NOTE: These notes combine my observations from the July 30th practice (first practice in full pads) and the July 31st practice.
OFF THE CUFF Alvin Bailey continues to excel
Bailey handled all comers on Tuesday in pass protection, and for the first time, I got a decent look at him during running drills. He drove Jaye Howard almost entirely across from the left tackle spot to the right tackle spot on one play. It would be silly to predict too much after a handful of training camp practices, but Bailey has the look of a future starter and upgraded depth at tackle right away. Finding a future starting tackle in a player that was a guard in college and went undrafted would be just the latest in a string of mind-blowing scouting marvels from John Schneider and gang.
Russell Wilson has not made a clear step forward
Saying anything short of unbridled praise of Russell Wilson is a surefire way to get a lot of hate mail nowadays. Wilson had a better day today, as he got a chance to throw his patented deep balls, but he has not stood out thus far in practice. He looks very much like the player he was in training camp last year in terms of the throws he makes. He is at his best when on the move, and not necessarily scrambling. Rolling out is like second nature to Wilson. What I have been looking for is clear steps forward in rhythm throws that happen at the top of his drop. I want to see him hit his back foot and deliver with confidence on time and on target. Those moments have been few and far between. It is part of what made him hard to evaluate in a practice setting last season. Improvisation can come into play in a game, but is hard to analyze in practice where nobody can touch the quarterback and whistles blow after a few seconds of pass rush. The convenient response is that he is facing an elite defense and secondary. True. Something tells me Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers would be challenging the defense more consistently than Wilson. No defense is impenetrable, especially when he is often facing the second unit. This is not a call to panic, but instead a reality check that there are not many signs yet that Wilson is a better quarterback than he was last season. He may never be a player that can be judged by practice results, so attention shifts to his pre-season appearances.
The John Moffitt and J.R. Sweezy battle looks like a dead heat
A few days ago, it looked like Sweezy was surrendering ground to Moffitt due to some pass protection issues. Both players are playing well now. Moffitt looks more determined than I have seen him during his time in the NFL. Attitude and grit will be key for Moffitt, as Sweezy has the edge athletically. This is now a race to the finish with both players gaining steam.
Christine Michael joins the kickoff return team
Michael was not part of the kick return team a few days ago, but got a chance today. I admit that I was not paying attention this morning, as I only occasionally glanced over until an object started moving at a rate that caught my eye. As soon as my eyes caught up to the movement, I knew it was Michael even before he turned and showed his #33 jersey. Michael is short, strong, fast and fearless. The team can do far worse in kickoff returns than him, and it allows them to get one of their talented playmakers on the field more regularly. He was part of a large rotation of return men, with Golden Tate being the leader, but I expect Michael will be the guy with those responsibilities when the final decision comes down.
STAND-OUT NEW FACES Jordan Hill
Seahawks coaches talk about how important consistency is. They want to see the same performance in every scenario. Hill embodies that. He comes hard no matter the situation, no matter the result. He is getting snaps now ahead of Tony McDaniel at the 3-technique defensive tackle alongside Brandon Mebane. He is making more plays as camp rolls on, and is in the back-field more often. He tipped and nearly intercepted a pass yesterday, and added a number of other disruptions for his best day of camp so far. He was solid again today. He generally gets manhandled in 1v1 drills, which dulls my enthusiasm, but he is looking more and more like a lock to be in the rotation at defensive tackle. That is probably bad news for Clinton McDonald.
Williams practiced both days, including in full pads. He was not quite the mountain I had expected with all the gear on, but then again, I had Godzilla in mind. The team is being careful with him, and he still has a knee brace on his right knee. He is rotating in with the third string line, and looked good yesterday taking on blocks. His performance today was not as promising. There is some tentativeness in his game that may be due to the knee. The hope that he would be a monster demanding double teams out of the gate appears to be premature. Plenty of time and games remain to change that outlook.
Schofield is practicing exclusively with the linebackers while wearing #93. He is learning the LEO position, but mostly backing up Irvin at SAM. He looks quick, but has not distinguished himself yet through two practices.
Harper caught a beautiful deep ball from Wilson today, and now in the mix much more in terms of targets. People that are looking to him to be part of the solution for Harvin’s injury are barking up the wrong tree. Harper is a developmental player that probably has the best chance to see game time around the part of the season when Harvin is due back.
Walters has been Mr. Consistency. He runs solid routes, and gets separation that makes him a popular target. He is catching what comes his way, and may challenge Stephen Williams for a roster spot as Williams has slowed after a fast start.
Clark is an intriguing player. He is quick and athletic. The production is not showing up every day, but there is something there that makes me think he will play on Sundays eventually.
Zach Miller, Chris Clemons, Tharold Simon, Robert Turbin, Chandler Fenner, Korey Toomer, Sidney Rice, Ron Parker, Cliff Avril, Michael Palmer, Darren Fells, Michael Brooks, Jeremy Lane, Bobby Wagner, Kenneth Boatright
THINGS I NOW KNOW
1. Jaye Howard is going to get some snaps this year
Howard has been used both at 3-tech and 5-tech and is bringing effort every play, almost matching Hill in that regard. He is more athletic than Hill, but it is hard to tell where he will make his biggest impact. One would hope Michael Bennett would take him under his wing, as their skill sets are similar.
2. Brady Quinn is not conceding the backup quarterback battle
Tarvaris Jackson stopped a four day trend of being the third-best quarterback on the field. Quinn had been more productive with better decisions and better throws than Jackson. He was rewarded with some time running the #2 offense yesterday. Jackson has a massive advantage in that competition, but he has to up his play.
3. Rishaw Johnson is not in the mix at guard
I have been plugging Johnson as a guy that could be a darkhorse in the guard competition, but he has not acquitted himself that well in camp so far. He looks like a fine depth player, but his physical ability should allow much more.
The injury report grew quite long today, but nothing beyond the Harvin news seemed particularly alarming. Wagner being out gave Allen Bradford a chance to run with the first unit at middle linebacker, and he continues to look like a guy that could contribute if he was called upon this season. He was a blur on a blitz today that was a quick sack.
Bruce Irvin appears to have moved ahead of Malcolm Smith in the base 4-3 defense. He played ahead of a healthy Smith both yesterday and today. Many people have questioned his ability to drop into coverage. My larger concern is his gap discipline to hold contain on the edge. There were a few times in the practices when a running back was able to cutback to an open backside of the play where Irvin should have been stationed. He got caught pursuing and was sucked into the line too far to force the running back toward the middle. That cannot happen. Smith demonstrated he had that discipline last season while subbing for Leroy Hill. Irvin must prove he can do that.
The injury to Harvin makes the receiving competition more intriguing. Rice, Baldwin, Tate and Kearse are locks. Harper is a good bet as he was a reasonably high draft pick. That leaves Williams and Walters really battling for that last spot. Williams is an outside receiver. Walters is more of a slot player, but could play outside as well. Again, the comparable there is Charly Martin. Walters may be more of a special teams player as well, which could give him the edge. Williams has unique physical traits that nobody else in the group has. Word is the team tried out Early Doucet as well, so this position may see more qualified competition soon.
Pass protection has notably improved over the last few days. It was not long ago that the quarterbacks were not even able to complete their drop without having a defender in their face. There have been fewer blitzes, but the improvement is clear nonetheless.