Seahawks training camp was noticeably livelier on Tuesday morning with the ESPN crew in attendance. There was an ESPN-dispatched helicopter making flybys for the first half-hour of camp and there was a different feeling in the air than what I experienced on Training Camp Day One back on Friday. I had thought that the practice intensity seemed a little low, relatively, on Friday, and that this practice definitely represented the Seahawk-way more accurately, so that's good that this is the type of thing the nation got to see.
After studying the wide receivers mostly on Friday, I switched over to the defense and wanted to concentrate on the defensive backs.
CB1 Richard Sherman 6'3, 195
CB2 Byron Maxwell 6'1, 207
FS1 Earl Thomas 5'10, 202
SS1 Kam Chancellor 6'3, 232
NB Jeremy Lane 6'0, 190
NB A.J. Jefferson 6'1, 190
CB3 Tharold Simon 6'2, 205
FS2 DeShawn Shead 6'1, 225
SS2 Jeron Johnson 5'10, 212
CB Terrell Thomas 6'1, 202
CB/S Eric Pinkins 6'3, 220
SS Dion Bailey 6'1, 200
NB2 Akeem Auguste 5'10, 185
CB Phillip Adams 5'11, 195
SS Terrance Parks 6'2, 218
I didn't pay too much attention to Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas because frankly we know what we're getting out of them anyway. Kam Chancellor was on the sideline, being huge and everything, so I tried to focus in on the best of the rest: Jeremy Lane, Tharold Simon, Akeem Auguste, A.J. Jefferson, and Phillip Adams were my most frequent targets.
I thought all of the above had pretty good days out there, though there weren't any real standouts. The Seahawks ran a lot of 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 in this practice so that was a lot of fun to see nonetheless.
Jeremy Lane plays more physical than any of the other slot corners. I can see why he's been the instigator of training camp fights in the past -- he's intense and isn't afraid to put a lick on a receiver when they manage to catch a ball in his vicinity.
I saw Lane line up in both slots and play in zone schemes (where he simply is dropping and taking the flats) and man (where he's trying to disrupt or jam and then mirror in coverage). I suspect the Seahawks will play a lot of zone underneath against spread-looking offenses, as we saw last year, most notably against the Saints and Broncos. Lane looked very comfortable in this role and seemed quite natural in dropping and getting to spots he was supposed to be in.
There was one play in particular where he dropped in a zone and just came short on tipping a longer-developing out route by Percy Harvin coming from the slot. Harvin made the catch on a perfectly thrown pass (more on that in a bit), but Lane read the play and just barely missed making the deflection. When you hear Dan Quinn talk about precision and discipline in drops and in their coverages (as he did Tuesday), this is what he's talking about. Had Lane dropped a yard or two more, he'd have broken up the pass. He certainly seemed to recognize the route-combination and tried to get to his spot quickly, but I think a momentary hesitation led to being slightly out of position. These are the things that he'll study and improve on with more reps, I think.
As far as his man-coverage, he looked just fine. The one exception: I watched him line up opposite Percy Harvin, and Harvin broke off of Lane's jam and ran a simple five-yard out route, getting surprising separation in the process. Keep in mind that Harvin is a special athlete, though, and these routes are his bread and butter. One-on-one coverage in the slot is exceedingly difficult, but apart from that play, Lane otherwise seemed to hold his own in this area.
In general, the idea in Seattle's scheme is to keep everything in front and avoid giving up the big play, so short passes are an acceptable outcome. Lane's speed to keep up with and over the top of speedy slot receivers in man coverage will come in handy, but my guess is we'll see a greater instance of zone from Lane. It will be interesting to watch.
I thought that A.J. Jefferson looked natural. He was playing the #2 RCB spot most of the day -- Sherman's side -- and his physicality was also pretty apparent. I thought he was technically sound, didn't let anything get behind him, and overall just looked the part. Jefferson also appeared to have very long arms and used them well to grapple with receivers when he got the chance. It's still really early, but he looked comfortable playing the position, and was flying around.
Tharold Simon got beat deep at least one time by Paul Richardson and that drew oohs and ahhs from the crowd, but it's worth pointing out that on the play, Terrelle Pryor seemed to have about four or five extra seconds to throw the ball as he scrambled around then climbed the pocket to throw on the run. I'm not sure if that play would have been there in a real game, but nonetheless, Simon was toast. Other than that, I thought he looked like another natural fit for the system. Long-limbed, tall, imposing even, but fast.
Pete Carroll had mentioned recently that all the corners look alike -- in the ways they step, in the ways they position themselves, and that was very apparent to me today. Press or bail, then ride the hip pocket or mirror while staring down the receiver. I thought that Simon displayed that uncanny Richard Sherman ability to force a receiver toward the sideline, get him into his pocket, then turn to find the ball, all in one smooth motion. I've heard that Simon also times his jump very well, so all in all that combination could lead to a lot of picks. It's worth pointing out too that Simon was playing mostly at LCB, Byron Maxwell's spot, so it appears the competition is on for that starting job.
Maxwell picked Russell Wilson off in the scrimmage period when Wilson threw up a bomb on a free play after the defense jumped offsides, (in other words, it didn't count), but otherwise had a quiet day.
A couple other notes:
-- Deshawn Shead moves really well for a 220 pound dude. I can see why they have him playing free safety instead of up in the box. He seems to glide in his movement.
-- Terrance Parks looks, physically, like a rocked up version of Richard Sherman. A tad lanky, but more muscular, and with the dreads, they have a similar look.
Zach Miller is slow as shit but uses his body well to box out defenders and can obviously catch the ball very, very well. He had at least two one-handed catches in the tight ends vs. linebackers route running drills.
Watching the tight ends run routes against Seattle's absurdly fast linebackers group, the trio of Miller-McCoy-Willson was head and shoulders above the rest of the young guys. Why? Because they know how to use their bodies to gain separation and shield defenders. I thought McCoy had an awesome session and had at least three great routes and catches, and it's a real damn shame that he ended up getting hurt near the end of practice. There's something to be said about a veteran ability to get into breaks and get off of jams, and you could see it from Seattle's group of experienced guys.
That said, I thought Rashaun Allen looked very athletic and had some nice size to him to go with that. When you're lined up against a 245 pound linebacker that can run faster than you, pure speed ain't going to do it, so I thought that Allen did a good job of using his size and physicality in concert to make a few nice catches.
I like the potential of a guy like Morrell Presley (listed as a WR but running with the tight ends) or Cooper Helfet because they're obviously athletic, but neither seemed especially dynamic in getting away from the grappling hooks for hands of the Seahawk linebacker group. Now, all that being said, most linebacker groups are not as fast as Seattle's.
Percy Harvin again had a very impressive day. In one-on-one drills early in practice, he got the better of Earl Thomas, and two seemed to take much delight in lining up against each other. It was like watching a drag race -- both absurdly overpowered with the ability to get to full speed in the blink of an eye, and one small mistake by either party and the other is the clear and easy winner.
Past that, it's been my observation that one thing Seattle really likes doing is running Percy all the way across the field on longer-developing routes. This is a way to give Percy a chance to get separation quite easily with his top-end speed, and allows Russell Wilson to go through a read or two downfield then drop it over the linebackers to a streaking Percy toward the sideline. This will work great with Russell's bootleg action as well. Percy's speed is just so apparent on these routes, as is his awareness of the sideline.
Conversely, Paul Richardson was used as a deep-route target and had a few big plays today. To be honest, I didn't watch him closely, but he does just look fast. The jury is still out on his ability to hold up physically, of course, but his talent is undeniable.
I thought that Phil Bates again looked great out there. I don't know how the Seahawks will be able to keep him on the roster, unless it's in the place of Ricardo Lockette, but Bates has size and speed, and catches everything. I saw him catch several deep bombs and he's also effective on slants and drags over the middle. It's training camp and it's easy to get excited about back-of-the-roster guys like Bates, but he honestly looks like the Real McCoy out there. I'd love to see him do this in the preseason games, though, because he's disappeared the last two years when the preseason bullets start flying.
I did see Chris Matthews get off of a Richard Sherman jam and catch a quick slant pass but that's all I noticed of him. I thought that Kevin Smith again looked strong, though he didn't catch many passes.
Robert Turbin continued to look explosive, and took the vast majority of the first-team reps as far as I could tell.
My goal for the next couple practices I attend will be to watch the trenches more closely, and try to focus on the linebackers more.