Renton, WA, USA; NFL: Seattle Seahawks quarterback Matt Flynn (15) looks to pass during a training camp scrimmage while head coach Pete Carroll mischievously prepares to blow his whistle midway through Flynn's delivery.
Been a remarkable last couple of days. I'll get to the football stuff soon enough, but let me first say that the whole Seahawks training camp experience is pretty righteous, and absolutely worth your time and your six dollars (I know!). Anyhow, on Saturday night, my girlfriend and I were driving back to Bellingham from her parents' house in Blaine when we noticed that all lanes of I-5 were stopped in both directions by a massive police presence.
Our first thought was that there it was drug checkpoint, although Exit 262 seemed like an odd place to conduct one. Thinking (correctly, as it turned out) that the wait could be hours, we took the offramp and noticed that the crossroad was shut down by perpendicular cop cars as well. I knew a backroad* home from my days working at the Ferndale Boys & Girls Club, so we took it, only to find out later that the hullabaloo was caused not by smugglers, but by a rifle-toting madman (who is apparently still at large) that was shooting at cars.
*Here's the crazy thing, if this gunman also happened to know the same road I did, then his getaway would've been as simple and clean as ours was.
Anyhow, it doesn't appear that anyone died, which means I didn't die, which means I can finally get to talking about Seahawks training camp, which is the reason you're reading this anyway. Football stuff (yes, including quarterback stuff) is after the jump.
First of all, our very own Ben has been doing a great job of transcribing the goings-on at the VMAC, and you can read his account of yesterday's practice here.
I haven't been to any other NFL training camps, but I have to think that the Seahawks do one of the better jobs of presenting the product to the fans. The viewing section is a grassy hill starting less than 20 yards from the sidelines, placing the team on a stage whose backdrop is the glittering azure of Lake Washington. It's cool enough on it's own, but with temperatures in the cloudless high-80s and Blue Angels acrobatting close enough to smell the pilots' fear, it was an experience that I imagine is unique across the league. Some observations:
~The first ten minutes of practice focused on the punt game, with at least 25 different players taking turns blocking the punts of hapless assistant coaches who must hate that drill because they're essentially kicking fully padded, sprinting football players in the chest with their bare shins 50 times in a row. After that, the special teams contingent worked on punt coverage, with Golden Tate and Leon Washington splitting return duties. I haven't seen any other practices live, so I don't know if this is a normal thing, but I've been a longtime banger of the pay-a-lot-of-attention-to-special-teams drum, so I thought that was cool.
~Sidney Rice was in a red jersey today, meaning he suited up but didn't participate in much beyond playing catch on the sidelines. I had someone ask me if Rice is even worth the trouble. Yes he is.
~Second-round pick Bobby Wagner and free-agent defensive end Jason Jones both sat out as well.
~You can't help but notice the QBs out on the field, as they are the only ones (besides Rice) wearing red jerseys, while the rest of the offensive players wore blue and the defense wore white. And when you notice the QBs, even when they're just working on taking snaps and dropbacks, you're confronted with just how much shorter Russell Wilson is compared to the rest. Personally, I don't think his diminutive stature is as big of a deal as some other folks do, but it's still startling to see the discrepancy in person.
~Even in simple positional drills, Earl Thomas is easy to spot. He is, without a doubt, the most fluid player on the field. He just moves differently than everyone else. I tweeted that last thought yesterday and former Seahawks draftee Mark LeGree replied to say that was no surprise to him. It was also clear that the other DBs look up to him. The Seahawks seem to have landed a serious leader. The Ed Reed comparisons are real.
~This particular practice was especially cool, because the last 75% of it was a mock game, with first, second, and third strings alternating possessions. Drives were started and ended rather arbitrarily, it seemed, but if coaches want to see certain players do certain things, it makes sense to re-spot the ball to get a few more plays in. For example, on Matt Flynn's first drive the offense scored quickly, when a slant pass found a seam and went for a 70-yard TD. Instead of sending out the next group, the coaches re-spotted the ball at the opposing 20 in order to see that group operate the redzone offense.
~Tarvaris Jackson was the starting QB. This is curious for a number of reasons, as Flynn seems to have shown himself to be the best of the signal callers and, as the venerable Hawkblogger points out, it was Flynn's turn in he rotation to be the starter. For what it's worth, Jackson didn't look like he was the guy who should have been taking the first-team reps. Despite having a stronger arm than Flynn, Jackson took fewer shots downfield than Flynn did and he few he did try weren't especially good. The passes that TJ did complete were short-range and low-risk.
~Matt Flynn was markedly better than Jackson yesterday, but he was far from spectacular himself. The second half of the previous sentence comes with the major qualification of noting that Flynn was throwing to second-string receivers. Most of his passes were to guys who are unlikely to make a major contribution this season, like Phil Bates and Kris Durham. The most noticeable difference between Flynn and Jackson is that where Jackson seems to pick his guy and then sling the ball in with a lot of force, Flynn uses his feet and shoulders to cause hesitation in defenders and give his receivers an extra half-beat to gain separation. It's a trait that compensates for his middling velocity.
~Russell Wilson didn't get many reps in the mock game, which was disappointing to me, as he's the only one without NFL experience and I was excited to see the little bugger. That said, Wilsons reps weren't exactly impressive as, outside of one pinpoint 35-yard pass, his aim was off. I couldn't tell if it was because he late, or just inaccurate, but I'm sure he's eager to put this practice behind him.
~There are a number of theories as to why Jackson started the mock game, the most alarming of which is the possibility that what Pete Carroll and Co. look for in a QB are things not normally associated with good quarterbacks; things like adept footwork, pocket-presence, accuracy, etc. I don't think Carroll is so dumb that he's not seeing what the rest of us are, nor so smart that he's deciphered some Illuminati secret to evaluating QBs. With that in mind, my best guess is that they're trying to pump up Jackson's trade value and if that's the case, then I understand the motive but still question the process. I'd like to see some sort of decisive action taken soon, as whoever does starts Week 1 needs to be as prepared as possible. I don't think too much reading into this needs to be done just yet but OMG GUYS FOOTBALL SEASON IS ALMOST HERE SO LET'S ALL FREAK OUT!
~The play of the day was, without doubt, Kris Durham's soaring catch over two defenders on a marginally underthrown deep ball by Matt Flynn. Unfortunately, Durham came down and didn't get up for a while. Carroll later said he just got the wind knocked out of him, but it's always scary to see a player lay there without moving. It sounds like he'll be fine.
~Rookie cornerback Jeremy Lane started a big ol' fight. Lane is of slight build, but he is feistier than a cat that has to watch through a window while squirrels run around in the yard. On a simple dive play, Lane was covering Deon Butler, whose job on the play was simply to engage his man in a block. Lane hit Butler hard and started driving him back, not stopping when the whistle blew. He drove Butler into the ground, and then got shoved to the turf himself by an offensive lineman I couldn't identify. Lane appeared to swing back, at which point Golden Tate dragged him away by the pads. Lane popped to his feet and swung on Tate, who didn't hesitate to throw a stiffarm to Lane's helmet. The coaches kicked Lane out of practice, but not before Richard Sherman pulled him aside for a chat. Brandon Browner chimed in as well, and Lane left the field very calmly. Lane also instigated the ballyhooed DB/WR scrum with Ben Obamanu back in minicamp, so it's clear that he's unafraid to mix it up. I can understand a late-round draftee coming into the league and wanting to show that he's not scared of anyone, but I have to wonder if starting a bunch of fights is the best way to get noticed. The kid has talent, to be sure, but that won't matter if antics like this keep him from seeing the field.
~Golden Tate looks much more confident than he has in either of his first two seasons. He's extraordinarily quick and is routes look a lot crisper than they ever have. You can tell he's got purpose when he's out there, instead of the spacy meandering we've occasionally seen from him in the past.
~Sherman might have been the star of the day, and not just because of his relentless tractor-beam coverage. Towards the end of practice, Sherman took off his helmet and began an impromptu dance solo that lasted nearly two minutes. That guy is just so great.
~The running game looked good today and much of that can be attributed to the work of the interior offensive linemen. From our vantage point (roughly perpendicular to the field), it was tough to see exactly which guys were pulling or trapping, but the results were plain to see. 'Hawks running backs got to the second level of the defense with relative consistency, and both Robert Turbin and Marshawn Lynch broke big runs.
~I didn't see a single running play that wasn't between the tackles. Didn't even look like there were many counters or draws. Just here-I-come football. That's fun if you're making a statement but I hope the coaches utilize more diversity in the run game once the season starts. I'm sure they will, but it was still curious to see.
~On Lynch's aforementioned long run, he exploded through a hole and was into the secondary before anyone was able to put more than a hand on him. Lynch veered towards the right sideline and his 80-yard TD was all but assured. In fact, I'm sure it would have been assured had the Seattle taken literally anyone else with their first round pick in April. That's right, Bruce Irvin, who had lined up on the opposite side of the field, chased Lynch down from behind at the 10 yard line.
~Irvin looked fantastic overall, causing at least three pressures, registering a sack, and using a crazyquick blow by move to get past the tackle. Irvin was a monster yesterday and the Bruuuuce chants accompanied a couple of his more impressive efforts. I still have concerns about Irvin's ability to withstand running plays that come right at him, but I think the coaches will limit the number of times he's in that position, instead picking their spots in order to take advantage of the one thing I think he'll (eventually) do as well as damn near anyone in the league, which is pressure the QB.
~Pete Carroll came onto the field with some serious pep, even wearing receiver's gloves in order to play a little pre-practice catch with various players. His approach seems a bit corny and overdone, and if he was coaching an older, more established team, it might not have the desired effect. With this young, hungry Seahawks group, however, it seems to be very successful. Carroll's upbeat intensity never wavered, as he hopped around clapping his hands and chatting up all sorts of players, from Pro-Bowlers to guys he might cut tomorrow. If you do buy into Pete Carroll, I imagine you'd buy in all the way and play your ass off for the guy.
more notable than it should be piece of Seahawks news, Terrell Owens is flying in for a workout with the team today, as Seattle continues it's attempt to field the best 2009 receiving corps since 2009.