The top two picks in the Seahawks’ draft class of 2021 needed no introduction when the team’s first-year players and others gathered for this weekend’s rookie minicamp.
Receiver Dee Eskridge of Western Michigan, taken 56th overall, and cornerback Tre Brown of Oklahoma (137th) got well acquainted during Senior Bowl week in Mobile, Alabama, in January when each often found themselves lined up against the other during drills.
“We just go out there and get after it every time we go against each other,’’ Eskridge recalled Saturday when he talked to media via Zoom after the team’s second practice of rookie minicamp, a session during which he also said he prefers to go by the first name Dee instead of D’Wayne.
Each performed well enough in Mobile to help convince the Seahawks to draft them — the team mentioned the Senior Bowl performances of each as aiding in their decision.
An eternal truth of such matchups is that someone inevitably has to win. And Saturday, Eskridge seemed to get the better of it, twice getting open deep against Brown. Once he caught a pass in stride from Danny Etling (the only QB in the camp). The other time the throw was a little off the mark and Eskridge couldn’t quite come up with it after making the adjustment. Few would have considered it an outright drop, but Eskridge fell to the ground and did a few pushups when he got back to the huddle, anyway, with no seeming complaint.
The sequence seemed to typify all that the Seahawks like about Eskridge.
“There’s no question that he’s a flyer,’’ coach Pete Carroll said of Eskridge’s speed. He reportedly ran a 4.38 40 at his pro day. “… He gets off of the line of scrimmage really quickly and certainly has the burst. So that was really fun to see with what we were hoping to see. So we’re pleased with the first showing.”
What Carroll may like even more is Eskridge’s approach to the game.
“Probably more than anything, his attitude,’’ Carroll said of what caught his eye the past two days of Eskridge. “He has a chip on his shoulder. He’s going to prove that he belongs. That’s probably as valuable as anything he could have to bring to our club. … I’m really fired up about his attitude because he’s here to prove something and that always brings out the best in guys.”
“He’s a humble guy,’’ Brown said of Eskridge. “He’s one of the most humble guys that I’ve ever met. And when you have humbleness and competitiveness, man it’s hard to beat those things.’’
If Brown may have been humbled a time or two Saturday by Eskridge, the caveat is that he is also adjusting to the Seahawks’ unique way of playing cornerback, specifically the team’s step-kick technique at the line of scrimmage (taking a step back to read the route, essentially, and then kicking into a sprint).
It was not the method he used at Oklahoma, though Brown says he has done it before.
Still, as he said, it’s something that will take a little time to again feel natural.
“Everything is about repetition,’’ Brown said. “You’ve got to do it over and over again, no matter how long you’ve done it. If you take a break from anything, you know just like baseball, you’re not gonna be as good as you were. So I feel like I’m picking it up pretty fast and I’m excited to put it into the future.’’
Mastering the technique will be a key for Brown to also show he can play on the outside. When the 5-10 Brown was drafted, many assumed the Seahawks planned to have him play at nickel, because of the team’s usual preference for taller players to man the outside corner spots.
But Carroll said on draft day Brown would play outside. And that’s where he was throughout minicamp, on Saturday lining up at the left cornerback spot that has been manned by Richard Sherman and then Shaquill Griffin since 2011.
Carroll said Brown showed on Friday everything the team hoped for. As for Saturday, Carroll said he wanted to see the film first before commenting much, noting “we gave him some more looks and some more things to do.’’
But as with Eskridge, there are no questions about Brown’s attitude.
One draft analyst this year said Brown was known in college for his “maniacal effort.’’
Brown said that comes in part from realizing how fortunate he is to be in his position. That was something reinforced when his mother, Beverly Brewer, died in October 2018 of congestive heart failure.
Brown played in a game for the Sooners five days later — he missed only two games in four years with the Sooners — compelling coach Lincoln Riley to say, “I don’t know if I could have done it.’’
Brown, though, said he knew it was what his mother would have wanted.
“I wanted to go out there and show her that I had the strength to do everything for her,” Brown recalled Saturday.
Brown surely wishes he could share with her in having accomplished his goal of making it to the NFL. But she was unquestionably there with him in spirit during a weekend that Brown said has been “amazing. … it was everything I dreamed it would be.”
And as the journey continues, he will also carry with him not only her memory but the lessons he learned from her life and death.
“It just taught me to be grateful and do everything with grace,’’ Brown said of his mother’s passing. “Because you never know when your time is coming. So one thing that I’ve learned about is just being grateful to everybody, being humble, and just continue to work and just have a tunnel vision and just work for what you want because who knows if you get that chance.’’