OFF THE CUFF
That's more like it
Arceto Clark hauled in a catch down the sideline and was stopped suddenly by Earl Thomas, who popped the receiver and let him know about it. Clark flipped the ball in Thomas' face and a little jawing ensued. Doug Baldwin was away from the play but wasted no time in getting in Thomas' grill, literally facemask-to-facemask. It ended with a love tap on the helmet from Baldwin to Thomas. That was just one example of an improved feel at today's practice. The defense blitzed early in red zone drills and the energy level from that alone changed the monotonous dynamic that had started to settle in the past few practices. It would not be a surprise to hear the coached did that intentionally. The offense was helpless during that drill, but counter-punched in team drills where they sliced up the defense with a number of big plays and clearly won that portion of practice. This is what competition is meant to do at a Seahawks practice. One side pushes. The other side pushes back. And when the day is done, they are all farther down the path.
Russell Okung is so important
There may be no bigger Alvin Bailey backer than me, but it was a hallelujah moment when Okung stepped back into live action in team drills today. He is the most talented lineman on the team. Nobody is a better combination of pass protector and run blocker on the Seahawks line. His presence alongside James Carpenter creates a dynamic pairing, especially in the run game. Okung took roughly 50% of team snaps today, as the team slowly ramps up his workload, but looked good doing it.
James Carpenter was active today
There has been so much talk about Carpenter improving coming into camp. I have taken a "prove it" approach as we have heard that before, and seen less than great results. Carpenter looked like a different player today. His movement was so much smoother and aggressive than what he has shown so far. I am eager to see if he can bring this into the game on Friday.
Kevin Pierre-Louis finally introduces himself
It took almost 2.5 weeks, but the Seahawks highly touted linebacker draft choice finally showed some of the ability that the front office saw. He, like Okung, had been sitting out team drills due to injury. When he had been in on full practices early in camp, he had not done anything of note. That changed today during red zone drills when Pierre-Louis showed lightning quickness as he blitzed up the middle. He did it again on the next play and easily beat Stephen Schilling for what was almost an instantaneous sack. He was fluid in coverage the rest of the day, often paired with fellow rookie 'backer Brock Coyle in second-string nickel defense. This was a practice to build on.
Kam Chancellor returns to action
Chancellor was another notable name getting some time during team drills for the first time. He looks eager to be playing without restrictions. The team is being smart and cautious.
STAND-OUT NEW FACES
LB Kevin Pierre-Louis
He looked different than any of the other linebackers on the field today. Still need to see how he plays against the run. He had some trouble shedding blocks at times.
DT Kevin Williams
This was the best practice for Williams since the opening of camp. He beat Okung on a stunt that would have been a sack. He also ran a lot with the first unit.
RT Justin Britt
Better today. It is becoming clear that he is Plan A. I continue to have serious reservations about his ability to hold up in pass protection, but there were real signs of progress today.
TE Morrell Presley
Two things are sure: 1. I like Presley 2. So do the quarterbacks. The rookie continues to get targets and turn them into sizable gains. His blocking may keep him from making the practice squad, but there is talent here.
WR Paul Richardson
Richardson had a nice long touchdown from Tarvaris Jackson today, beating Phillip Adams.
CB Tharold Simon
He had a nice break-up of a deep pass to Richardson.
Garrett Scott, Erik Pinkins (still in a boot), Malcolm Smith, Bruce Irvin, Korey Toomer, Kevin Norwood (in a boot), Jimmy Staten, Bobby Wagner, Michael Brooks, Akeem Auguste, A.J. Jefferson, Jordan Hill, C.J. Davis
THINGS I NOW KNOW
Harvin went down today after a defender stepped on his ankle/foot. He was laying on the ground for a few minutes before he hobbled to the locker room. The concern across fans, players and coaches was palpable. It ended up being some scrapes, and Harvin returned to the field ready to play a while later. Still, it was a reminder how fragile race cars can be, and that this is a demolition derby, not a formula one race.
2. Phil Bates is making this team
He was the most productive receiver on the field yet again. It is reminiscent of how it felt watching Jermaine Kearse burst on the scene last year. Bates is cut like a boxer, and plays with aggression. He won over the top against the first team defense today for a long touchdown. He caught another deep ball on a post later in team drills. He should be the leading receiver this Friday.
This was a very positive practice, especially when compared to what went on Sunday. The state of the offensive line is going to determine so much about what happens this season. Guys like Okung, Carpenter, and Max Unger matter every bit as much as Harvin, Baldwin and Marshawn Lynch. The group looked promising today. They need to be able to stay on the field.
The passing offense is undoubtedly more diverse and should be more consistently threatening this year. The way they move the ball through the air may look a little different (e.g., more separation and less jump balls), but it should show up every week if the line can provide more time. The formula for success will be an effective running game, combined with quicker passes, and receivers who get open more often. Fit those parts together, and it will be hard for even the most ferocious pass rushers to get to the quarterback.
If Michael Bowie was the biggest disappointment of camp, Cassius Marsh has to be the biggest surprise. Seattle simply has not drafted a player who is a core special teamer and clear rotational player on the defensive line. I don't know what Marsh's ceiling is yet. That will be defined by real game play. I have seen enough to know he is capable of 7+ sack seasons in this defense. He is the odds-on favorite to be the MVP of this draft class.