OFF THE CUFF Alvin Bailey shines with the second unit
It was the second padded practice of camp, and after being impressed with Alvin Bailey’s work as the third string left tackle on Saturday, I was captivated by his performance after being elevated to the second unit on Sunday. The game looks easy for Bailey. He is stoning every pass rusher during 1v1 drills without over-striding or reaching. The play that blew me away was during team drills when the defense ran a twist sending the LEO end crashing into Bailey on a bull rush to allow the 3-technique defensive tackle to curl around him to the outside. These types of plays often confuse young offensive lineman. They get taken out of position by falling for the trap of following the guy that engages them initially. Bailey stood up the initial defender, and then slid off him to block the defensive tackle. Neither player sniffed the pocket, as Bailey calmly blocked them both. Precocious stuff at a position the team needs young developing talent. Some may ask if he can play right tackle. He did that with the third string, and looked comfortable.
Good day for John Moffitt
Moffitt is quietly having a nice camp. He is not jumping out in any one way, but he looks reliable. Think a young Paul McQuistan or Chris Gray. He got the majority of the reps with the first unit from what I could see at right guard, and did well. J.R. Sweezy continues to be a superior run blocker, who may become an elite run blocker this season, but his pass protection continues to be suspect. He was beaten multiple times in 1v1 drills and also during team drills. Tom Cable will have to decide if he wants a plus blocker in one aspect that is a liability in the other, or a guy that is a little below average in both. That is where things stack up at the moment. Game time could determine the outcome of a competition I did not believe would even materialize. Sweezy has opened the door, and Moffitt is taking advantage.
Jermaine Kearse looking like more than JAG (Just Another Guy)
If you were to pick the standout player in camp so far, Jermaine Kearse would have to be in the conversation. He has played at all the receiver spots, and taken full advantage of Sidney Rice being limited the last two days. Russell Wilson went to him often on Sunday, with mostly good results. He made back-to-back catches during a two-minute drill, including a pretty back shoulder throw-and-catch that demonstrated the chemistry he is building with Wilson. His confidence has to be growing, and the receiver group clearly treats him as part of the crew. Today was the first day I started wondering if he had starting split end potential. An important question given the impending free agency of Golden Tate.
Kickoff coverage first unit revealing
It is unlikely many at the VMAC were paying attention to who was running down the field on kickoff coverage drills. The deciding factor in making the back-end of the roster almost always comes down to special teams play, and the special teams coach. That made it must-see practice minutes for me. It was no surprise to see guys like Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas, Michael Robinson and other mainstays. The ones to remember were Jeremy Lane, Byron Maxwell, Chris Maragos, Kearse, Malcolm Smith, Mike Morgan, and Allen Bradford. It was especially revealing to see Bradford, who is already having a strong camp at back-up middle linebacker. Heath Farwell has been sitting out with an injury, and has been a special teams ace. Farwell, however, is set to make $1.5M in 2013, while Bradford would make just $480K and is younger. If they are anywhere close to even on the field, Bradford will get the nod. Other noteworthy names were Lane and Maxwell, who could get the boost they need from special teams to beat out worthy competitors like Will Blackmon.
STAND-OUT NEW FACES Christine Michael
Wowzers. This guy could challenge 2,000 yards in this offense with this line. He is tough, and has far more burst than Marshawn Lynch will ever have. Michael could bring chunk plays we rarely see from Lynch. Remember how funny it looked to see Lynch breaking a 70-yard run versus Detroit? Michael makes that look natural. His most impressive run today came between the tackles when he made four or five guys miss as he weaved his way down-field. He made a couple guys miss in a phonebooth. Special stuff.
Maybe the league will overwhelm him as time goes on, but he looks like a baby Russell Okung right now.
Bennett played a lot of 3-technique today, along with LEO. This was the first glimpse of him at 3-tech so far. He is handful wherever he plays.
Mayowa benefited from Cliff Avril sitting out, and got a decent amount of run with the first unit at LEO and at 5-technique in the nickel. He looked fast and determined while making a few plays. He got to the quarterback at least twice during team drills. He is not a guy that looks ready to contribute in the rotation, but may be a practice squad candidate.
Hill got the chance to take Tony McDaniel’s snaps with the first team at 3-technique in the base defense, and got some time at nose tackle with the nickel. He had a good day. Bennett and Hill met at the quarterback in one flashy moment during team drills. There is little question about Hill’s get-off and motor. He just will not physically dominate many people in the NFL, so he will have to be a technician and be at maximum effort on every snap.
Walters has put together a few great days. He had another today, making catches all over the field. There does not appear to be any path to a roster spot for him, but it will not be because of his performance at this rate.
Harper had his best day on Saturday. Sunday was better yet. He still shows some inconsistency with catching the ball, but is looking more comfortable getting some separation and making plays during team drills. He had a great back shoulder catch today.
Percy Harvin, Zach Miller, Chris Clemons, Tharold Simon, Robert Turbin, Chandler Fenner, Korey Toomer, Sidney Rice (limited, played a few snaps), Jesse Williams, Heath Farwell
THINGS I NOW KNOW
1. Sean McGrath is building rapport with Wilson
There was a moment in 7v7 drills where every player was covered. This is fairly common so far in camp against this defense. Wilson scrambled to his left, and made eye contact with Sean McGrath streaking across the field and then up the sideline. He pointed to a spot, and McGrath instantly stopped and caught a pass for a nice gain. McGrath made a few other nice catches, including one he stretched out for. Solid camp so far.
2. Jeremy Lane still has a ways to go
Lane has undeniable physical gifts and is a fiery competitor. Those traits will take him a long ways, but his preparation and ability to handle adversity remain in question. He looks desperate at times when beaten in coverage, often resorting to blatant holds. More concerning is that he is missing assignments. How do I know? Call it an educated guess. He throws his arms in the air before the snap. His teammates are gesturing to him, a guy ends up open with Lane trailing behind, and then the coach calls him over after the play. He can be a starting caliber corner, but needs to put in the time necessary to be fully prepared.
3. Steven Hauschka has a clear early lead in the kicker competition
Carson Wiggs has a strong leg, but missed wide on a couple of 57-yard tries today, while Hauschka nailed his 57-yard attempt with the ball halfway up the uprights. Hauschka has been perfect, and looks far more consistent than Wiggs thus far. Wiggs will need to prove he can be reliable and not just a big leg to really push Hauschka.
It is somewhat of a misnomer to call the blocking drills 1v1 since the offensive line all lines up. It just happens that one defensive player lines up across from them and attacks a single offensive lineman. Those drills were lively today as it appeared that two hard-edged players in Red Bryant and Breno Giacomini were growing tired of facing one another in camp. Giacomini managed to pancake Bryant on one play, something I have never seen before, and then came back and stoned Mayowa on the next snap. Giacomini celebrated by running through the crowd of defensive players in what looked like a silly boast. Bryant did not see the humor and lowered a shoulder into Giacomini as he ran by. The two ended up nose-to-nose before being separated. Bryant was not pleased.
Seahawks fans should be more than pleased to hear that Bryant looks ready for a dominating season. He is nearly unblockable in most drills, and just looks like a beast again. Nobody is more important to the Seahawks run defense than Bryant, and he looks ready to anchor it.
The offensive line did a better job in pass protection today. Quarterbacks had time to throw on more plays than not. The whistle was getting blown every other play yesterday as the QB was “sacked,” but not nearly so much today. That allowed for more completions and the first sustained series of camp. It came in the two-minute drill with Wilson at the helm. He hit Kearse a couple of times, and then Lynch. They got down toward the goal line, but could not score a touchdown. Brady Quinn, who was a better player than Tarvaris Jackson today, guided his team down to the four-yard line, but could not convert. This was a clear improvement over past days when the offense was not even managing a first down in the two-minute drill. Still, I do not recall a touchdown by the offense yet. Sure, there have been some long runs, but those are bogus in this environment where tackling is not allowed. This was still a needed step in the right direction.
Bradford and John Lotulelei again looked solid in backup linebacker roles. Bradford chased down a reverse to Phil Bates from behind, flashing elite speed. Earlier, he filled a hole during run drills and met the ball carrier for little gain. Lotulelei was his best reading and reacting to plays where the QB checks down to his outlet. On back-to-back plays, he read a middle screen and forced Jackson to throw the ball into the ground, and then destroyed Spencer Ware on a swing pass. This guy is passing all the tests. It will be fun to see how he looks in a pre-season game.
New linebacker O’Brien Schofield was not at practice. It typically takes a day or two for a new player to report. The team is off tomorrow, and back at it on Tuesday.