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Seattle Seahawks Training Camp Notes Part III

Another ridiculously beautiful day at the VMAC. I showed up at the Renton Landing a half-hour early thinking it'd be smooth sailing but I shouldn't have doubted the Twelfth Man. I waited in line for 45 minutes to get on a school bus in the hot sun but it was worth every minute. I got to watch football on a weekday in the hot sun on the shores of a beautiful lake. I honestly have no doubt that the VMAC alone is a big draw for prospective free agents. Who wouldn't want to go to work there every day? 

Anyway, on to my notes. 

First off, in case the Zach Miller signing didn't tip you off, I'd like to point out that tight ends are going to be featured prominently in the Seahawks offense in 2011. That position group is arguably the deepest on the team with Miller, John Carlson, Cameron Morrah, Anthony McCoy and even the unheralded Dominique Byrd

Bryd is a former third round pick by St Louis out of USC that, for a number of reasons, didn't pan out for the Rams. He spent last season with the Cardinals, and was picked up during this offseason by the Seahawks. He's an athletic and big tight end at 6'3, 255 and from what I've seen at camp he's got a lot of potential. He caught a few touchdown passes in the 11-on-11 drills yesterday, including one tough catch falling out of bounds. He was known for his one-handed grabs at USC, including a ridiculously awesome touchdown catch from Matt Leinart in the Orange Bowl against Oklahoma that is vaguely reminiscent of Chiefs TE Tony Meoki's famous catch in the back of the endzone last season.
With the addition of Zach Miller, the tight end corps has become crowded so if John Carlson and Cameron Morrah are retained this season Byrd has an uphill battle to make the team. That notwithstanding, I was impressed with his play. You can never have too many playmakers, and Byrd seems to fit the bill. 

The Hawks kept four tight ends at the end of training camp last year but after the Bears playoff game debacle where the playbook was shrunk to a small corner due to tight end injuries (and the fact the Hawks went into the game with two active tight ends despite a gameplan heavily leaning on tight end play), they could keep as many as five. 

Byrd has upside as an H-back type of player in his physicality and stature, so perhaps they envision him in the wingback/tight end hybrid role. From what I understand, Mike Williams was talking about what a great day Byrd had yesterday on local radio last night, and I agree with that assessment. 

Tough personnel decisions like this are a good problem to have.
Moving on to the linebacker group. Thomas has been beating this drum for a little while, and Greg Cosell tweeted a corroboration of his opinion the other day as well when he pointed out that "ILB (is) not in demand in (this) passing league." As Thomas put it, "I don't think everyone has quite gotten how fungible the linebacker positions have gotten on defenses like ours." That thought has become more clear to me while watching the Seahawks training camp because there have been quite a few players working in at the middle linebacker position recently vacated by Lofa Tatupu.

David Hawthorne is the presumptive starter and has been running with the first team, but rookie K.J. Wright has also been getting snaps there as well. It's a little bit strange to see a 6'3 guy playing middle linebacker but it just goes to show that versatility is a very important characteristic to John Schneider and Pete Carroll. When Wright was drafted, most indications were that he'd be a SAM linebacker and possibly compete at the LEO. I heard reports that he could play the WILL spot down the line as well. He's now lining up in the middle. It makes sense, really. With linebackers becoming more and more involved with pass defense, you want to have an instinctual and rangy middle linebacker and when Wright was selected I remember hearing Schneider noting that KJ is "rare" in that he shows good instincts in zone coverage and strong route anticipation.

As Pete Carroll noted, "It is rare that you would find a linebacker with that much length (6-foot-4) and 4.6 speed, we need that flexibility." Wright also has 35" arms, the longest of any linebacker in this year's Draft class, something that will give him an advantage in breaking up passes and making tackles. 

The National Football Post put together a scouting report on KJ Wright pre-Draft, and had this to say about his coverage skills:

"Surprisingly, looks really comfortable and balanced in coverage for a guy his size. Is smooth and patient in his drop, keeps his feet under him and is fluid enough to cleanly get in and out of his breaks. Uses his long arms well to reroute receivers in coverage and can really be tough to disengage from down the field. Cleanly opens up his hips when asked to turn and run, and exhibits some range in coverage. Also, displays good balance and stop/go ability in man-to-man and can really blanket tight ends in and out of their breaks once he get his hands on them."

Very interesting to see if he sticks at MLB or if he's just filling in, and it's something that I'll be watching as training camp goes on. 

Hawkblogger mentioned this in his Training Camp Notes piece, and we were bound to have similar notes because we were watching together for a time, but Josh Pinkard looked pretty impressive to me. He's been playing safety, a move from his normal spot at cornerback. He was moving up into the slot to press and jam receivers, and at one point had a very Bruce Lee-esque palm-punch to the shoulder of rookie WR Doug Baldwin that threw him off his route and disrupted his timing. 

Eric Williams posted an interview with Pinkard the other day and the Hawks 2nd year DB indicated he was trying to follow in Jordan Babineaux's footsteps as a do-it-all, versatile defensive back. Thomas put together a great piece on Babineaux recently and pointed out that, last season, Big Play Babs would play corner at times when matched up against big wide receivers, safety at times, and even had a defensive scheme called Nickel Babs (a heavy nickel, 5 DB set) where he played the nickelback. Because it doesn't appear that Babineaux will be back, Pinkard is a player to watch that may be able to fill that role.

He looked good yesterday, playing back and up in the slot, and broke up at least one pass with a nice play where he got himself in position to bat the ball down.

Another player that might fit this role is DB Byron Maxwell. I didn't watch Maxwell specifically all that much yesterday, but he did have a big pass breakup while guarding Kris Durham on a fade, and drew some hoots and hollers from the crowd watching nearby. 

Other Notes:

Pierre Allen, AJ Schable, and Jameson Konz (no, he wasn't released, that was a bad report by Rotoworld) continued to play at defensive end in the place of Chris Clemons and Red Bryant. Nothing spectacular or noteworthy other than Pierre Allen continues to look the part. I think he's got a real chance to find a spot on the roster this season. 

UDFA Offensive Tackle Brent Osbourne, as Eric Williams noted on Monday, was playing defensive tackle again yesterday. Interesting move that I'll try to watch closer on Thursday, but I assume he's acting as a placeholder until Brandon Mebane, Alan Branch, and Junior Siavii can practice. 

Ladi Ajiboye was getting a lot of snaps at the DT 3-tech spot as well. 

Michael Morgan, an undrafted free agent linebacker, was getting a lot of snaps at the SAM linebacker position. Will be something to watch, as he's a very quick, tall linebacker with some ability to drop back into coverage. 

I'll have a little bit more on this later today. Also, I'll be back at in on Thursday; the Seahawks are off today. Follow me on Twitter for live updates from 1:30 to about 4:00pm tomorrow.

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