2011 Seahawks Training Camp: August 9th News & Notes
Horizontal American Style Football in high contrast on black
This is the fourth in a series of four training camp visits I will be making this year.
STAND-OUT NEW FACES CB Byron Maxwell
Maxwell is a 6’1″ CB drafted this year who has mostly taken a back seat to the likes of Brandon Browner and fellow rookie CB Richard Sherman in training camp. He has run with the third team, and been mostly invisible until today. He had two highlight reel interceptions, stepping in front of a two receivers. One was due, in part, to a receiver running the wrong route, but Maxwell still made the play. He may be a player on the come, who needed the early part of camp to get his feet under him. Carroll said he was “special” after practice. We shall see.
CB Brandon Browner
Browner is a staple here. I continue to think he’s going to be a similar story to Mike Williams this year, but on the defensive side of the ball. He is so quiet and smooth, it is easy to overlook him sometimes, but then the ball is thrown his way and it is game over. His length allows him to bat balls away even when he’s not right next to the receiver. Today, he elevated and showed he was not only tall, but athletic. He high-pointed the ball like a receiver to knock it away, and drew “oohs” and “ahhs” from the crowd. I look forward to everyone seeing #37 on Thursday.
RB Thomas Clayton
Clayton was new to camp, and had a nice day. He runs with power and agility, at one point displaying both as he cut through a hole and accelerated right through rookie safety Mark LeGree. LeGree was left aching on the ground for a second before pulling himself up. Clayton reminds me a little of Marshawn Lynch in terms of style.
QB Tarvaris Jackson
Jackson did nothing today to make me think any more or less of him. Scratch that, he did take off running on one play that displayed a gear I did not know he had. He continued to be high on his passes. WR Chris Carter made a great leaping grab of one, but Jackson needs to get that under control. That is entirely correctable, much more so than field vision and decision-making. He threw a few picks today, many due to forcing a ball into a covered receiver. Charlie Whitehurst has done nothing to make Pete Carroll re-think his decision to name Jackson the starter, so it is up to Jackson and the coaches to show some improvement.
Walter Thurmond, Roy Lewis, Colin Cole, Cameron Morrah, Deon Butler, Dexter Davis, Mike Williams, Red Bryant, Ryan Sims, Kentwan Balmer, Kris Durham
THINGS I NOW KNOW
John Carlson will constantly be going vertical, often up the seam, as part of the Seahawks offense this year. Almost every catch he has had, which is a fair number, has been 20 yards downfield running up the seam. He looks good.
Raheem Brock was not a one-year wonder. I expect him to put up credible sack numbers again based on his speed and pass rush moves.
Ryan Sims gave me the impression he was soft today. That might be unfair if he’s really hurt, but it was just the vibe I got. He needs to be on the field, earning snaps.
Junior Siavii looks healthy and could pay big dividends if he can used as a rotational player instead of thrust into a starting role like last season. He will push Alan Branch for snaps.
Today’s practice was different. It was the last practice before Thursday’s pre-season game. Coaches spent more time working on special teams drills like punt and kick coverage/returns than usual. There was also increased use of officials, or at least more strict officiating that led to a number of flags. Crowd noise was piped in during team drills to help prepare things like silent counts. There were fewer smiles, less “teaching” and more “coaching,” if that makes any sense. All in all, the execution was just okay. There were a fair number of false starts, offsides, pass interference and a few holding penalities. There were also a bunch of interceptions.
Maxwell, as described above, had two. Earl Thomas has two more. There might have been one or two beyond that. Some of them were just strong plays from strong players in the secondary. Thomas is just salivating in that rolled up slot position, and jumped a couple routes. Then again, the quarterback play continues to look like a bunch of back-up players masquerading as potential starters. All this talk of Josh Portis making strides and standing out is overplayed. Put him on a field with Tom Brady, or even Matt Hasselbeck, and his strides would look like baby steps.
The secondary is fast becoming my favorite part of the team. Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Brandon Browner, Richard Sherman, Maxwell, Josh Pinkard, Mark LeGree and eventually Walter Thurmond and Roy Lewis are all players on the rise. Seeing Kelly Jennings in there is like watching Jose Lopez take at-bats away from Dustin Ackley. Pete Carroll has made the bold move to go really young back there. Just go for it! It might be painful at times, but I’d rather lose with a young developing player getting beat than an older player without potential getting beat. If the Seahawks can stop the run the way they did to start last season and combine that with the pass rush they discovered at the end of last year in passing situations, this secondary could make some electrifying plays.
The linebackers are the other group that has me intrigued. I’m less convinced this is a group on the rise, but it certainly has the potential to be. Game play will be critical to judge these players. Malcolm Smith backs-up LeRoy Hill, and I can’t say he’s impressed me yet. Nothing about him jumps out as particularly special. His feet are average, his size is below average, his speed is average. I don’t see a ton of burst. That said, he was running with the first unit before Hill was able to practice, so the coaches see something I don’t. Mike Morgan grabs my attention much more. He has the speed, burst and hitting ability that stands out. Can he cover? What is he like in space? Only game film will answer those questions. For those that keep asking, Aaron Curry has not stood out. Either he’s saving it up for the games, or he’s just the player we already have seen for two seasons.
John Carlson will surprise people after many wrote him off. The introduction of Zach Miller allows Carlson to focus on what he does best, getting up-field in vertical pass patterns. There may even be single tight end sets where Carlson is the tight end on the field. His skill set is sufficiently different than Miller’s that it allows Bevell to specialize depending on the situation. Miller deserves some patience as he is learning a new offense (Bevell’s offense does not equal Cable’s), and may take a little while to find his footing. The tight end group, as a whole, may be talented enough to take a roster spot away from some other position group. Anthony McCoy has to be a lock, and Dominque Byrd is playing his way into contention. Cameron Morrah may end getting stashed on the PUP list until 6 games in.
At this point, I expect Colin Cole, Morrah, Roy Lewis and Deon Butler to all go on the PUP list heading into the season. Butler and Cole could possibly be released with injury settlements, especially Butler.
Cole’s spot is challenged by the additions of players like Alan Branch, Ryan Sims, Junior Siavii and Pep Livingston. Branch looks the part, but has been mostly uninspiring in practice. Sims sat out today, which felt lazy for some unconscious reason. Livingston has shown some nice flashes, but could possibly be a practice squad player. It is hard to imagine Cole rehabbing in time to be ready for the regular season, but you never know.
Jameson Konz continues to impress at defensive end. He is quick around the edge and also is a great option for zone blitzes where he can drop back into coverage from his end position. He’s not a star, but certainly shows promise. Raheem Brock looked better than the other defensive ends today. He was spinning, swimming and hooking his way into the quarterback’s face. Rookie James Carpenter got a lesson or three today.
It was hard not to walk away from today’s practice expecting much from the offense on Thursday. It will be important to watch for little things like push in the run game, and repeatable plays like screen passes that gain some yards. There will be a lot of drop-offs and check-downs, and probably a fair number of penalties and mishaps. The defense should be farther along. Some key players will be out, including Red Bryant, so it will be a good test of what should be better depth this year.