OFF THE CUFF Newest line change may be the last one
Camp can lull you into a trance. Day after day, the team goes through similar drills at similar speeds with mostly similar results. Today was not one of those days. After a typical special teams session and individual drills, team drills started early and the team did not look the same. Drew Nowak was back at center. No big deal there. J.R. Sweezy was at his customary right guard spot, and then my eyes stopped scanning when they came upon a “7” where there usually is a “6.” Is that Russell Okung at right tackle? Am I mixing up my right from my left again? Nope. That is #79, Garry Gilliam. Whoa.
I scanned the field for #68 to see if Justin Britt was hurt or moved to the second string. He was nowhere to be seen on the sidelines. The ball is snapped and my mind registered his number before it connected the dots about what it meant. Britt was already on the field, but at left guard. We have seen the Seahawks experiment with different players at left guard and center throughout camp. This was different.
Four players were impacted, including an established starter. Alvin Bailey moved to his customary backup left tackle spot and Terry Poole was elevated to second string right tackle in addition to the changes for Britt and Gilliam. That is not an experiment. It is a proposed solution.
Seahawks coaches are demonstrating the appropriate level of urgency and sound logic to a problem that could derail their season if not addressed. Replacing Britt with Gilliam at guard immediately improves their pass protection (more on that later) and improves the talent level at left guard. Britt and Gilliam are better lineman right now than anyone who has been contending for the left guard spot. This lineup gets them both on the field.
Gilliam looked great
It is hard to judge Gilliam objectively given the bar is set pretty low, but he has been solid in pass protection throughout camp, and today was no different. He went against first string players like Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett in 1v1 and team drills. He was not beaten. His ability to anchor against a bull rush is in question, and Avril moved him back five steps in one rush, but there were no free runners, which was a welcome change from what was often the case with Britt on the edge.
Britt looks like a decent option at guard
People have asked about Britt moving inside before. It is not typical to see 6’6″ guards. It is even less common to put tall guards in front of a short quarterback. Those are reasons why the team likely resisted this move all along. The positives are that Britt will no longer have to defend an edge in pass protection, and there will not be two inexperienced starters in a row anywhere along the line. Should Nowak start at center, he will now be flanked by Britt and Sweezy.
Britt moved well today and seemed natural at the position. He was beaten in 1v1 pass rush drills by Jordan Hill, but so was everyone else today. First reaction when watching today was: “this could work.”
B.J. Daniels may just overcome impossible odds
Imagine coming into the league as a quarterback. Your first team cuts you and another signs you to play the same position. After being stuck as third stringer for a while, you try playing receiver for the scout team. Then the team goes out and drafts two receivers, so you start working on punt returning. The team gets excited, but then they draft the best returner in college football.
You are a fourth string quarterback, behind a series of talented and more experienced wide receivers, and hopelessly behind an electric return man. The chances of making the team are next-to-nothing. Unless you are B.J. Daniels. All he has done is make play after play as a receiver and on special teams. He even played some quarterback today with Tarvaris Jackson out. His odds are still long, but hats off to one of the best competitors on the team.
Jordan Hill was possessed
Hill played at another speed today. He swam past Britt instantly in 1v1. He did it again to Keavon Milton. He came close to getting home during the game on Friday. Look for him to hit a quarterback this week.
Forgettable day for Russell Wilson
R.J. Archer was the best quarterback in camp today. That was a combination of Archer having a nice day that saw him throw a couple touchdowns and Wilson having his worst practice of camp so far. He missed a number of receivers and seemed generally out of sorts. He was indecisive in the pocket and inaccurate in this throws. Chalk it up to an off day. The team needs him to be on point Friday so this offense can put the game one debacle behind them.
STAND-OUT NEW FACES RT Terry Poole
Poole is raw, but there is an edge to him that is appealing. He went up against Cassius Marsh in drills today and they battled hard. Just as the whistle blew, Poole extended his arms and knocked Marsh back about five yards. It was a vicious strike. After re-watching the game on Friday, I admit to mischaracterizing his performance. There were some definite highlights for the rookie. Today was a good continuation of what he showed then.
CB Tye Smith
The last time Smith showed up here I mentioned he would have a hard time making the team if he didn’t turn things around soon. He parlayed a solid debut on Friday into a role with the starters at practice with a few corners out hurt. His confidence is growing.
Jeremy Lane, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor (holdout), Paul Richardson, Ryan Murphy, Richard Sherman, David King, Will Blackmon, Brock Coyle, Mohammed Seisay, Cooper Helfet, Chris Matthews, Tarvaris Jackson, Douglas McNeil, Jesse Williams, Obum Gwacham
THINGS I NOW KNOW
1. Anthony McCoy is capable of catching a pass that hits his hands
It was a small moment, but not for Anthony McCoy. Midway through practice, the ball came his way. He was wide open. I was a few hundred yards away and I could still see the determination on his face as he watched ball all the way into his hands. There was almost a noticeable relief that overtook his body when he realized the catch part was over and now he could turn and run. The guy is more talented than people know as a blocker, and that will give him every chance to make this team if he can just focus on the easy catches.
Luke Willson had a really nice day today. He caught every ball thrown his way, including a pass lofted down the seam by Archer that Willson snagged between two defenders while falling down and absorbing a hit. Good stuff.
Kris Richard tore into Dion Bailey at one point during a red zone drill. It is rare for a player in a Pete Carroll practice to get chewed out. The team is putting a lot on Bailey’s shoulders as he runs with the starters. His rise has been quick, but Richard is not going to let him get comfortable.
Bailey appeared to injure his right hand or wrist during individual drills earlier in practice, but continued to play the rest of the day. Quayshawn Nealy, a rookie inside linebacker, was getting worked on late in practice along the sideline.
Jimmy Graham had a red zone touchdown and leaping spike. Doug Baldwin did his usual which included catching everything thrown to him and scoring a couple touchdowns. Christine Michael continued to confound by showing excellent hands in snagging a catch. And Cary Williams did a great job defending Graham in the red zone on a back shoulder fade.