Impressions from day 3 of Seahawks training camp include thoughts on Tyler Lockett, Christine Michael, the center position and more.
Here are our daily impressions from Seahawks practice from beat reporters Bob Condotta and Jayson Jenks.
First from Condotta:
1. If the Seahawks played a game today, Lemuel Jeanpierre would be the starting center. That was the word from coach Pete Carroll after Sunday’s practice, confirming what has seemed evident through the first few days — that Jeanpierre has at least a slight lead on Drew Nowak in the battle to replace the departed Max Unger. Jeanpierre has usually gone first in the rotations. Still, Nowak is getting a ton of work with the first unit, as well, including on Sunday when he worked with the starters during an initial two-minute drill that kicked off the team portion of practice. Carroll said both will contibue to get regular work with the starters so that quarterback Russell Wilson is comfortable with each. “Right now if we were playing a game, Lem would start for us,” Carroll said. “He’s got the experience and the background for us. Gives us the confidence that he can make the calls and help us. Drew is coming along at great tempo here. He’s going to get a great shot to show us what he can do as will Patrick (Lewis). The only issue, we have four guys we are working with (rookie) Kristjan Sokoli as well. It’s a little difficult getting them their reps. Drew is off to a really good start competitively. Went with the first group today. (Offensive line coach) Tom (Cable) is doing a nice rotation so they can show how they work with the first group.”
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2. Christine Michael has shown up to camp in good shape — now to produce on the field. An interesting sight early in practice today was that of third-year running back Christine Michael taking some kickoff returns. Michael has dabbled in returns before in practice but has never handled any in games. There’s a lot of competition there so who knows how involved Michael could get in that race. Still, it shows that the team is exploring all of its options with Michael, a second-round pick for whom this looms as a really critical year. Carroll afterward praised Michael’s physical condition but said now the task is for him to show it on the field. With Marshawn Lynch sure to get little, if any, action in the preseason, Michael will have every chance to showcase what he can do. “Christine is having a terrific start to this camp now, Carroll said. “He has returned in incredible shape. He’s just in fantastic strength and quickness and stuff. This is going to be a big preseason for him. He’s going to to get a lot of work. We really anticipate that he should one of the lead carriers during the preseason so he can get comfortable and demonstrate his consistency and all that. He has done everything we needed him to up to this point and I really have no reason to think otherwise. I think he is going to have a great camp.”
3. Douglas McNeil indeed caught the coaching staff’s eye on Saturday. We didn’t get a chance to talk to Carroll after Saturday’s practice, so I asked him today about the performance on Saturday of receiver Douglas McNeil, who is trying to make the team as a free agent. McNeil had a couple of noticeable catches on Saturday in which his 6-3 height stood out. Said Carroll: “He’s doing stuff every day. It’s those kinds of days and those kinds of demonstrations that really make you take notice. Now we need to see the consistency from him. But he has made some big plays. Just getting started but it’s a good start for him.’’
And from Jenks:
1. Rookie Tyler Lockett has some Doug Baldwin in him as a receiver. Lockett is all but guaranteed to start the year as Seattle’s starting returner, but coach Pete Carroll said he called Lockett into his office Saturday and told him, “Just go for it. See how far you can take it. You’re in the competition for returns, of course, but he’s in the competition for playing time at receiver as well.” Carroll also added, “We’re not going to restrict him in any way at this point.” Lockett has what Carroll described as a “suddenness” to how he gets in and out of breaks as a receiver, which Carroll said reminds him of Baldwin. Lockett could factor in as a slot receiver, depending how much the Seahawks play Baldwin on the outside or in the slot this season. But he’s at least intriguing enough a threat as a pure receiver to keep a close eye on this preseason.
2. Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril were working with Cassius Marsh on how to use his hands. Marsh is entering his second season. He showed promise in his rookie year but an injury forced him to miss most of the season. So he’s back and could be an important role player for the Seahawks along the defensive line. Bennett and Avril are veterans, and they know their craft as pass rushers. So it was interesting to see them, in a small moment on Sunday, working with Marsh on how to use his hands to combat offensive lineman. Some of the best defensive linemen are great at using their hands to shed blockers or set up moves; it’s one of the most important parts of the job. It often takes young players a while to refine that part of the game, because so much of it is based on nuance and subtleties picked up from experience, which Avril and Bennett have.
3. Best part of practices: the one-on-one battles between defensive backs and receivers. Saturday was the first time this training camp that the Seahawks had one-on-one drills, and Carroll said he couldn’t wait to get upstairs and watch the film of those. A couple things I noticed: Doug Baldwin is still so elusive at the line of scrimmage because he is just so quick in and out of his cuts. He isn’t the fastest receiver, but his quick bursts and change of direction allow him to shed corners. Also, rookie cornerback Tye Smith looks improved from May and June. Smith, the Seahawks’ fifth-round draft pick, looked like most rookie corners have looked for the Seahawks: overanxious and not patient enough at the line of scrimmage. It looks like Smith had gotten better at that so far in the first three practices of training camp. It takes time to be as patient and stonewall as the Seahawks want from their corners at the line, especially when someone like Baldwin is juking all over the place, but it looks like Smith has at least made some kind of progress in that department.