Today was the first padded practice, and I finally got to see the new offensive linemen match up 1v1 against the defensive linemen. I watch this drill closely every year, and it always is telling about which linemen on both sides of the ball are worth keeping an eye on and which are liabilities. Guys like James Carpenter, Justin Britt, Kristjan Sokoli and J.R. Sweezy all struggled here in ways that showed up on the field. Conversely, Alvin Bailey always did well in this drill, and became a valuable utility backup. It is not a perfect indicator of future pass protection prowess, but it is a darn good one.
Knowing that, there was reason to be encouraged by what the new line showed in that drill today. I was not able to see every snap, but here were my raw notes:
Glowinski stones Brandin Bryant
Britt stones Jarran Reed
Bennett bull rushes Ifedi. Ifedi pushed back. Did his job. Scuffle. Bennett making a point to the rookie on first rush.
Webb throws Avril to the ground. Bennett rushes in with a finger in Webb’s face. Webb barely acknowledges him.
Fant stones Jefferson
Rees [Odhiambo] does well against ??
Bryant swims by Lewis
Rubin bulls Pericak into the QB
Sowell holds up
95 [Tarvaris Barnes] spins by Sokoli
Hunt pancakes Reed!
74 [Justin Hamilton] swims by Schwenke
Webb holds up again
94 [DeAngelo Tyson] gets by Fant
Glow stones Jefferson. Glow looks terrific.
Britt bests Bryant
Ifedi stones Bennett
There were three particularly memorable moments. One came when Webb was able to handle Avril twice on the edge, including once where he threw Avril to the ground. Webb is a mountain of a man. The question will never be strength with him. It will be whether he is agile and coordinated enough to get his hands on his opponent.
Another was Bennett’s first rush on rookie Ifedi. He usually puts on a display of speed and footwork in these drills to get around any lineman he faces. In this instance, he went for a hard-charging bull rush right into Ifedi’s chest. The rookie was pushed back, but would not allow Bennett to shed his block. The play ended with Ifedi tossing Bennett to the side. The vet did not like it and got in Ifedi’s face and the horde of defensive and offensive linemen rushed in around the two. From my angle, it looked contrived, like Bennett was trying to welcome the rookie to the NFL. Either way, I liked how the rookie handled himself, both physically and emotionally.
The last was when big Jarran Reed was pushing back little Joey Hunt. After about four backwards steps, Hunt used Reed’s momentum against him by starting to move backwards and then quickly flipping his hips to the side of Reed, who lost his balance and started falling forward. Hunt wound up essentially body slamming a much larger man by being smart and skilled at using leverage. It was stunning to watch. The small Hunt will have to keep proving himself against NFL giants if he is going to make the cut.
I have notes like what you see above from past practices in past seasons that basically have guys running free at the quarterback on nearly every go. Avril used to abuse Britt. Bennett would abuse Britt and Sweezy at times. This was a very solid first showing, but it comes with one big caveat: the defensive line may have been taking it a bit easy on them this first padded practice. I want to see this multiple times before I put too much stock in it. It worth noting that once the team drills started, Avril ran past Webb like he wasn’t even there. Still, I was encouraged by what I saw.
Alex Collins was meant for pads
No player benefited more from the move to pads than Collins. The running back looked confident and aggressive. Some football people will use the phrase “runs behind his pads” to describe a running back. It describes a back who keeps his shoulders square to the end zone and moves more North-South than East-West. One play, in particular, opened my eyes to Collins running style. He took the handoff and cut through the hole to the second level. He noticed space to the outside, and without turning his shoulders, rotated his hips toward the sideline and cut laterally around a blocker before righting his hips and continuing down the field.
It was a highly efficient movement move that kept his legs underneath him and his momentum steady. Tacklers are unlikely to catch Collins off balance. His run near the end of practice drew hoots and hollers from his teammates when he barrelled into the defense trying to score a touchdown. He hit the pile hard enough that the impact could be heard over the music blaring. Early signs are good here.
Missed Frank Clark
It would have been a great day to see how the Seahawks planned to use Clark, but he left early with an undisclosed injury. Let’s hope he gets back out soon. Cassius Marsh filled in for Clark as a rush defensive end.
Sloppy on offense
There were at least four false starts during team drills. Webb was guilty of the first one. It was not clear with the others whether it was on the center or the quarterback or the linemen. It doesn’t really matter. This will have to get better.
Jake Heaps has been the better QB so far
I get that Pete Carroll wants a backup who can run the same offense Russell Wilson runs for the sake of continuity. I also know he is a fan of Trevone Boykin’s arm. The truth is Jake Heaps has been the better quarterback thus far in camp. He led two nice drives today, and closed practice by lofting a gorgeous red zone touchdown pass to Antwan Goodley.
I present these with a few very important caveats:
These are not official. They are based on what I observed.
The team varies their rotations based on different drills and different days. My depth charts are based on what I have observed to be the rule, not the exception.
There is a lot going on, and I can only watch one group at any one time, so I absolutely miss things.
Important! These represent practice depth charts. The actual fourth linebacker or third offensive tackle is not represented, and that is how the team would judge things (i.e., Bradley Sowell or Germain Ifedi might be the backup right tackle if J’Marcus Webb got hurt during the season even though Terry Poole is playing backup RT in practice)
3 WR set
I focused on getting the three wide receiver rotations right. Their specific positions may still be off. They were in this much of the day. I also confirmed that Brandon Williams is behind Nick Vannett in the rotation.
I was only able to get the first string on this depth chart, and they did not have the gunners participating today. Eric Pinkins showing up here is starting to look like he is a core special teams player, which would greatly increase his chances of making the final roster. It is interesting that all three of the top guys in the SAM LB competition appear to be core special teams players.
Jimmy Graham, Thomas Rawls, Sealver Siliga, C.J. Prosise, Garry Gilliam (partial practice), Frank Clark (came off partway through practice)
C Joey Hunt
It will be a while before I get the visual of seeing the diminutive Hunt body-slamming gargantuan Reed to the ground in 1v1 drills. He used leverage wonderfully. The undersized Hunt will need all the tricks possible to stand up to guys like Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh and Michael Brockers.
CB Tharold Simon
Simon had a strong day. He was beaten by Douglas McNeil on a crossing route, but tracked him down from behind near the opposite sideline and stripped the ball loose. The defense recovered. On the very next play, he made a great break on the ball and intercepted a pass. DeShawn Shead appears to be solidly ahead of Simon on the depth chart right now. This will be a story to check in on in another week.
LB Cassius Marsh
Marsh was working in coverage drills and continues to look fluid enough to be comfortable in space. I have been nothing but impressed by him so far in the linebacker spot.
WR Kasen Williams
I like what I have seen from Williams so far. He is making physical catches over the middle and using his body to shield the ball.
TE Brandon Williams
I’m forming a bit of a training camp crush on this guy. He looks like the perfect tight end. Big, strong, and athletic.
RB Alex Collins
Collins ran the ball well and also made a nice catch out the backfield. He did not get the chance to catch the ball very often in college, but he looked very natural doing so today.
Things I learned
Marsh is the second string SAM so far. People overreacted to Pinkins getting time with the starters yesterday. They rotate players in with the starters a lot. The coach’s tip their hands by the order they have players run through the drills before they even get to the team portion. Marsh is always immediately after Mike Morgan, and Pinkins is always after Marsh. That is not to say Pinkins is out of the running by any stretch. It just means there is a current pecking order, and he is third.
Kevin Pierre-Louis has not been getting snaps at SAM. He has mostly been at WILL and backup nickel linebacker.
Do not be surprised to see different conclusions from different people observing practices. There is a lot going on, and not everyone is watching the same drill. Beyond that, the knowledge of the game, the team, and the players varies greatly. I have watched Britt block in 1v1 drills since his rookie year. What I see as a positive performance for him includes the awareness of how it compares in relative terms to previous practices.
This offensive line will take some time to gel, and I still have questions about pass protection, but I find myself very hopeful after watching them for a few practices. Be sure to check out the pictures I took above. These are big boys. Britt is significantly bigger than Patrick Lewis. Webb is massive. Ifedi is strong. Glowinski really does look like he could be great. This group should be able to stay together for a couple of years and develop the chemistry needed to get the most out of their physical talents. If they were an IPO, I’d be buying.
One moment in practice captured the intensity that few NFL camps offer. Tanner McEvoy was running a route in 1v1 passing drills against George Farmer. Both players are longshots to make the team. McEvoy managed to make the catch, but Farmer knocked the ball loose. McEvoy, all 6’6″ of him, fully extended in a dive to try and recover the fumble. Farmer dove right after him. The ball squirted out of their hands and both players scrambled on their hands and knees after it. Farmer eventually secured the football, much to the delight of his defensive teammates. You can be sure Carroll will be showing that clip to the whole team tomorrow. It takes that kind of passion and determination to make this team.