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Seahawks Training Camp positional groups preview: Wide receivers


The Seahawks head into training camp (as it stands now) with 13 receivers on their 90-man roster. I'd assume the plan will be to keep six, or possibly even as few as five of those 13. Nearly guaranteed to make the final roster are Sidney Rice, Golden Tate, Percy Harvin, and in my opinion, Doug Baldwin. That leaves two spots maximum for the rest of the nine receivers on the payroll. This should be a pretty interesting battle.

Here is the group, followed by an amalgamation of scouting reports and information on the 'bubble' guys this year:

89 Baldwin, Doug
13 Bates, Phil
xx Clark, Arceto
17 Harper, Chris
11 Harvin, Percy
2 Herd, Greg
15 Kearse, Jermaine
18 Rice, Sidney
16 Swain, Brett
81 Tate, Golden
6 Veltung, Justin
19 Walters, Bryan
83 Williams, Stephen


Phil Bates - 6'1, 220: 2nd year, Ohio:

Bates is a guy that we've actually written quite a bit about here at Field Gulls, for no real reason other than some training camp hype and the theoretical "Percy Harvin/Randall Cobb" multi-tool style of player role in the back of our minds. The Seahawks actually have Percy Harvin on their roster now, so that's awesome, and I still like Bates a lot as a developmental receiver, but he actually compares more closely to Chris Harper at this point than to Percy or Cobb.

Here's what Rob Rang said about Bates during last year's training camp:

"At least for mini-camps, the undrafted free agent [that has the best chance to be this year's 'Doug Baldwin' story] was undoubtedly Phil Bates, the wide receiver from Ohio. 6'1, 220 pounds, he played quarterback most of the time while with the Bobcats, and you know, he wasn't very successful as a quarterback -- he was more of a read option quarterback -- he's athletic, has a big arm, but sometimes wasn't very accurate. He moved over to wide receiver -- he wasn't very productive, I think he only had one touchdown and maybe a few dozen catches on the season -- but at the same time, I gotta tell you: When I watched him in mini-camp, I thought -- 'This is a grown-ass man."

"[Bates] is an impressive looking physical specimen, who, really, if the Seahawks had invested a middle-round draft pick in him, I would have been pleased as punch, based on what I saw at mini-camp. As an undrafted free agent playing at the wide receive position, it's easy to make a good, quick first impression, but what was most impressive, I thought, about him, was that he was truly working on his routes, he showed the natural burst out of his breaks that you're looking for. Obviously, he's still going to be, very much, a work in progress as a route-runner, but I never saw him drop a pass, I never saw him shirk from the physicality of running over the middle, I did see him go up and make some big time catches, so there was a lot of reasons to be pretty excited about him."

"Again, [he's] 6'1, 220, as he's listed by the Seahawks, and he's carrying all of that. Now, most receivers in this day-in-age are running at the 185 pound range, so you know, to see a guy who's 220 and still has some motor to him, you know, was impressive."

Bates' size/speed combo immediately makes him a candidate for a special teams' role and his versatility and experience playing as a read-option style quarterback-then-receiver intrigues as the Hawks continue developing their unique offensive style of play. One of the main reasons, that I can see, that the Seahawks liked Chris Harper in the first place was that he carries some size with him down the field, and this is a possible advantage for Bates as he looks to beat out some of his competition.

Regardless, after starting quickly at camp last year, he faded into obscurity by the time the preseason came around. He played very little even late into those four games and was among the first group of cuts the team made. However, he was brought back later in the season to the practice squad and has stuck with the team all offseason, so it's possible the team was simply hiding him knowing he'd need a lot more development to become an NFL receiver.

So - to sum up - I like Bates a lot, but he obviously faces an uphill battle against the likes of Jermaine Kearse, Stephen Williams, and rookie Chris Harper to grab that fifth or sixth roster spot.

Arceto Clark - 5'10, 180: Rookie, Mississippi State:

Clark fits into the shifty and undersized receiver mold at 5'10 (5096) and 181 pounds. At his pro day, he ran 4.58 in the 40, registered a 4.27 short shuttle, 9'02" broad, 33 vert, put up 16 reps on bench - pretty damn good for a 181 lb dude, and ran a 6.66 3-cone, which is an elite number. Clark's 6.66 3-cone would've been 5th at Combine among all positions. So, from his numbers, it would appear that he has a lot of burst (1.55 10-yard split in the 40), top-tier change of direction (3-cone) with less long-speed (4.58 40) - and he did return kicks for Mississippi State, so I imagine he'll be involved in the return game.

If I had to guess, I would say that the Seahawks see Clark as a hopeful-facsimile to Doug Baldwin, athletically. When you look at the numbers, they look pretty similar:

Baldwin at Pro Day: 5096 189 pounds; 4.48 40, 4.26 short shuttle, 6.56 3-cone, 37" vert, 10'03" broad jump.

Clark at Pro Day: 5096, 181 pounds; 4.58 40, 4.27 short shuttle, 6.66 3-cone, 33" vertical, 9'02" broad jump.

Looking at the numbers battle that Clark faces going into this season for a roster spot, I'd say he's a practice squad candidate the Seahawks will look to develop as 1) a potential replacement for an injured Doug Baldwin or 2) a replacement to free agent Doug Baldwin next season. Either way, it's unlikely he sees the roster this season.

Chris Harper: 6'1, 229; Rookie, Kansas State

Pete Carroll recently mentioned that Harper's game-weight was going to be something like 236 to 238. There aren't a ton of traditional NFL receivers that play at 238 so it remains to be seen how they view his role, but right off the bat, Harper has some uniqueness to him.

As Davis pointed out in his SPARQ series, Harper scores very highly in athleticism. Per Davis, "Nothing about Harper's athletic scores are amazing in and of themselves. What is the most glaring thing about him as an athlete is that he performed those numbers at 229 pounds. Pete Carroll has gone on radio saying he could play at 234 to 238 pounds! It makes me wonder if that weight and size factored into the Seahawks bypassing Quinton Patton, who most "pundits" rated as a better overall WR. Patton is not a small WR per se, 6'0 and 204 pounds, but someone like Harper could carry 30 more pounds to the fight."

Our own Derek Stephens had been all over Harper in the run up to the Draft, and noted this in his 'best available fits' post on the day of the Draft. Derek said:

"Harper is one of my favorite WRs in the class. He's probably the most physically imposing of the group in terms of pure muscular build and strength. He's not the precise, fluid route runner who can stop or cut on a dime and shake defenders with regularity, but he exhibits an understanding and knack for using his body to seal off defenders and beat you with his physicality. He tracks the deep ball well, possesses strong hands and good coordination, and exhibits good body control and timing with going up for the jump ball. An underrated pass-catcher who could surprise and play a significant role his first year."

That said, as with any draft pick, Harper should be expected to be a work in progress. Derek went to the team's mini-camp earlier this offseason and had the following to say about him:

"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."

At his Pro Day, Rob Rang said the following:

"The 6-1, 229-pound wideout shaved nearly a tenth of a second off of the 4.55-second 40-yard dash time he'd been credited with at the combine. While there have been reports saying Harper had run as fast as 4.38-seconds, a league source on hand for the workout had the receiver at 4.47-4.49 in this drill.

"Harper does not play to this speed but is a very good receiver in his own right. He possesses a very well-built upper body which he uses well to shield defenders from the ball. This allows him to consistently make catches with defenders in close proximity to him."

I liked the Harper pick when it happened, and as I wrote then, I'd acknowledge that he's not a perfect prospect and may take a year or two to develop into the Pro game in my opinion (which is fine with the Seahawks' depth at WR), but his size/speed combination is super intriguing.

I think he'll be a versatile weapon in the offense - he's played inside and out in Kansas State's offense (he played QB as a prep and actually went to Oregon as a QB before transferring to K.State) - and his downfield blocking must have been super attractive to the Hawks. When asked what he brings to the Seahawks, he replied, "physicality, my physicality and my hands."

There's one play in his tape against Baylor that I think embodies why I'm excited about Harper -


He just bullies the cornerback for his spot on the route, - both players break on the football and guess who wins? As his NFL Combine Profile states, "On crosses, Harper sells the outside routes before planting his foot to get inside" position. Now, obviously, there's more to his game than just that - he's also good at adjusting with the ball in the air and strong after the catch, but that play in particular piqued my interest in Harper.

Regardless, Harper will be one to watch during training camp and while he was a fourth round pick, his spot on the team is anything but assured. We saw former fourth round pick Kris Durham's tenure with the team last one season, so there's precedent there.

Greg Herd: 6'3, 202; Rookie, Eastern Washington

At 6'3, 203 pounds, Herd was Eastern's second leading receiver in 2012 - catching 66 passes for 952 yards at a nice 14.4 ypc clip. He also rushed 5 times for 44 yards. At his pro day, Herd ran the 40 in 4.53 seconds, had a nice 7.00 three-cone time, a 4.34 short shuttle, and a 33.5" vert. He broad jumped 10-9, which is also very good, and put up 13 reps on bench.

Herd originally signed with the Cowboys as a UDFA, but was evidently released at some point. Here's what Tony Pauline's scouting report on Herd has to say:

Positive: Consistent college wideout with soft hands. Plays with quickness, agility, and instincts. Looks the ball into his hands, effectively tracks the deep throw, and exposes himself to the big hit in order to come away with the reception. Gets vertical over defenders, contorts in midair for difficult catches, and fights to make receptions.

Negative: Gives poor effort blocking. Lacks the second gear and deep burst.

Analysis: Herd was a solid college receiver and made the most of Eastern Washington's passing offense. He has speed limitations yet offers reliable hands, which will get him into camp this summer.

Here is some more tape on Herd:

Jermaine Kearse: 6'1, 209; 2nd year, Washington.

While a guy like Phil Bates has a lot of theoretical potential, Jermaine Kearse seems to be a lower-ceiling, steady contributor that showed he was ready to step into games when injuries occurred last year. There's more to receiving than pure physical talent, and Kearse obviously demonstrated an understanding of what the Seahawks wanted to do on offense, enough so to get him into a couple of games and get him a few receptions.

The questions we were asking last year about Kearse were: How did this guy make it onto the field over some of the other high-potential guys like Kris Durham/Richardo Lockette or some experienced veteran like Braylon Edwards or Deon Butler? Well - apart from the money factor, Kearse came to the Seahawks with a lot of experience in a balanced, pro-style offense under Steve Sarkisian (if you're living under a rock - Sark is a Pete Carroll protege who runs a program that is exceedingly similar to what Carroll has established here in Seattle in all ways). In this offense, Kearse was asked to block downfield for Chris Polk, play on the outside or in the slot (all three WR spots), and come back to the football or settle into open zones for 'mobile' quarterbacks in Jake Locker and Keith Price. Kearse is nice off play-action and attacks seams and can sit in zone holes, and had been the Huskies' most consistent receiver for 2 to 3 years. He scored a lot of touchdowns for Washington in his career there and you know Peter loves a touchdown maker.

Kearse was a security blanket and big-play touchdown maker for both Locker and Price, and a good deal of his success came on the Sark (and Lane Kiffin) favorite go-to as OC's for Carroll and now with their respective teams: Play-action 'sluggo' seam routes. This is something I broke down last year.

Chris Brown explained the "Sluggo" seam route over at Grantland last offseason, and if you're unfamiliar, it's a staple of the West Coast Offense. In Brown's piece, he references a social media session by Matt Barkley in which the USC QB was asked to name his favorite play, to which Barkley easily replied:

"'Z Mo to Trouble Right 82 Stay Sluggo Z Win.' On Two. TD."

From Brown: "To understand Barkley's answer, it's necessary to understand USC's offense. When Pete Carroll took the head-coaching job at USC, he hired longtime BYU assistant coach Norm Chow as his offensive coordinator. Carroll wanted the vaunted passing offense the Cougars had used for decades to topple superior foes and develop future NFL quarterbacks like Jim McMahon and Steve Young. To go along with that philosophy, Carroll also wanted to incorporate some of the latest NFL schemes, and his two young offensive assistants - former BYU quarterback Steve Sarkisian and a young Lane Kiffin - were assigned the job of bringing those ideas to USC.

"Kiffin in particular relished this task, spending long hours in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers film room with Bucs head coach Jon Gruden. Gruden was a student of the West Coast offense, the pass-first, timing-based offense designed by former 49ers head coach Bill Walsh. Kiffin absorbed everything he could about Gruden's brand of the West Coast offense, and quickly USC's coaches began meshing some of the latest NFL concepts with the core of their offense. After Chow left USC, Kiffin became co-offensive coordinator along with Sarkisian, before leaving to become head coach of the Oakland Raiders, Tennessee, and finally returning Southern Cal. During this time, Kiffin built a somewhat sordid reputation off the field, but on it, he continued to tinker with his offense.

"Among the plays Kiffin took from Gruden was one of the oldest, most reliable West Coast offense concepts: "sluggo seam," or, as Kiffin and Barkley refer to it, "82 stay sluggo Z win." Sluggo seam has long been one of the best home-run passes in the West Coast offense, so it is no surprise that Barkley would adopt the play as his own personal favorite."

"Sluggo," as Brown explains, is an old Bill Walsh term that's short for "slant and go" and as a staple 'home-run' pass in the WCO, you know it's somewhere at the top of the Seahawks' play sheet. This is a team that lives on play-action with deep shots downfield and relishes any opportunity to create the 'explosive play'. Furthermore, Russell Wilson's accuracy and touch downfield on seam routes has been very good, and it's something the Seahawks used more and more to their advantage as the offense grew together.

Now, it's not just the Sluggo. Kearse also excelled on adjusted routes in response to Locker or Price moving around out of the pocket off-script - and as Davis put it - Kearse became Price's 'stinger' by keeping the play alive. This is important in Seattle's offense, and Kearse's ability to keep running into a 'second play' once Wilson is flushed from the pocket will aid him. (Examples HERE & HERE)

There's always the wild-card too that you could use Kearse as a 'joker-piece' of your offense, backing up Percy Harvin (I'm not saying Kearse is Harvin, mind you), and move him around into the backfield and motion him around at will. Seattle curiously did this in the 2012 preseason too - putting Kearse in as a tailback 'when they ran out of running backs'.

Because we know that receivers can face a very steep learning curve upon coming into the NFL, experience in 'pro-style' offenses is of paramount importance. Kearse was schooled in the West-Coast terminology and should be relatively familiar with option routes and sight adjustments that Carroll and the Seahawks' offense use here, just from his experience in Sark's system (now with a full season/offseason to learn it more). Brock Huard had noted during the preseason last year that Kearse's experience in the pro-style system was noticeable when compared to his cohorts in Phil Bates and Lavasier Tuinei.

Both Danny O'Neil and Eric Williams made note last year during the season that Kearse has looked good in their observation of Seahawks' practices.

From O'Neil:

Kearse has played well in practice, and specifically showed great rapport with quarterback Russell Wilson during training camp.

From Williams:

Kearse, a University of Washington and Lakes High of Tacoma product, had been playing well against Seattle's No. 1 defense as a scout squad receiver during practices this season.

Justin Veltung: 5'10, 183; Rookie, Idaho

The speedy receiver and kick returner stood out in Seattle's Rookie Mini-Camp and despite only catching six passes for 166 yards last season for the Idaho Vandals, evidently impressed the coaching staff at the VMAC enough to warrant giving him a job.

Per Eric Williams, Veltung caught the eye of Seahawks wide receivers coach Kippy Brown.

"He's a smart guy," Brown said. "He knows what to do. He doesn't make very many mistakes, and so far he's been real reliable catching the football. So we'll see."

Speed has never been an issue for the 5-10, 183-pound Veltung. He ran the 40-yard sprint in 4.46 seconds at his pro day. Veltung also finished as Idaho's all-time leader in kick return yardage (1,743), so he adds some versatility with his ability to return punts and kicks. "Obviously I'd like to get signed by the Hawks, and just become the best player I can, honestly," Veltung said. "And if I don't make it here, make it somewhere. But I'd love to make it here overall, with the hometown team."

I would assume, based on his college stats, that Veltung's specialty is in the kicking game so he'll get a long look in that role as well. Here's his highlight vid from Idaho.

Also, here's another standing box jump video, because apparently they're all the rage these days.

Bryan Walters - 6'0, 190: 4th year, Cornell.

Here's what Derek Stephens said about Walters during the Seahawks' mini-camp:

"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."

Derek was right about at least one thing, listing Walters ahead of Charly Martin, who was recently released (and claimed by the Niners).

Walters was a 2010 UDFA out of Cornell that signed with the Chargers after going undrafted. He also spent time with the Vikings before signing with Seattle. He's that all-purpose KR/WR type, speedy and shifty. If you're wondering why the Seahawks might like him, I would guess it's because, (from a press release when he signed with San Diego), "Walters was second in the Ivy League in punt return yards (174) and average per return (6.7) and led the Ancient Eight in kickoff return yards (777)", and was a "three-time Ivy League Special Teams Player of the Week in 2009." ... "Walters graduated with Ivy League records for career punt (972) and kick return (2,790) yards, and finished behind only Harvard's Clifton Dawson on the conference's all-purpose yardage list (5,795 yards)."

Walters is a local product, hailing from Bothell/Juanita, and one little tidbit that probably no one except the Seahawks' coaching staff/front office remembers, he returned a kick 103 yards against the Seahawks in preseason 2011.

Stephen Williams - 6'5, 208: 3rd year, Toledo

Williams is a 6'5, 210 pound receiver out of Toledo that caught on with the Cardinals as a UDFA in 2010 but was cut after suffering an achilles injury. According to Eric Williams, "Williams finished his college career as Toledo's all-time leader with 229 receptions and 3,102 career receiving yards, breaking records held by Lance Moore (2001-04), who's currently with the New Orleans Saints."

Williams has been a preseason phenom for the Cardinals both in 2011 and 2012 (Ricardo Lockette level of fascination from the media/fans, I gather), but then had trouble seeing the field during the regular season, sitting behind Larry Fitzgerald, Early Doucet, Stevie Breaston (in 2011), Andre Roberts, and now Michael Floyd (2012).

He's a fast, big-bodied deep threat or big-slot type, kind of in the mold of Lavasier Tuinei (remember him?). He'll be a name to watch this offseason, obviously. His main issue with making the roster is similar to his main issue with making it on the Cardinals' roster: He doesn't really play special teams. Maybe he's picked that up over this offseason, we'll see, but that's been an issue and will remain one this year.

Brett Swain - 6'0, 200; 4th year, San Diego State:

Swain is a 27-year old former seventh round pick out of San Diego State by John Schneider's Packers so obviously there's a familiarity there. He caught 58 passes for 973 yards and 5 touchdowns his senior year at San Diego State and reportedly ran a 4.41 at his pro day so there's a speed factor there. He caught six passes while with the Packers (spent time on their practice squad too) and then was with the 49ers shortly last season before being cut prior to the season.

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