The Seahawks kicked off their 2015 training camp on Friday and the main story was, of course, the signing of Russell Wilson to a long-term contract extension. However, there were 89 other players present (not counting Kam Chancellor, who is on the "did not report list"), and there were plenty of other intriguing things to note. Here are 10 observations from day one.
1. Cary Williams looks like he'll fit in nicely; Will Blackmon running in the slot
The Seahawks ran some 11-on-11 drills in practice and Cary Williams stood out at corner on a couple of occasions. The first instance was early on in practice, one of the first deep throws down the sideline for the Seahawks, and Williams jumped up and knocked down a pass intended for Jermaine Kearse. This was a nice opening act for Williams, who has big shoes to fill after Byron Maxwell signed in Philly, and he followed it up later in practice with another nice pass deflection. He then jawed at the intended target all the way back toward the line of scrimmage, evidently to make sure they knew exactly what had happened. Obviously, it's early, and he'll have to learn all the nuances and intricacies of the Seahawks' defense, but my first impression was that it feels like he'll fit in.
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Meantime, Will Blackmon was running in the slot as a nickel cornerback, and one thing that both Zach Whitman and I noted was that he was doing a lot of directing of the action for the defense in terms of getting guys in the right spot and into the right coverages. Blackmon is the elder statesman of the LOB, so the leadership he could provide during camp, while Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas are out, could be a big boost.
2. Richard Sherman is still Richard Sherman
Sherman looked good. I don't have to go into detail about it because his play over the past few years does all the talking, but he looked like himself. There was one play deep down the right sideline where it looked for a second like Chris Matthews had beaten him deep for a touchdown, but as Sherman is wont to do, he reached out at the last second to break up the play.
The other thing that I noticed about Sherman was that on almost every play that he wasn't involved in, he was going onto the field to talk to the younger players about what he saw from them on the previous play. He's a real leader in that group, and his cerebral point of view on the defense is a big part of why he's so good. His ability to pass that knowledge on could be a big deal.
3. The Seahawks signed a guy to take Kam Chancellor's spot on the roster, Tyrequek Zimmerman
I was so busy with going to camp, writing about Russell Wilson, and writing about Kam Chancellor, that I forgot to even mention that the Seahawks signed a player. Granted, he's probably only going to be on the roster until Kam Chancellor ends his holdout, but it's worth mentioning nonetheless.
Tyrequek Zimmerman is a three-year starter that went undrafted out of Oregon State, and will fill in at strong safety for the Seahawks at camp. He's listed at 5'11, 213, ran his forty in 4.62 seconds while posting a very solid 36.5" vert. His short shuttle was 4.37 seconds and his 3-cone was 7.10 seconds. He was Seahawks draft pick Ryan Murphy's defensive backfield mate for the Beavers. We'll see what he can do.
4. DeShawn Shead will be a key player this year
More important, though, will be the play of DeShawn Shead, who filled in for both Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor by playing both safety spots. It sounds like the Seahawks view him as the backup safety regardless of position, so if Earl's shoulder injury keeps him out or if Kam's holdout becomes the real deal, then he could become a major player for Seattle.
5. Drew Nowak is maybe a name you'll start hearing more
Per Pete Carroll, the co-starters at center as camp starts are Lemuel Jeanpierre (who has started 11 games for Seattle in four seasons) and Drew Nowak (who has zero NFL starts and was a defensive lineman for FBS school Western Michigan). We don't have a lot of info on Nowak at the moment but he'll be a guy to monitor as the preseason rolls around. Looking forward to seeing him in some real-game action, because you really can't tell a whole lot about the offensive line based on training camp practice.
6. Rod Smith looked good on the hoof
"On the hoof" is a scouting term and it makes me feel weird saying that but that's what people say. It just means it's a snap judgement, and he looks big, fast, and strong. Listed at 6'3, 230, Smith ran with authority and decisiveness. In training camp, there is no tackling or hitting, so really all you can do is try to judge athleticism when it comes to running backs. This dude looked really good running the football in the few times he got the rock, and I believe he's a strong receiving back as well.
Smith is a former five-star blue chip recruit to Ohio State that never really materialized as a star there. He handled goal-line situations for Urban Meyer there, so that's a solid sign (it takes trust to earn that job), but eventually he was dismissed from the team after reportedly failing a drug test.
It's a crowded spot, and Smith will have to prove his troubles are behind him, but the athletic talent that made him a big-time recruit is apparent.
7. Christine Michael hype train leaving the station right on schedule
I'm not going to say too much about this because we've been snakebitten in the past a little bit, but Michael looks really, really, ridiculously good out there. Based on all the reports we've heard, he has to master the nuanced portions of playing the position, but I'll just say that Michael looked noticeably more explosive than anyone else on the field.
8. Jimmy Graham looks like the real deal
This is kind of "duh," but he really did look good. Surprisingly smooth athlete for 6'7, 270 pounds. Really going to be a lot of fun to watch this year, and already appears to be building rapport with Wilson.
9. Tyler Lockett will be the punt returner
Ok, that's a bit of a bold statement after one practice, but he did look by far the most natural at it in punt drills. He's quick and fast, meaning he can get up to full speed quickly and once he hits the afterburners, he's gone. I thought he had a good day in the passing game as well. It's always tough to know how a player will adapt to the NFL, but he looks like he belongs already.
10. The preseason PUP list has some names on it
Safety Earl Thomas, receiver Paul Richardson, and cornerbacks Jeremy Lane and Tharold Simon start training camp on the PUP list. They can be removed from that list at any time. Jesse Williams started on the non-football illness list, and safety Dion Bailey started on the non-football injury list.
Carroll gave updates on all six players here.