injury. It was not pretty. Britt got beat with speed and beat with power. He appears to have trouble staying balanced in pass protection. He ended a number of plays on the ground as he would over or under stride, resulting in either him tripping or needing to lunge as a last gasp effort to block his man. Marsh, Michael Bennett, and Cliff Avril took turns giving the rookie a hard time. Avril, especially, had his way. This was disappointing because the hope was that Britt would be a better pass protector than Bowie. Early indications do not make that look likely. Let's see if the rookie can bounce back.


STAND-OUT NEW FACES
DT Jimmy Staten
Staten had a rough day. He found himself pushed to the ground in pass rush drills repeatedly. He is not getting a ton of reps, and appears to be way down on the depth chart.

CB Tharold Simon 
Simon was a guy I wanted to spend time watching today. He definitely looks the part, and is very fluid for a tall corner. He did not really stand out, but was in good position whenever the ball came his direction. He was 1v1 with Paul Richardson on a deep jump ball, and knocked the ball down.

DE/DT Cassius Marsh
Marsh looks great on the edge as an end, and flashed today on a twist where he circled behind the DT and up the middle to rush the passer. He was extremely quick and takes very few false steps. The team was running him ragged today as he got plenty of reps with the first team, and looked spent after practice. It was cool to see Michael Bennett pull him aside during practice to coach him up.

Michael Bennett gives rookie Cassius Marsh #91 some tips during practice


DE Jackson Jeffcoat
Jeffcoat looks smallish for an end. He had a nice practice, but looks far less explosive than a guy like Marsh. Ken Norton Jr was seen (and heard) screaming at Jeffcoat to get off blocks during a run drill play. He needs to do more to earn even practice squad consideration.

WR Paul Richardson
It was not a terrific day for Richardson, but he stands out. Early in practice, he completely lost Byron Maxwell off the line and was open deep, only to have Russell throw short instead. Later, he ran another nice route and won to the inside, but dropped a pass that hit him in the hands.

LT Gary Gilliam
Gilliam did well in pass rush drills, even against a guy like Avril. One play stood out. It is typical in these drills for the tackles to kick-step sideways or backwards to give some ground as the pass rusher tries to get around them. Gilliam stepped forward, into Avril and appeared to surprise him by jolting Avril backwards.

SIDELINED PLAYERS
Marshawn Lynch, Garrett Scott, Erik Pinkins, Kam Chancellor, Malcolm Smith, Bruce Irvin, Korey Toomer, Russell Okung, Kevin Norwood, Percy Harvin, O'Brien Schofield (appeared limited), Michael Bowie


THINGS I NOW KNOW

1.  Pete Carroll and staff continue to innovate at practice
The team ran a new drill today for special teams where punt gunners were given the chance to work together to keep the ball from going into the end zone. A ball would be thrown into the endzone, and one player would have to keep their feet in the field of play and tip the ball back to his partner. It looked fun. Keeping thing fresh helps the players stay engaged. 

2. Darrell Bevell should be listed on the injury report as well
Bevell is walking around in a boot, and I overheard him say it was microfracture surgery. Ouch.

3. The scramble drill is not a myth
Carroll has mentioned that the team practices QB scrambles and receiver rules when it happens. I witnessed it today when Wilson, playing against air, dodged an invisible pass rusher and rolled out, pointing to Phil Bates where to expect the throw. Tarvaris Jackson did this as well.

4. Camaraderie is evident with Wilson and his receivers from last year 
Wilson, Kearse and Baldwin could be seen having a good laugh during one of the drills. Kearse ended up putting Wilson in a headlock. There was an ease to their banter that was not as apparent in past years. They have proven a lot to each other, and been through a lot. Golden Tate, a close friend of Wilson's, is gone, as is veteran Sidney Rice. Baldwin has signed an extension and Kearse broke out as a key part of the team. The dynamic of these three young men could be the foundation of an emerging passing offense. They are confident, hard-working, and out to prove the world wrong. It was a small moment, but something felt different in an important, if yet-to-be-defined way.


GENERAL IMPRESSIONS
Baldwin looks like a guy who is ready to take the next step. He was always there when Wilson needed him last year. He now looks like a guy who could be the first read, and deserve to be. He roasted another cornerback or two today for deep passes, and is flashing more breakaway speed than what I remember from past years.

I spent much of practice trying to figure out the defensive line rotations, but it was almost impossible. Players were rotating in and out so often, and mixing and matching, that only a coach could be sure who was coming in for situation and who was coming in as first/second/third string. There were some interesting combinations. One was Avril, Marsh at tackle, Jesse Williams and Michael Bennett. Another was Marsh at end, Greg Scruggs, D'Anthony Smith, and Benson Mayowa. Scruggs had a good day. He continues to switch between tackle and end. Mayowa has yet to stand out. On one play, Scruggs got inside pressure as a tackle and bumped into Terrelle Pryor who threw short and directly into Mayowa's hands. Mayowa couldn't hold on and did three forward rolls in frustration.

Bennett and Jordan Hill got a fair amount of nickel snaps as the tackles, and Hill had at least a few nice penetrations.

The fun for the day was a play the offense practiced early in the morning, and then unleashed successfully on the defense in team drills later. It involved Wilson faking a handoff and then pitching the ball to Phil Bates on an end around, only to have Wilson leak outside and catch a pass along the sideline from Bates. Fans loved it. The defense hates it. Red jersey players like quarterbacks cannot be touched, making it a bit unfair. 
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