The energy level at camp yesterday was below my expectations, and got me thinking of who the guys were who brought the most energy each day to practice this year compared to last year. It is not scientific. These are just my observations, but the exercise was revealing, so I thought it might be worth sharing.
Top 5 Most Energetic Players (2013, Last Year)
Note: The following are in no specific order or ranking
Thomas was a constant source of movement and intensity. It was his field, and the offensive players stepping on it was an affront to him. Even his walk had an edge. Nearly every practice had him screaming at receivers and Russell Wilson after breaking up a pass.
Sherman brought a different kind of energy. He was fun and cocky. His dancing was a mainstay, and always got the crowd laughing and cheering.
Bryant was extremely physical. More than once in 1v1 pass rushing drills, he would exchange words with the offensive lineman. He and Breno Giacomini came to blows at least once, as Bryant had to be restrained. Bryant was a gentle giant off the field, but had a very nasty edge on it.
Kearse was in the middle of a breakout camp, and was making highlight reel plays regularly. You could feel his determination. It was infectious.
Baldwin regularly was woofing at the defensive backs and played at game speed. His intensity was obvious and consistent.
Top 5 Most Energetic Players (2014, This Year)
Scruggs has approached each drill with a ton of effort. He is not vocal, and his results are not always impressive, but his effort has been. While some players stand on the sideline with various ailments, Scruggs has participated in every practice after recovering from a serious knee injury.
Marsh has been run ragged from core special teams work to defensive tackle to defensive end, all while playing some with the first team and some with the second. No player has probably got more snaps in camp than Marsh. He has attacked each one with high effort and often with great results.
Baldwin has had another great camp. He is out-running defenders, and finding the end zone more often. There has not been quite as much woofing, but the energy has been equal to past seasons.
Harvin has been electric through most of camp, and draws reactions from the crowd every time he touches the ball. His effort has been notable as well.
TIE - Cliff Avril / Phil Bates
Both Avril and Johnson have brought a similar kind of energy to camp. Avril is bringing maximum effort on each pass rush, and has been giving Justin Britt a headache as a result. It is exactly what the rookie needs. Avril could probably beat Britt at 75% effort, but the message he sends by embarrassing the youngster is clear: "This is what you will face in games, so rise to it."
Bates has stood out with his performance and his energy. It is clear how determined he is to make the squad. Every snap counts, and he is playing that way.
Notice the difference between which players are bringing the most energy to camp. Last year saw many of the core leaders of the team setting the tone. This year has a number of youngsters and role players. None of this is backed up by numbers or proof. Other observers may come up with a different list.
The knee-jerk reaction would be that Sherman and Thomas have eased off the gas after getting their big contracts and some notoriety this off-season. That is not my read. Sherman has had a terrific camp. He has been almost impossible to pass on. If anything, I just don't see him being challenged right now because he's playing at such a high level. Maybe he is not as silly this year because his best friend, Brandon Browner is no longer around. Maybe he is trying to make it less about him and more about focus on the team. Maybe the DJ just hasn't been playing his song. There are plenty of non-distressing reasons for the difference, but it is a difference.
Thomas is a tougher one to assess. I don't think his intensity can be turned off. I'm not ready to say there is anything wrong with the best safety in football, but I would not mind seeing more of the Thomas stomp and scream. The team benefits from the edge he sets.
The defensive line had a clear emotional leader last year in Bryant and Chris Clemons. I am not one to say that leadership is a major factor in performance, but it would help if Michael Bennett and Avril could step forward. Brandon Mebane is great, but will never be vocal. Kevin Williams is said to be leader, but he will have to earn respect on the field with a new team.
There have been enough injuries that it is hard to be sure how much that has contributed to some of the differences. It drives me nuts when people talk about how Seattle lost a lot of leadership they will need to make up for. They have a locker room full of leaders. A couple of them need to assert themselves and make sure they are setting the standard for others to follow. The talent will take care of the rest.