I had the chance to go to Seahawks training camp yesterday and it was a great time. Blue skies, birds chirpin, nice view of the water, Ice Cream Paintjob blaring over the loudspeakers. Exactly what you'd expect...? "Yeah I'm livin like that, ...yeah I'm ridin like that and the steering wheel's wood like a baseball bat." I've heard stories about Seahawks practices before but I've actually never been to one and I guess I shouldn't have been surprised with what I found. As one eloquent Tweeter put it, "Pete Carroll has more swag than anyone his age should be allowed to have."
It's true really. Pete Carroll does things in style, - whether it's bringing Jerry Rice in to to talk to his players, Rob Riggle in to 'try out for the team', or making videos with Will Ferrell for Funny or Die.com -- he injects his attitude and energy into the world around him and everything he does is entertaining. He's the first person I noticed on the field, running up and down yelling, hooting and hollering into players' ears and getting them pumped up to play some football. He's not the only one though.
The entire coaching staff takes part. One of the first things I wrote down was something along the lines of "Tom Cable barking, energetic." It's no surprise to me why Cable was brought in and I have no doubt he'll fit in nicely. He's got that Pete Carroll energy about him that gets you jacked up. Anyway, that was my impression.
Now, on to some football. As a precursor, I just warn that you should take my notes and observations with a huge grain of salt. Perception is extremely variable and fallible and I wasn't exactly close to the action on every play. Some of the things I 'noticed' will inevitably be flat-out dead wrong. I think the best thing we can take from this is just a general look at the roster and some interesting anecdotes. I'm not Greg Cosell or Mike Mayock.
I took a lot of notes so I'm going to break it into two posts, and I'll start with the offense:
Williams was in sweats and on the sideline mostly. He was coaching players up and you could tell he's the unspoken, de facto leader of the receivers and really most likely the entire offense. At one point, the Hawks ran a flea-flicker with Forsett and Whitehurst; Charlie threw it deep to a streaking Golden Tate, who went up in traffic and just couldn't reel the pass in. BMW started hollering at him and brought him over -- giving him pointers and showing him what he did wrong. Tate acknowledged it, nodded, and then Williams hit him over the helmet with his empty water bottle.
The other thing I noticed Mike Williams' mentorship of rookie Kris Durham. I pointed it out the other day that BMW was praising Durham for a great practice, and on several occasions yesterday Mike brought Durham aside and gave him pointers. He has taken several of the young receivers under his wing though -- I saw him pumping Dominique Edison up, talking to Patrick Williams and he and Sidney Rice chatted during 11-on-11 drills, taking notes of what their teammates were doing.
Durham made two very impressive catches on my side of the field. On the first one, he beat the Brandon Browner jam to the outside and went streaking up the sideline. Charlie Whitehurst threw him a beauty, both in timing and placement, 20-30 yards downfield and despite Browner's good recovery, Durham went up high to bring down the pass. It drew a large chorus of "woooo"s from the crowd and Durham's fellow receivers congratulated him.
The second play he made was similar - he streaked up the sideline and again, Charlie threw him a beauty (in all honesty, probably Charlie's two best throws - I don't think it's a coincidence that they were to Durham - the two of them trained together in Georgia all during the lockout). This time Charlie threw it to the sideline and Durham stopped on a dime for a back shoulder grab right before stepping out of bounds. Again, a big round of 'woooo's.
In general, he looks smooth and he's very long limbed and tall. He ran his routes well enough, as far as I could see, and I didn't see him drop anything. He had a good day. I know it's training camp and I know it doesn't mean a whole lot but he looked the part.
Tate is visibly quicker than any of the other receivers. I'm not necessarily saying he'll outrun them in a straight line footrace, but the dude is shifty. I was watching him run his routes, and (because I used to be a basketball guy I'll use this analogy) he seems to be a pupil of the Michael Jordan school of offense. Jordan used to say that "you don't go around your defender, you go through him." He didn't mean you literally run him over and fall down into a heap of limbs, but basically you just will yourself past a defender with good footwork and a quick first step. You see receivers trying to step around corners and get shoved out of bounds. You see them try to break up the jam with their arms and get tangled up and slowed down. What I saw from Tate was quick feet, an explosive cut upfield, and a smooth, natural ease at getting off the jam. That's about as well as I can explain it.
I truly think Tate has otherworldly balance. I just want him to put it all together. And I think he will. The other play that I noticed involving Tate was a sideline comeback route that was hit with good timing. Tate caught the ball near the sideline but instead of running out of bounds he shifted direction ridiculously quickly like a jump stop, back toward the center of the field and beat the corner upfield. It drew some raucous applause.
Ricardo Lockette looked smooth, which complemented his obvious speed. I didn't see a lot of him but the few plays I did watch he looked good. I can see why they liked him. I'm not sure if he'll make the roster, (probably not), but he's a guy to watch.
Doug Baldwin looked really good too. At one point, the Hawks were running routes (7-on-7) and he ran a deep drag, the pass came in high, he managed to tip it to himself and come down with it and turn upfield in a smooth motion. He then hurdled a tackling pad or something. He obviously looks athletic and could be a candidate for the Brandon Stokley slot position.
I took an interest in watching Dominique Edison a bit. He's super-fast in the Lockette mode, taller looking than you'd think (I think he's 6'2), and he made a pretty impressive over the shoulder grab on a deep throw from Josh Portis I believe.
Isaiah Stanback looks huge compared to some of the other receivers out there. I think he's 6'2 or so, but he's much more built than a lot of guys so the physicality he brings could be valuable. He was running with the 1s most of the day (but keep in mind Mike Williams and Sidney Rice were in sweats).
Charlie Whitehurst didn't impress me, particularly. He had two excellent throws to Kris Bull Durham but other than that he didn't flash anything spectacular. He didn't throw any picks that I saw though, so I suppose that's a good thing. The Hawks were running a lot of stuff to their RBs -- swing passes and the like, so they didn't really throw it deep a whole lot.
Josh Portis looked pretty decent. I was expecting him to be worse than he actually was. I'm not saying he'll be our starter, but he put some zip on the ball and he threaded a needle at one point to a seam-route-running TE Dominique Byrd that got the crowd going. You can tell he's got wheels as well.
I heard reports from early practices that he looked very erratic but that's not the impression I got today. He looked fairly calm and didn't make a ton of mistakes.
As I mentioned above, Dominique Byrd had one very impressive catch up the middle, and he had a few other fine catches as well during the practice. He's a bubble type guy that you could see called up in the case of an injury or he could even beat out a guy or two for the 53-man roster. For what it's worth, USC expert Scott Enyeart likes him (Byrd is a USC Alum) and thinks he'll, at worst, provide some good competition in camp and really push the guys ahead of him. I agree.
John Carlson: I didn't really watch Carlson much. He ran a few times on the wing as a receiver, which doesn't really surprise me. He had at least one good catch on my side of the field. Not a whole lot to report there.
Ryan Travis: I saw the undrafted rookie free agent make a pretty impressive catch up the middle. He's a guy that I'm going to watch more carefully today, but his resume (most catches in D-II last year) suggests he'd be used in the passing game quite a bit if he's around as an H-Back type. He looks the part anyway.
Didn't watch the running back group a whole lot. Marshawn Lynch juked a guy out of his socks at one point that drew some "ooh"s and "ahh"s from the crowd. Leon Washington made a nice one-handed grab on a dumpoff pass. Justin Forsett is seriously short. No one can see him when he's behind the line. And this makes him dangerous. Invisible guys with the football are effective.
UDFA FB Dorson Broyce was running with the 1s in certain sets and at one point cleared a lane up the middle for Marshawn Lynch that got Pete Carroll pretty pumped up. They used him on swing passes a few times as well. I'm not sure what to make of this guy because he's a virtual unknown, but it will be something to watch. He doesn't appear to be especially fast or especially big, but he must have something they like.
I didn't zero in on the O-Line much yesterday. That's probably something I'll try to do today. I'll follow up with a post about the defense here in a little while, so stay tuned. Also, check me out on Twitter because I'll be live-tweeting practice from 1:30 to 3:30 or so.
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