2014 Training Camp News & Notes: July 27th Edition (First Padded Practice)
OFF THE CUFF Offense not ready to function with Britt at right tackle
Justin Britt was overwhelmed again today in pass protection, most often by Cliff Avril. You could almost sense the blood in the water when Avril stepped across from Britt and either sped around him or powered through him. This was not a one-off occurrence. It happened almost every time in 1v1 pass rush drills, and not just against Avril, and then again in team drills. The first team offense could not move the ball because the pass rush was in Wilson’s face almost immediately. They did better in run drills, and Britt is stronger in that aspect of his game. Tom Cable has proven he will favor run blockers over pass blockers time and again. He did it last year with Michael Bowie over Alvin Bailey. Still, Britt would have to make huge strides by the end of camp to be a starting caliber tackle early this year.
Gary Gilliam and Alvin Bailey looking strong
The left side of the line looks great. Bailey continues a nearly perfect record over two years of blocking any pass rusher that steps across from in 1v1 drills. He is the most natural pass blocker on the line after Russell Okung. Case in point: Avril stepped up against Bailey as he did against Britt, but Bailey stones Avril to the point that the pass rush specialist was visibly frustrated after the play. Gilliam holds up well in these drills. He is not quite as natural as Bailey, but is athletic and strong. If Bowie stays out much longer, I have to wonder if either Gilliam or Bailey will get a shot at right tackle. Bailey is just holding left tackle until Okung gets back. The organization is not completely sold on Bailey’s run blocking, and my guess is the same would be true with Gilliam. Cable stubbornly stuck with Paul McQuistan last year at left tackle. Bailey is a starting caliber lineman that the team should be looking for a way to get on the field.
Max Unger looks like his old self
Unger struggled last season, but appears in great shape and good health. He has been winning most of the battles with Kevin Williams, Brandon Mebane and Tony McDaniel.
Running game ahead of the passing game
All this added up to an offense that looked more ready to run the football than pass it. The offense broke a number of runs in the run drills, and a number of them were to the right side behind J.R. Sweezy and Britt. When the defense lined up Kevin Williams and Mebane inside with Michael Bennett at 5-tech and Avril at LEO, the running game slowed to a crawl. The first team defense dominated the first team offense in team drills largely because of the pass rush.
STAND-OUT NEW FACES T Gary Gilliam
Gilliam did well in pass protection today. He mauled Jackson Jeffcoat in 1v1 pass rush drills, and stood up nicely to a bull rush from O’Brien Schofield.
CB Akeem Auguste
Auguste is doing a consistently good job in coverage, and had a nice strip and recovery today. He flashed some nice open-field movement after the recovery. Seems like a punt returner, but has not been getting reps there.
DE/DT Cassius Marsh
This guy may show up here every day. The team obviously likes what he brings, as they are utilizing him anywhere and everywhere. Early in practice, special teams coach Brian Schneider was giving Marsh guidance on kickoff return blocking assignments. He has already been involved in punt coverage. That is all in addition to playing defensive end and tackle. He appears to be in the mid-260s, and could probably handle a few more pounds without losing much quickness.
FB Kiero Small
Small did not block well in the 1v1 pass rush drills today. If he is not going to be a great pass blocker, his chances of making the team are very small, even if he is a good lead blocker.
LB Brock Coyle
Some guys play better in pads. Coyle appears to be one of those guys. The undrafted free agent linebacker was not bad in the previous two practices, but had more than one thumping hits today.
Marshawn Lynch, Garrett Scott, Erik Pinkins, Kam Chancellor, Malcolm Smith, Bruce Irvin, Korey Toomer, Russell Okung, Kevin Norwood, Michael Bowie, Christine Michael (left after hurting his shoulder in pass rush drills), Jimmy Staten, Taylor Price
THINGS I NOW KNOW
1. Jesse Williams can help if healthy
Getting into the backfield appears to be second nature to Williams. He does not get a ton of snaps through practice, but a high percentage of the snaps he does get results in him getting by his blocker very quickly. Practice ended today with him chasing down Terrelle Pryor for a sack. Yes, you read that right.
2. A.J. Jefferson is pretty confident he is sticking around
I admit that the addition of Jefferson seemed like a competition thing that could end up very easily in him not making the final roster. Jefferson must see things quite differently because he has been wearing #32, which was Jeron Johnson’s number. These changes usually cost money. Paying an established player for his number gives a glimpse into his mindset.
3. Percy Harvin’s impact is still underestimated
You win a Super Bowl almost completely without the help of a player, and it becomes easy to overlook him. Even a player as great as Harvin was essentially a superfluous appendage last season. Watching him make great play after great play at superhuman velocity serves as a good reminder of just how good this offense could become. Among Harvin’s great plays today was beating the best free safety in football, Earl Thomas, deep for a touchdown. One thing was nice to see was his desire to be out there competing. He was having a problem with his shoelaces all day, and while a staff member was working on it, Harvin was frantically trying to signal his offensive teammates that he’d be there in a sec. Once it was fixed, Harvin sprinted over to the drill. Scoff at the importance of that if you want. I’ve seen plenty of players less talented than Harvin take their sweet time getting back to a drill.
4. Phil Bates intends to make this team, and his teammates want him to make this team
The absence of Kevin Norwood has given Phil Bates even more snaps, and he is taking advantage. He made a number of nice catches today, including a few of the highlight variety. Almost more importantly is that Russell Wilson appears to be looking for Bates. He is adored in the receiver room, and has put in the work. It is not clear what Bates excels at, or whether he has the potential to be a meaningful contributor at receiver, but he is playing well early.
There were enough times where Kevin Williams played with the number one line (Bennett, Mebane and Avril) that I am starting to wonder if Tony McDaniel may be in danger of losing his starting job. It is way too early to say, and McDaniel was the guy who trotted out there when team drills started. Still, it bears watching.
Tarvaris Jackson had a nice practice today. He directed the offense successfully down the field in team drills for a field goal. Terrelle Pryor just does not appear accurate enough to be a threat to Jackson.
Paul Richardson does not appear to be gifted in jump ball situations. I have seen a handful of chances so far, and none where he has come down with the football. There are things he does very well, but after getting spoiled with Golden Tate for a few years, it is worth calling out a difference between the two.