I was given a ticket by a friend to attend Saturday's training camp session (thanks Josh!), my first time in attendance at the VMAC. Like Danny on Friday, I'll list the roster at each major position group that I studied to help the discussion along.
For the first portion of practice, I watched the offensive linemen go through their positional drills. We've heard a lot about J.R. Sweezy gaining weight, and it's obvious when you see him in person. In 2013, some of Seattle's worst offensive performances (e.g., the MNF 'mare in St. Louis) occurred when Sweezy was being pushed back into the pocket at the snap. While an excellent athlete (among the most athletic players in recent drafts, relative to position), size did matter, particularly in the passing game. His added bulk appears to be good weight, and hopefully he'll be able to retain his athleticism while becoming less of a liability in the NFC West trenches.
We covered second-round draft pick Justin Britt in last Monday's training camp preview. He's a good athlete and an example of the "roster mirroring" that occurs all over the Seattle roster; however, the initial buzz around Britt at camp has been that he's on the underwhelming side, and I tend to agree that he was outplayed. It's only a few practices, but it calls into question his ability to step right into the starting right tackle position. Hopefully he shows a little more in the coming weeks.
While most have the RT spot as a battle between Michael Bowie and Britt, I really hope that Alvin Bailey gets a fair shot at the position. If we throw out the pre-draft notions of Bowie as an OT and Bailey as an OG, their athleticism profiles show that the positions might make more sense when flipped.
Bowie Player Comps
There are tackles, like D.J. Fluker, that are fairly similar to Bowie; however, that prototype tends to have very long arms (>35"), which helps make up for sub-par footspeed.
Bailey Player Comps
I do want to stress the point that these athleticism comps aren't even close to being a perfect indicator of where a player should play on the line. It's more that looking at objective data can help to remove our bias. The pre-draft scouting reports had them at different positions, and it can be difficult to view them without reverting to those old ideas.
Bailey did perform well at left tackle last year at Atlanta, as noted in this excellent write-up on his performance by Field Gulls writer Mike Chan. In camp, Bailey's again covering for Okung at left tackle and looked (again) very solid. With Big Russ expected to return soon, I'm wondering if Bailey's on track to get some run with the first team at RT.
In other notes, looking at the Seattle o-line also provides for a fun game of "which one of these is not like the others." Garry Gilliam just looks more lean than everyone else, and he might need some added bulk before he's ready to seriously compete for a role. He's clearly a great athlete, though, and I'm hoping to hear more good things about him as camp rolls along.
Garrett Scott was at practice and seemed to be in good spirits, still sporting his 75 jersey. It was a little weird to see him and D'Anthony Smith wearing the same number.
I spent a fair amount of time watching the secondary in drills, and the word that comes to mind over all else is: red-line. Whether it's offense or defense, Seattle clearly values this portion of the field and views it as integral to the team's success. One of the main drills the DBs ran involved one of them running a fade to the end-zone pylon with the other in tight coverage. They'd then fight (and I mean, fight) for the jump ball, the victor often giving a little trash-talk on their way back to the main group.
Earl Thomas really cares about a training camp drill without pads in July. After boxing out a corner for a pick (maybe Fenner?), he strutted his stuff and let a few teammates know about it.
My focus was elsewhere when Sherm was in the drill, so I can't say that Tharold Simon was the most impressive... but Tharold Simon was probably the most impressive that I saw compete. He had a breakup where he was reaching about a foot above the other player in the drill, his lanky arms giving his competitor no chance at a completion. He followed this up in the scrimmage with yet another impressive break-up on a pylon-fade, drawing a fair number of "oohs" from the crowd.
Simon's listed combine vertical was only 34", and this may be a case of an injury depressing the number. Live, he's a great leaper, and he has the potential to be better than Byron Maxwell at defending the sideline. I didn't get a good feel for his play in the middle of the field, but I think he's able to contribute as an Cover-3 outside cornerback as soon as this year.
DeShawn Shead is a specimen. He's built like some unholy combination of the other LOB members, complete with 32" arms and 220 lbs of a broad, smaller-Chancellor-esque frame. We talked on Thursday about roster mirroring on defense, and it's really striking that Seattle has a lot of pretty big CB/S around. While Arizona, San Francisco, and others are playing CB/S hybrids of the Mathieu/Ward variety, Shead and Eric Pinkins are large human beings.
Shead spent a fair amount of time playing corner, defending some to the middle of the field. I didn't see enough to say much beyond "generally looked pretty good," but I think he may figure into the 2014 plans more than we're currently projecting. Earl Thomas said in post-game that Shead can ably cover both safety positions and cornerback, speaking highly of his versatility. My expectation is that Shead will make the roster while Pinkins redshirts.
New acquisition Steven Terrell (a 1.5σ SPARQ athlete) played as a single-high safety, utilized much the same way as Earl. I could easily have missed a few snaps, but didn't see anyone else play in that position.
Jeron Johnson had a really nice pick underneath when a running back (Turbin, I think) leaked out of the backfield into the middle of the field. Phillip Adams and Chandler Fenner played both outside and inside, and Fenner showed some pretty good physicality in jamming the opposition, though he was flagged for holding when he got too aggressive with Richardson.
A.J. Jefferson didn't stand out to me beyond the pass interference against Kearse, though he showcased some nice ability while fielding punts after practice.
- Nate Isles was genuinely delighted to sign autographs after practice. He flashed a huge smile and was clearly having the time of his life.
- Spencer Ware seemed to play exclusively at tailback and had a nice run on an outside zone play.
- Wow, Greg Scruggs. He looks every bit the part of a 3T/5T hybrid, size-wise. I didn't see him play much, but wow. Greg Scruggs.
- As Danny noted, Robert Turbin seems to have a little more wiggle to him after the offseason knee injury. He made several nice plays as a pass-catcher along with a few long runs.
- Percy Harvin helped the QBs in their drills, running a deep corner route while each QB evaded "pressure" and rolled to their right, trying to hit the throw about 40 yards downfield. Russell Wilson's arm is pretty cool. B.J. Daniels had a lot more trouble getting the ball there.
- Demitrius Bronson had a few nice receptions. He played more as a third-down type than as a feature back.
- Watching Kiero Small run is a delight. A delight. He and Jesse Williams are in competition for highest torso-to-legs ratio in the league.
- I didn't see a lot from Jackson Jeffcoat. On one occasion, he was completely stoned by Luke Willson, getting pushed back off the snap. The size difference between him and Benson Mayowa is pretty apparent.
- I don't need to join the chorus of Christine Michael, but he really is the greatest training camp player of all-time. I wrote pre-draft that Bishop Sankey moved like a mid-2000s video game, inertia be damned; I should've saved that line for Christine Michael.
- Finally, shoutout to the poor lady standing next to me who was subjected to two hours of stream-of-consciousness rambling about the bottom-third of the roster.