OFF THE CUFF Reinforcements Arrive
There has been plenty of talk about how many Seahawks have been sitting out. Today saw the return of Doug Baldwin, Kam Chancellor, Bobby Wagner, Sidney Rice, and Jeremy Lane. Also joining the team were new receivers Early Doucet and Perez Ashford. Pete Carroll has been accurate thus far in who is really hurt, and who was just taking a few days to rest and heal up.
Marshawn Lynch looks great
I tend to focus on players that are either new or have reason to make a big step forward when watching camp. It is not that existing players or already great players are taken for granted, but it is the delta between this year and last year that tells the tale of what is to come. People playing the way did last year does not imply much change to the overall makeup of the roster. That said, Marshawn Lynch looks every bit the player he was a year ago, and that’s worth noting. As much as Christine Michael has looked great in camp, Lynch does some things nobody else on this team, and few people in the league, can do. He made a jump cut today that must have been 3-4 yards laterally. That is not normal. It was also not normal that his cut put him in the perfect gap in the line due to elite instincts and vision, and led to a large gain. Normal for Lynch, but not normal for 95% of the backs in the NFL. He has given every indication that he is primed for another monster year.
Red Bryant primed for his best year
Last year was not a great year for Red Bryant. He lost much of the 2010 season to injury. In between, he had his best season in 2011. Many signs are pointing to this year being his best. He looks fit, and is playing with an edge and an energy level that I have not seen since 2010 when he was proving himself as a 5-technique defensive end for the first time. He is attacking lineman like they stole his first born. Watching him go full throttle in 1v1 drills today was just the latest affirmation that he is preparing to be great. Anyone that thinks he took his foot off the gas after getting the big contract should watch him practice. This is a dominant player when healthy and motivated. Seattle was a great defense largely without him at his best last season. Watch what happens this year.
Receiver battle is fierce
Percy Harvin and Sidney Rice are getting a lot of attention for health issues, but the more surprising story around the receiver corps is how competitive the fifth and sixth spots are going to be. Doucet and Ashford joined an already crowded group of Bryan Walters, Chris Harper, and Stephen Williams. Throw in Brett Swain, who has been making every play when given the chance, and that is six players for what is likely two spots after Rice, Baldwin, Tate and Jermaine Kearse. If Harper was not a draft pick, it would be hard to see him as one of the guys to nab a spot. Williams and Walters have been better players, and Doucet had a very strong start in what was his first practice. The only other position on the team that approaches the depth of competition is the cornerback group.
STAND-OUT NEW FACES DT Jordan Hill
Hill continues to bring it every day. He has been arguably the most consistent interior lineman in terms of effort and results through camp.
LB John Lotulelei
Closed like a cheetah to tackle Michael at the 1-yard line, and that was after blanketing a receiving in the flat a play before that forced Tarvaris Jackson to throw it away.
WR Early Doucet
Played mostly in the slot, wearing #87. Looked fast and quick, and ran angular routes. He made a couple plays early and one late. Many guys are sore by now in camp, so fresh legs can make you look faster than your really are. Give it a week, but the signs are pointing to Doucet immersing himself in the receiver fray.
DT/DE Jesse Williams
Williams had the most impressive play of the day in 1v1 drills when he swam by John Moffitt like he was a blocking dummy. No other lineman came close to that kind of decisive win.
WR Perez Ashford
Ashford is fast. He ended the day with a great 30-yard catch of a laser throw from Jackson for a touchdown.
WR Chris Harper
A good day for Harper. Caught a pass that was on him just as he turned around, and also bulled his way into the end zone on another catch. He is definitely getting better, but he still remains a developmental project.
WR Brett Swain
It is getting harder to belittle Swain’s place on the roster as he makes at least two or three big catches every practice. He is a major long shot, but is playing himself proud.
RB Christine Michael
Michael fumbled when caught from behind for the second time in camp. Fumble issues can ruin great talent. The hope is Michael gets coached up and he applies what he is taught.
Zach Miller, Chris Clemons, Tharold Simon, Robert Turbin, Chandler Fenner, Korey Toomer, Ron Parker, Cliff Avril, Michael Palmer, Darren Fells, Michael Brooks, Kenneth Boatright
THINGS I NOW KNOW
1. Baldwin is getting the Harvin plays
Sometimes it takes nine practices to notice a pattern. Baldwin has been on the receiving end of a number of swing passes, blocked like wide screens. It dawned on me today that those, and some of his other routes, are ones that were drawn up for Harvin. My expectation was that they would have either pulled those routes from the offense or given them to Tate, who is so often compared to Harvin. I was wrong. They are keeping Tate at his split end position and utilizing Baldwin as they would Harvin. Baldwin has shown a lot of things in his two years in the NFL, but yards after catch and running around/through guys are not on that list. This could just mean they are installing those plays and will put them on ice until Harvin returns. It may mean that Baldwin is getting a chance to show he has a more expansive skill set than people realize. Only regular season game play-calling will answer that question.
2. Alvin Bailey is clearly the #3 tackle on this roster
I finally got some time to watch Michael Bowie and Mike Person some more, and while they both played well, they are not all that close to the tape Bailey is putting out there. Again, Bailey is not ready to be fitted for a Hall of Fame jacket, but he looks remarkably reliable and versatile for a veteran lineman, let alone an undrafted rookie that played guard in college. Tom Cable has to be doing a happy dance somewhere.
This was a professional practice. There was nothing like a scrimmage or full pads to amp up the team. They are now past the honeymoon period of being back on the field and having fans out there to cheer for them. Still, the team practiced with a lot of intensity. People were flying around from drill-to-drill. The red zone period was Russell Wilson operating at his workmanlike best as he was hitting receivers on decisive throws in rhythm and then tormenting the defense with scrambling to keep plays alive. He dove for the pylon on one scramble that turned into a rushing touchdown. This was the first time where the offense looked like it arguably won the day.
There were lots of touchdowns in the red zone drill. McGrath bulled his way in on one. Cooper Helfet got one. Michael got at least one. Harper, Ashford, Baldwin all scored. Baldwin had his best day of camp. He got wide open for one touchdown, and made a difficult juggling grab later. He was finding room to run on the swing passes, and ran a nice route to get wide open 40 yards down-field, although Wilson did not see him and threw to Tate for a short gain instead.
Tate collided with Richard Sherman on one play and stayed on the ground for a few seconds. He got up holding his hip and grimacing, but continued to practice. James Carpenter also seemed to get dinged up a little as he started practice, but watched most of the second half. If he was hurt, it did not appear to be serious.
Brady Quinn ran the second team offense again, and did fine. Jackson made some throws Quinn simply does not have in his repertoire. That battle is no closer to being resolved.
Kearse looked great taking a reverse for 15-20 yards.
I continue to be puzzled by where Michael Robinson fits into this picture. He is not on the field much from what I can tell. His body language seems a little reserved as well. This could be a classic case of reading too much into meaningless details, but it is hard to see where the fullback is going to be used much this year the way the offense is being run so far. It is way too early to start packing his bags, but there are more indications that he is on the way out than that he is a crucial part of how they want to go forward.