Seattle opened their mandatory Mini-camp on Tuesday, and I got my first look at the 2013 Seahawks from the sidelines at the VMAC.
As a guy who spends most of his time watching tape, and relies heavily on the rewind button on the DVR, I went in with my "first impressions" antenna up more than anything, and tried to make my way around to each position group for at least a few minutes. Here are some notes that I jotted down.
Bear in mind, there were no pads. Not a lot of contact. Shorts, jerseys and helmets. Oh, and a lot of neon green shoes.
- Ryan Seymour (Seattle's 7th round pick out of Vanderbilt) has, by far, the quickest feet of any offensive lineman in camp. He's not the road-grader type we've grown accustomed to seeing in Tom Cable's system, but he's extremely fluid in his lower half, exhibits consistent technique both in anchoring drills and in lateral drills, and displays consistent hand placement inside his opponent's chest.
His versatility and quickness are clearly the appeal. Fluid enough to line up at tackle (as he did often in school), but savvy, flexible and leverage-aware enough to get under interior defenders and hold his ground. A bit light in the upper half, and has room to add bulk there, which he'll probably need to do if he's ever going to start consistently in a scheme as reliant on power as this one.
- Michael Bowie (also a 7th round selection out of Northeast Oklahoma State) is the real deal.
First off, outside of James Carpenter (who was sitting out drills but still taking up plenty of space on the sideline), Bowie is the most physically imposing athlete in the group. He has tremendously long arms, a massive, thick upper half, and he's just tall.
The first thing that jumped out here is the quickness off the snap, for being such a big man. He's also explosive on contact and consistently moved drill opponents (other O-linemen) off the ball with ease. Laterally, he was able to mirror anyone and everyone he faced and redirected on pass-pro without looking "heavy", appearing relatively swift-footed all throughout the day. There were a couple of times when Tom Cable sent him back to the line to "do it again", when he would cross one foot over the other rather than maintaining his base and pivoting; but each time, he corrected and drew praise from Cable.
Where he's not as natural, is when asked to bend in his lower half on contact, and anchor. While he maintains a flat back for the most part, he tends to keep his lower half rigid, and gains his leverage more by getting his shoulders and hips way out in front of his feet (something close to a 45 degree angle), leaving him susceptible to being tossed aside or whiffing altogether. He'll need to work on absorbing more of the contact with knee bend and transferring impact to his lower half. He's certainly more fluid, athletic and powerful than Breno Giacomini, and if he continues to work at it, could really give "the Big Russian" a run for his money this season. He's really that talented.
- Alvin Bailey (Rookie, Arkansas) is another one who looked quick, fast and powerful off the snap.
Another long-armed, thick, physical guard/tackle who looked better moving laterally yesterday than I had expected based on the tape I watched on him leading up to this year's draft. I had graded him as a 4th/5th round talent, so he could be a real potential steal for Seattle if he pans out as a UDFA.
- 2nd year guard Rishaw Johnson appears to have dropped some weight, and looks a lot quicker and more explosive in a short area than he did last year, in drills.
- Max Unger pulls his shorts up way too high
- Lemuel Jeanpierre could have some legit competition for that interior "utility man" role this season with Seymour and Johnson standing out as more explosive and athletic, on first impression. Again, this is merely mini-camp and there's still a long way to go before we get to decision time on any of this stuff, but overall, I'm really impressed with what the Seahawks have done to bolster their depth here. Competition will be more fierce along the O-line, than it's ever been under Carroll. By far.
- Russell Wilson had a few balls batted down in drills, but once he settled in, looked like the accurate, creative QB we've grown accustomed to seeing, and did a good job of sliding when lanes were blocked. He didn't really hit on any notable deep balls, and was a bit off there, but on the quicker, timing-based stuff (slants, etc.) looked sharp.
- Brady Quinn made one throw that looked okay, but for the most part, struggled to let go of the football, and didn't appear to be processing information with any real rapidness. And yes, I did text Davis and Danny - "Someone call T-Jack!" - during practice and sure enough, someone seems to have done just that. I'm assuming the phone call that John Schneider took mid-way through practice may have had something to do with fixing the back-up QB spot.
- Jerrod Johnson throws a really nice ball. Particularly when asked to put his foot in the ground on a 3- or 5-step drop and throw on a line, to a slant or hitch route. I did notice him locking onto his first option pretty regularly, so he'll need to show that he can move through progressions, if he's going to stick. Also struggled on one particular pass, to drop the ball in over the head of the defender, as he short-armed it a bit. So there may be some issues if he's asked to "loft" or put any kind of soft touch on the ball. But that was really only one throw, so it probably shouldn't be read too deeply into at this point. Strong arm and good location in the limited action I saw yesterday.
- Robert Turbin has been working, and it shows. He runs with his center of gravity much lower than when he came out of Utah State, keeps his weight forward, and just knows where the hole is and commits to it. I think fans are about to witness a huge transformation in this guy from year 1 to year 2. One complaint I had about him last year was that he ran with low feet and was far too easy to bring down with ankle tackles. I'm just not seeing the same runner.
- Christine Michael got limited reps during scrimmage action, but displayed the break-away speed that sets him apart from the other two RBs. Will be interesting to see how they utilize him this year. I came out on a podcast a few weeks ago and predicted he'd be the No. 2 RB when the season starts, but watching Turbin yesterday, my mind has quickly changed on this. That's not to say that Michael still isn't the more naturally explosive and athletic of the two, but it's clear that having a year in this system is a huge advantage, at this position.
- Marshawn Lynch got a significant number of reps, and looked like the Marshawn we all know.
- Spencer Ware got a couple of carries, but didn't see a whole lot of FB action, as Seattle ran most of its offensive plays with a single back.
- Brian Walters is an intriguing young guy out of Cornell that has just a few years of limited NFL camp experience, but who made a couple of really nice catches from the slot yesterday. Is there room for him on the roster? Probably not. But he's a guy I would consider to be ahead of guys like Charlie Martin and Justin Veltung, just based on what I saw yesterday (which, again, was very limited). He appears to be really quick out of his breaks, and may have a knack for finding space from the slot. Russell Wilson went to him a couple of times and Walters didn't disappoint.
- Doug Baldwin looks really good. His explosiveness is there coming out of his breaks, and he made a couple of nice grabs off his frame during yesterday's action. The key for him, as always, will be staying healthy.
- Rookie Chris Harper looked good and bad. He made a nice toe-tap grab along the sideline in traffic on a comeback route to a ball thrown by Brady Quinn. But, on a couple of other throws, simply dropped the ball. One was a tough, low-thrown pass from Wilson on a slant route from the "X" spot (outside left), that was certainly catch-able.
- Golden Tate made a couple of grabs at the "X" spot as well, and looked good after the grab, exploding up field.
- Phil Bates is still really intriguing, and although he looked really explosive coming off the ball, he did drop an easy would've-been TD from the right slot on a quick slant from Wilson that hit Bates right in the hands and then fell to the ground. A couple of plays later though, from the same slot position, Bates faded to the far right corner after about three steps forward off the line, and on a nicely-designed "pick" play, was wide open to haul in a soft toss from Wilson. Don't count Bates out of the competition for a 5th/6th WR spot.
- Didn't see any action out of Percy Harvin until after practice when he stayed after with Russell Wilson, Sidney Rice and Chris Harper to run routes and catch passes.
- It's true - Luke Willson is fast. And Luke Willson has some soft hands. Didn't see a ton of him, but the speed does jump out at you right away, and an extended hands-catch off his frame from Russell Wilson on a slant from the outside showed nice coordination and natural ability to absorb a pretty zippy pass off his body.
- Cooper Helfet is the quickest of the tight ends, by first-look. He looks more like an H-back in terms of how he's built (lower to the ground), and comes out of his breaks with more suddenness than anyone else in the group. We saw some nice things out of him last year, so it will be interesting to see how much action he gets this year, with what appears to be a pretty open competition again with Sean McGrath for that 3rd TE spot.
- Darren Fells is big and athletic, but struggled to hang on to a couple of pretty routine passes in drills. I'm not sure he has the hands to make it at this level.
- Victor Marshall (UBC) looks like a big WR, and displays nice hands and good range on balls thrown off his center. His route-running is a bit suspect as he appears high-cut and isn't very sharp or sudden when asked to change direction.
- Sean McGrath looks a lot quicker than he did last year. He's not as sluggish off the ball or out of breaks, and appears to have been working on his route-running. He has always come off as pretty sure-handed, but his feet were suspect in my mind. Yesterday, I saw a difference there. I think McGrath is the clear-cut favorite for the 3rd TE spot, with a chance to play a lot as the 2nd TE, platooning with Willson as he learns the ropes.
- Bruce Irvin cut the braids/dreads/braided-dreads/whatever they were. You probably already knew this, but that stood out.
- Jesse Williams is massive, and exhibited some quickness off the snap that surprised me a bit. At Alabama, he was inconsistent with his get-off, but when he did get the timing right, was extremely disruptive. Yesterday I watched a lot of D-line "walk-through" drills, so didn't see a lot a full speed, but during some scrimmage activity, did see Williams get a good jump a few times, with active hands.
- Jordan Hill, like Williams, got limited "full-speed" action yesterday, but exhibited the quickness and suddenness that stood out during his time at Penn State.
- Tony McDaniel is tall. He got his hands up and batted a couple of Russell Wilson passes at the line of scrimmage, and even got into a bit of a skirmish with John Moffitt for good measure. Will be interesting to see where he enters camp on the depth chart, with Williams, Hill and McDonald all in the mix for significant playing time at that interior spot alongside Mebane.
- Michael Bennett walked onto the field and stood next to Ty Powell and Bruce Irvin, and quite frankly, didn't look a whole lot bigger, if at all, than those two. I caught some glimpses of him during some of the scrimmage action, but nothing really significant.
- Ty Powell looked good coming off the edge, and uses his length well to keep himself clean as a rusher. He also dropped a couple of times and looked relatively fluid in reverse.
- Korey Toomer looks like a different guy. I saw him do a little bit of everything yesterday, including rush off the edge, drop into zone from the strong side, and even cover the slot, man-on-man. He just looks a whole lot more confident than he did this time last year. While his speed and athleticism showed up in '12, he was frequently indecisive and appeared to struggle with knowing where to be, often freezing in space. Again, we won't go too far with "no-pads" drills here, but I did see some instincts in coverage and better decisiveness and awareness in space. The athleticism that this guy possesses is really something.
- Malcolm Smith spent some time on the strong side, and K.J. Wright was on the weak side quite a bit.
- Allen Bradford was getting 2nd team reps on the strong side, but I didn't key in on him much.
- Ron Parker made some nice plays in coverage, and showed good plant-and-drive out of a backpedal to close on the ball and knock it down, particularly on a red-zone play, where Russell Wilson tried to go to Phil Bates on a 5-yard slant to the right, with Parker playing about 5 yards off.
- Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner both got beat at the line of scrimmage by Phil Bates, on two separate "go" route plays. Wilson went to Bates on the first of these two, but with Sherman trailing Bates by at least a yard and Earl Thomas a couple of steps late to get there, Wilson just overthrew Bates, who had a clear path to the end zone.
- Antoine Winfield was beaten by Bryan Walters on a quick slant from the left slot, where Winfield was blanketing Walters and got a hand up, but somehow, the 5-year veteran WR was able to haul it in from Wilson for a touchdown, before tumbling to the ground. Winfield's quickness to stick with guys underneath is certainly apparent though, and he's tough to pull away from across the field.
A few quick notes on injuries: James Carpenter sat out. Zach Miller was in a walking boot. Chris Clemons was walking around without issue, but obviously didn't participate.