Seahawks Tuesday Training Camp Report


My first visit to training camp was today. A thoroughly enjoyable experience. I'll go again on Saturday, but that one's for the kids, so I won't be able to provide more than general impressions. I brought a notebook today.

Being my first time, I don't have good frame of reference for much, so I'll refrain as much as possible from speculations, implications and conclusions. But I have to admit, that's how my brain works.

- Watched defensive line drills early. After a series of drills, as the last of the linemen completed one set of drills, I noticed it was Chris Clemons that essentially announced it was time for water. Waterboy was close by, three line coaches were working with two squads, but it was Clemons that let everyone know when it was time for a drink. It's not like he stopped the drill or usurped authority or anything, but even on gameday through the game broadcast I've noticed a lot of dynamics that illustrate that Clemons is the true leader of the front seven. Players defer to him, he encourages and corrects them, and given his aversion to the media, it's kind of fascinating to me. The fans and media call Red Bryant the leader of the defense, or emotional leader, and none of the players object to that. Red is impossible to miss, and well-loved by everyone on the team, but I can see who the real captain is in the midst of battle.

- I witnessed an extended coaching up of Bruce Irvin by Clemons during one of the drills. This is the kind of thing that mass-consumption sports media spoon-feeds fans, and more sapient fans and bloggers doubt the impact of. The league pays positional coaches for a reason and the absence of veteran mentorship does not result in a coaching vacuum, but it's apparent to me that it can easily make a difference. I believe positional coaches give more elaborate teaching points in the classroom, but at training camp coaches essentially run drills and yell at players. They yell to keep the energy level up, the effort level up, for discipline, encouragement, and occasionally correction. One instance of the latter was one of Todd Wash's assistants shouting, "Don't drop your hands, Branch!" at Alan Branch during one of the drills with the large blocking dummies. That was as articulate as it got for coaching points at training camp.

- So with that qualification, watching Clemons coach up Irvin, describing to him how to bring his hip out (his outside hip), and when, on a set of reps for an edge rush drill, certainly will not be the deciding factor of success or failure for Bruce Irvin. But it's the kind of exposure that leads me to never be convinced that pure talent solely distinguishes champions and excellence from also-rans. Non-cooperative veterans and prideful, uncoachable rookies with problems with authority can definitely ruin the career of high ceiling players and the prospects of talented teams.

- Here is a shot of one of the defensive line drills. A canopy is brought out to help linemen keep low in their stance, while coach Wash tosses up a big leather medicine ball. When he tosses it up, the linemam jumps out of his stance and puts his hands up in time to smack the ball down.

- Bruce Irvin is the player under the canopy. Red Bryant is getting his legs stretched out to the right. Jason Jones was held out of drills and the later scrimmages. Chris Clemons is behind the canopy, waiting for his turn, and Brandon Mebane back to his right. Marshawn Lynch briefly came over for a visit with the D-line boys, particularly his Oaktown homie Mebane. I definitely heard a "What it do," or two.

- Last item on Clemons, it was pretty cool to watch him chatting with the waterboy. Hiro, Clem greeted him by name; asked him how Japan was doing in the Olympics. Yes I am a fan.

- D-linemen hitting the sled:

- I was curious to see if Irvin would demonstrate comparable power to his larger colleagues. He did here, as you can see. Pictures can be misleading. Raising up the dummy higher, eventually, does not equate to greater power. I didn't catch who it was next to him, and I tried to get better shots for additional comparables but few are worth posting. Here, I'll add one more that features Clinton McDonald, just to show a comp. If nothing else, it illustrates the utilization of length in producing power, in Irvin's reach, relative to McDonald.

- I found that Irvin's size does come with a noticeable deficiency in power. You all knew that already. Power vs. a sled is not a significant thing. But then, a demonstrated lack of power against the sled might be. Irvin bringing it here is at least modestly reassuring, then, in that light.

- Chris Clemons is a ninja and the blocking dummy is still wondering what hit it.

-Branch demonstrating plenty of power.

- My favorite shot of the linemen drills. Notice how Brandon Mebane brings his right arm in to the left of the dummy to swim past. For those of you who have not yet bought or finished Football Outsiders Almanac 2012, Mebane had quite a good 2011 by their count. Best broken tackle rate in the league, as in zero broken tackles out of 46 tackle attempts.

- I couldn't pull my eyes away from these big boys to see anything else before the scrimmages started. They kicked the scrimmage off focusing on the run game. One snap, I noticed Irvin anchor and hold point against Frank Omayale on the weakside, looked good, but he didn't make backside pursuit on the run or continue to track the ball, which didn't look so good.

- 1st series for Russell Wilson, I chalked up a lineman's false start to Wilson's mildly tentative and awkward cadence.

- Alan Branch threw Robert Turbin to the ground at the end of a strip attempt. Riled up the offense a little bit. Max Unger, in particular, had words for Branch.

- Heath Farwell made a nice, popping run stop deep in traffic on the inside. Navigated the traffic well. I'm not saying he'll be competing for starting LB. I'm just dumping my observations of notable plays.

- Wilson made a pretty-looking long toss to Deon Butler. It was Butler that made the impressive play, here, though, with a nice adjustment.

- "Omaha! Omaha! Omaha!" Heard presnap. Nothing unusual about that. Oh, but wait: it was the defense naming the largest city in Nebraska for 800, not the offense. Wha???

- 2-minute drill came next. Tarvaris Jackson really zipped one to Zach Miller, it was a good throw.

- Richard Sherman had a nice scrimmage. He put a jarring jam on Ben Obomanu, and later on, Butler, then kept harassing cover on them. My prior mild concerns about his ability to repeat last year's performance dwindled away today even a day after Pete Carroll speculatively voiced my concerns yesterday. To top it all off, Sherm ended one 2-minute series with a nice breakup of a Jackson pass. Sherm lured the throw in by keeping off-cover, then broke on the pass with perfect timing to slap it down.

- Matt Flynn had the most impressive throw of the day for me. A longish toss to Antonio Bryant, but Flynn put incredible touch on the ball to zing it over the DB and then simply drop down to Bryant. But Bryant's move to get separation was even more impressive. The veteran WRs definitely showed their veteranness today.

- That Flynn 2-minute series was capped by a TD toss to Ricardo Lockette. Nothing special in the throw or the catch, but Lockette did do a good job of going up and into traffic to snatch it.

- Alex Barron looks like a TE. I spent a while watching him because I know that he's been an above average pass blocker with mediocre run-blocking skills, whose value over replacement has been washed away by the chronic false starts. Holding, too, but mostly the false starts. Danny mentioned he false started on Sunday, and today's false start may have been him, I don't know. I liked what I saw from Barron, although Tom Cable may not like the run-blocking deficiency. There's no way he overtakes Breno Giacomini, but I'm expecting he makes the squad. I don't know if there's any possibility he overcomes the false starts, but if he subs in as an injury replacement this year, I won't be worried. He's Orlando Pace quick.

- Two nice plays by Wilson. A "scramble to throw," which Carroll was not kidding about (I saw at least three definite scrambles to throw, with no regard for what kind of running lane he had), which enabled a pass to Phil Bates, and then on the subsequent play, leading and throwing a just-barely-open Bates open to a reception with a bit of YAC that was unavailable prior. These are seriously positive indicators.

- That said, if there's one thing this trip to camp changed about my views of things, it's Wilson's prospects to start the season. I didn't come close to expecting it, or even anticipating it. Rather a part of me sort of hoped he would earn the starting job. It's logically best for Seattle that Flynn wins. On the other hand, Wilson has some super-intriguing potential, and if that potential begins to materialize early enough to win the job, it would be a strong indicator of a very special career.

- There are dozens of little tidbits of very positive indicators, when it comes to Wilson, but I came away today feeling Wilson likely won't press for the job more than he has thus far. The reason being is he generally quarterbacked a bit too slow for the pros today. Progressions were just a beat too slow. He hit four windows too slow. Windows that won't be there in the regular season.

- The implications for Wilson are nothing beyond the fact that Flynn or Jackson will start week 1. Wilson was not hesitant or tentative. He didn't have a slow windup or release. He was more than fine, in progression speed, a couple other times. It's just simply a speed-of-the-game and a readiness thing. I feel more strongly today, that Russell Wilson will have a special career. But it's much more clear to me that he's not going to be ready immediately. Meaning week 1. He may well be honest-to-goodness ready by midseason.

- One more example of devil-in-the-details problems, missed by most fans because he was otherwise executing perhaps slightly better than the other two: in one of WIlson's 2-minute drills, he unnecessarily threw the ball away. He slid out of a collapsed pocket to the left, bought some time, pressure was closing, a play wasn't there, and he threw it. But there was a second left, and it wasn't a certainty to me that the one option left (I think Obomanu) wouldn't get just a step open. But the key, to me, was that it was a 2-minute drill, and the game clock read 00:13 at this point. It's just a scrimmage and I won't make a big deal of it. Just, it was an unnecessary throwaway.

- Flynn led Cooper Helfet into contact on a toss that yielded plenty of approval from the crowd. It's a nice completion but Coop was more open a beat earlier and didn't need to step toward the outside.

- I seem to be the only one who thinks it wasn't a good throw, but immediately after, Flynn gets a talking to about it. I'm presuming by Carl Smith, but I'm not sure. It's just funny to me how big throws and big hits render all sorts of "way to go FLYNNNN!!!" shouts from the crowd, when half the time these plays exhibit some of the strongest red flags of camp. I don't mean to say this play is a red flag about Flynn. It was the only instance I saw.

- Subsequent play, Flynn throws Charly Martin open to the left, on a midfield shot. Made a window that otherwise wasn't there. Basically the same throw as above, but for a good reason.

- Braylon Edwards beats Coye Francies' jam easily. It wouldn't be the last time today. A big target that will be difficult to slow down or press off route.

- Edwards was visibly practicing hard on his first day with his new team. Hard effort. I don't have any idea whether that will last through the regular season. I wasn't at camp when Mike & Reggie Williams were brought in. But this feels like a Joe Jurevicious kind of pickup. By my eye, Edwards looked like one of the premier players on the field today.

- Ken Norton is easy to hear on the practice field. Kippy Brown isn't far behind him. After making a big catch that drew a lot of cheers, Lockette ran off the scrimmage field. "One more time, Lock!" Kippy shouted, for all to hear, plenty of chuckles ensued by fans & players alike.

- Just to make specifics about my Wilson assessment above, Wilson got the ball to Doug Baldwin, his 3rd progression, but Baldwin's window had just about closed. Threw a little behind Lavasier Tulnei, probably by being a beat late. Later he was late getting the ball to Lockette on a crossing route lateral comeback. (Is that the right term? I dunno if I've even seen a route like that before in the pros. Like a comeback route, but a lateral comeback instead of vertical, on a crossing route. Dunno, maybe it's common, but I liked it).

- Many fans around me seemed rather oblivious to technique or implications of execution, but just simply hooted & hollered for good results and impressive form.

- Josh Portis is not much more than just a thrower at this point. He made some throws, and he can throw nice passes, but there was nothing in the way of progressions or coverage reading to speak of. He'd just zing it at a guy, open, not open, whatever.

- Turbin gave up a sack by Leroy Hill. When it's time to chip, Hulk, you got to chip at the edge of the pocket, not inside the pocket. Took a while for Justin Forsett to learn that, but he eventually did.

- Leon Washington split out wide. Nothing unusual about that, but the subsequent screen-like toss to Phil Bates in the slot seemed very deliberate and by design. Led me to wonder whether splitting Leon out wide was a diversion to draw attention to the outside to set this up.

- Winston Guy didn't get home on a blitz, but he sure hustled hard on it. Really liked the effort.

- I didn't take any notes for this play but it turned into a decent shot. Of Danny O'Neil's head. And Clare Farnsworth's haircut.

- Edwards can really haul it in. Can. I know he's had a history of dropping a lot of balls, and if he sticks, and doesn't have drops, I'd be shocked. But man, he can make a play.

- Irvin and Pierre Allen teamed up to bring some really good pressure on one series.

- JR Sweezy got blowed up. But hey, it can be hard to stop Red Bryant when he's on the come. His mistake was giving Red a step of space to get going.

- Nice-looking blitz by Kam Chancellor. Good form, good blitz-showing, pre-snap positioning. Chancellor also had a few single-high snaps, with Earl Thomas in the box. I'd seen that during the season last year, but it was run on a couple contiguous snaps during one series. Probably insignificant, but I took notice.

- Tom Cable had PUP'd James Carpenter by his side for a ton of time. I didn't get a sense of desperation, or this being any kind of remedial-purposed thing. I got a strong sense of anticipation. I think Cable is very eager to have Carp at guard.

- Jaye Howard forced a Wilson interception by jumping up in his face after breaking through into the pocket. I like that Wilson took the Jaworski cue and stared down the barrell of the gunnnnnnnnn... but he probably shouldn't have lobbed that one out there.

- Bruce Irvin is definitely one of the most athletic and explosive guys on the field, if not the most. But his explosiveness didn't *pop* off the field the way it did on West Virginia tape. In terms of pass rush and pass coverage, he's no longer a big fish in a little pond (little being all of college). He has what it takes to be a top pass rusher in this league. He just won't stand far above his peers in explosiveness the way he did in college. - Pep Livingston fell down two times today. Once in a drill and once in a scrimmage. I don't have the trained eye to be sure that he's got balance issues, but it made me wonder.

- Practice ends, my buddy the autograph hunter is ready to bee-line to the thick of the crowd to get some sigs, and along walks John Schneider, unrecognized by a dozen fans. We spot him, say hi, he comes over, shakes hands. I'm just trying to be tactful and gracious and not obnoxious, and just say hi. But John takes the time to ask what our names are. He was genuinely interested in our fanhood, and while the brief conversation ended with what is probably a somewhat canned response to fans about his desire to bring us a championship, it was completely sincere and genuine. John Schneider is a cool guy. He shoots aliens and doesn't afraid of anything.

- No autographs for me, but I did help my buddy get Max Unger and Russell Okung. Chatted with them and Breno Giacomini. Someone struggled to pronounced his name, and I quipped, "he actually goes by The Big Russian, in Marshawnese." Breno just chuckled and shook his head and said, "Marshawn."

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