Number one most important thing in OTAs: No injuries.
Number two most important things in OTAs: Don't read too much into how players look in OTAs.
Ok, now that we've gotten that out of the way, I wanted to take a quick tour around the Seahawks' beat-reporter-sphere to point out a few interesting notes and comment on some of their observations.
-- Jimmy Graham is a stud in the redzone
This isn't overly surprising but by all accounts, Graham looked unstoppable in his first real "practice" as a Seahawk. He caught five touchdowns in redzone drills (some coming against backups, of course), and more important in my mind, seemed to have a good rapport with Russell Wilson. That's a big deal, of course, because Russell isn't Drew Brees just yet and it shouldn't be assumed that the two will have that quarterback-receiver connection that Brees and Graham had in New Orleans. The fact that Wilson's targeting him a lot, putting it in the right place for him to go get, and already establishing that relationship, well that's exciting at least.
"It's really cool," Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said after practice. "We missed him a couple of days when he had to go down south (for a funeral). But it's good to see him out here. You could see him show up in the ways that we're hoping he's going to be able to. It's really cool. The sky's the limit for us right now. His size is tremendous. With how tall he is, he's got a great catch radius, he can leap up and catch the ball, he's flexible enough that if you throw a back-shoulder throw, he can get back there and get those as well. We're excited to keep playing with it and see what we have."
It wasn't just Graham in the redzone either, as NFL reporter Steve Wyche added on twitter. Said Wyche: "Takeaway from Seahawks OTA: TE Jimmy Graham Red Zone impact. Not just him but overall big receiving personnel. Options galore." New Seahawks' digital reporter John Boyle confirmed this thought:
While Graham stood out, he wasn't the only pass-catcher making plays in the red zone. Second-year receiver Kevin Norwood turned in the catch of the day, a leaping, twisting effort on a pass thrown slightly behind him and Super Bowl XLIX breakout player Chris Matthews used his 6-foot-5 frame well to haul in a touchdown.
The one thing that Graham, Norwood, and Matthews all have in common is that innate sense of body control to come down with off-target or hard-to-reach passes. I saw Norwood come down with a few of these in training camp last year and his body control was what really stood out to me. Matthews (who said on the Steve Sandmeyer show yesterday that he's playing at 230 pounds) displayed this in the Super Bowl. The ability to time your jump, create last-minute separation with subtle push-offs and block-outs, and then have soft enough hands to come down with it? That's what becomes key in the redzone. It will be interesting to see what the Seahawks can do there this year -- with the 6'7 Graham, the 6'5 Matthews, and the 6'2 Norwood, in theory. The addition of Tyler Lockett will be interesting as well.
-- The two tight end set
Darrell Bevell also talked about his favorite formation -- the two tight end set -- and said he was looking forward to featuring Graham and Luke Willson together. "Our package with our two tight ends and two wideouts and one running back is one of my favorite packages to get into, as well as our three wides," he said. "It just gives us a lot more flexibility with two really talented tight ends. Both guys can stretch the field, both guys are big, both guys can run after the catch. I think it just presents some trouble for the defense and how they want to match up to that package."
Luke Willson became a pretty decent threat for the Seahawks down the stretch and despite frustrating fans with some easy drops, he proved to be a playmaker in a few clutch situations late in the year (especially against Arizona late and then vs. Carolina in the playoffs). With Graham ostensibly taking much of the focus of a defense, Willson's ability to stretch the seam will be interesting to see.
-- B.J. Daniels is essentially a receiver now
Addressed that here.
-- R.J. Archer the backup this year?
One interesting note from Bob Condotta's and Jayson Jenks' recap last night was about R.J. Archer. Said Condotta:
"Seattle still has an offer out to Tarvaris Jackson and hopes he returns. But it also sounds like they are growing increasingly comfortable with the idea that Archer could actually be the backup - he gets rid of the ball quickly, as is necessary to have success in the Arena League, and has also impressed with the way he has picked up the offense and integrated with teammates."
And, as Darrell Bevell pointed out, "He's (Archer's) got a great rapport with the players. The receivers love him. He throws with great accuracy. We like what we see so far."
Don't know a ton about Archer and may just be lip service aimed at Tarvaris Jackson, but it's an interesting (scary?) thought.
-- Mark Glowinski getting reps at right tackle
Tom Cable likes to move his guys around a lot so they can feel comfortable playing multiple positions on the line. Per several beat reporters, Glow was getting some action at the right tackle spot behind Justin Britt, and this makes a lot of sense as athletically they're similar players.
-- 1st team offensive line:
-- The starting offensive line continues to project out as: LT Russell Okung, LG Alvin Bailey, C Lemuel Jeanpierre, RG J.R. Sweezy, and RT Justin Britt.
-- Rod Smith and Thomas Rawls getting action at running back
With Marshawn Lynch skipping OTAs, Robert Turbin still recovering from hip surgery, and Christine Michael sitting most of the day due to an unreported ailment, rookie UDFAs Rod Smith and Thomas Rawls got lots of action at running back. From different reports and heard-it-through-the-grapevine word of mouth, both players have been pretty impressive. I'm definitely looking forward to seeing them both in preseason action. Additionally, fellow UDFA Brandon Cottom could be an interesting player to watch, as he's been getting reps at fullback, tailback and tight end -- like Will Tukuafu proved last year, versatility is pretty important for the fullback spot, and Cottom is a great athlete with very nice size (6'2, 262).
-- Earl Thomas ran through position drills
Thomas didn't take part in the 7-on-7 or 11-on-11 drills, but did take part in some positional drills. As Gregg Bell described very aptly, "That's progress from last week, when he watched all the drills. During offense-versus-defense scrimmage, Thomas stood on the sidelines holding his helmet, obviously chafed and pacing anxiously like a caged tiger."
-- Ryan Robinson and Cassius Marsh played defensive end spots
With Brandon Mebane still recovering from a hamstring injury and Tony McDaniel out as well, per Boyle, Ahtyba Rubin and Jordan hill were the nose tackle and three-tech on base downs, then Frank Clark slid inside on nickel downs to play over the guard, a la Michael Bennett. Ryan Robinson is a end-of-roster forgotten man that we may need to pay a little more attention to this offseason. He played in 12 games as a UDFA rookie with the Raiders and was on the Seahawks' practice squad for much of last year.
-- Will Blackmon (1st team) and Marcus Burley are the two top nickel corners
Per Bell, "Will Blackmon has provided tight coverage as the primary nickel back in the two OTA practices I've seen." The nickelback positional battle will be huge this upcoming training camp and preseason, and it's looking like Blackmon has started out in the lead.
-- Punt/kick return
In addition to B.J. Daniels and Tyler Lockett, Doug Baldwin, Kevin Smith and Will Blackmon all returned kickoffs. Daniels, Lockett, Thomas Rawls, Doug Baldwin, and Kevin Smith all were fielding punts. Paul Richardson, who is recovering from a torn ACL, even caught a couple of punts at the end of practice.
The punt return and kick return game will be better this year. By default.
-- Sitting out with injuries:
Jeremy Lane (arm, knee), running back Robert Turbin (hip), Jesse Williams (cancer surgery), Paul Richardson (knee), cornerback Tharold Simon (shoulder), safety Ronald Martin, Garry Gilliam, tight end Anthony McCoy (Achilles), and running back Christine Michael (undisclosed).