Today's daily Seahawks' impressions include items on the connection of Russell Wilson and Jimmy Graham, Bruce Irvin, the offensive line, and more.
Here are our daily impressions from Seahawks’ practice from beat reporters Jayson Jenks and Bob Condotta.
1. The connection between Russell Wilson and Jimmy Graham is still a work in progress. On one play Monday, Graham ran a short route across the middle near the end zone. Wilson fired the pass, but Graham hadn’t turned his head and it hit him in the helmet. I don’t want to put too much stock into one play, but it was reminder that as much as they’ve talked about getting a feel for each other, there are still steps to be taken. That’s not surprising. Wilson and Graham spent a few minutes after practice going over that route in the red zone, just like they did after they had a miscommunication that led to an interception during Saturday’s scrimmage. “They’re not there yet,” coach Pete Carroll said. “It’s just going to take time. The intricacies of the things that they’re trying to do together go way deep, so it’s going to take them a lot of time. We missed a hot (route) today and Russell was too early with a ball one time to him. They’re trying to catch up. Both of them are really determined to get there.”
2. The continuity of the defensive line should help this year. Pretty obvious, right? But it’s worth keeping in mind as this season slowly inches closer. In the last two years, Carroll has talked about the time it takes for a pass rush to gel. In 2013, Cliff Avril missed much of the preseason with injuries and Bruce Irvin was suspended four games, to say nothing of the fact that Avril and Michael Bennett were new. Last year, Jordan Hill didn’t rush much with the first-team defense until week one and the Seahawks were deciding how to replace the void of defensive tackle Clinton McDonald, while also adding in Cassius Marsh and others. But this year, so much of last year’s pass-rushing group is back: Avril, Bennett, Irvin and Marsh at ends; Hill and Bennett inside. Yes, there are still some new faces like rookie Frank Clark, but even part-time contributors like David King, Demarcus Dobbs, Gregg Scruggs and D’Anthony Smith are back from last year. What that allows the Seahawks to do is understand each other: Jordan Hill now knows how to work off of Michael Bennett, for one small example. That background together adds up during games and the course of a season. The Seahawks shouldn’t need as much time to gather that info at the start of this season.
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3. The importance of versatility. I spent some time talking with Mike Morgan the other day about versatility and how important that is for players fighting for roster spots. We’ve seen DeShawn Shead earn a roster spot the last couple of seasons because he can play corner and both safety positions while also contributing on special teams. Morgan has hung around with the Seahawks under Carroll because he is one of the team’s most reliable special-teams players and because he can play multiple positions in a pinch. There is no great revelation in saying this, but as roster decisions near, keep in mind that players at the bottom of the roster are generally expected to be utility men. Morgan, for one, is working at strongside and weakside linebacker and also at defensive end. Morgan, who is 27, said he also wants to lead the team in special-teams tackles. Of playing at so many spots, he said, ““Just adding value, man. The more you can do, the harder it is for them to get rid of you.
And from Condotta:
1. Bruce Irvin is having the best camp of his career. That was the word today from Pete Carroll, anyway, after he was asked about Irvin having told reporters about gaining 18 pounds in the off-season because he was “tired of being the little guy.” Irvin, listed at 248, said he played at 240, giving the assumption he is now at 258 pounds. Carroll said the team did not ask Irvin to get bigger, feeling it wasn’t an issue. But Carroll said “now that we seem at the other end of it, the added strength that he has makes a difference. We can see him disengage and get off blocks a lot better than he has in the past. He’s always been a speed guy but he’s playing with more power now and that’s really important to add to it cause he’ still really fast. He’s looked the best, this is the best camp he’s had, really happy about it.” The camp comes at what is obviously a critical time for Irvin as he can be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season after the team declined to pick up an option on his contract for 2016 that would have paid him $7.8 million. Irvin was initially publicly peeved about that. But he joked about it today saying that two lessons he would pass on to a group of children he was showing around today is to “stay off Twitter” and “don’t talk to Atlanta reporters” the latter a reference to what he said was being misquoted that he wants to play for his hometown Falcons next season.
2. The center and left guard spots remain wide open. Drew Nowak again took the first snaps at center today, with Lemuel Jeanpierre either second in the rotations or working with the second team. Carroll said afterward that Nowak is “a little bit ahead” of Jeanpierre but that the race remains too close to call. “Lem is ahead in all of the assignment stuff,” Carroll said. “Drew looks really good physically. Just going to keep working it and see what happens.” Left guard also remains a jumble. Alvin Bailey is the presumptive starter. But today it was third-year player Keavon Milton, who spent much of last year on the practice squad, working with the starters at left guard with Bailey going with the second team. The Seahawks have also used Mark Glowsinki and Kristjan Sokoli at left guard in recent days. OL coach Tom Cable said the team is simply trying to find its best five for the offensive line and that Milton “is starting to work towards that so we are going to give him that opportunity.” Carroll said as of now, Bailey would go first in the game on Friday against Denver but that “they would be rotating in the first quarter of a game.” So the intrigue continues.
3. Dion Bailey is making a real run at getting into the strong safety competition. Bailey, a second year player from USC who was waived as injured last year during camp with a severe ankle injury and then brought back to the practice squad late in the season, worked most of the day with the starting unit at strong safety with DeShawn Shead working with the second unit as the team continues to explore options for replacing Kam Chancellor for the present and backing him up when Chancellor presumably returns. Bailey had an interception in the end zone among several good plays on the day, indicative of what Carroll said has been solid pass defense skills to go along with what the team knew would be good instincts against the run considering he played a lot of linebacker at USC. Said Carroll of Bailey: “He’s always been a playmaker, we watched him in high school, a million years ago it seems. He was always a terrific playmaker and he always did stuff, he just continues to show that he’s got great instincts. He had a good day today, he’s had a lot of good days out here. He missed a few days early on, but since he came back, he’s really jumped at it. He does work with the ones and will continue to get work with the ones, you can’t deny the production he’s turning out. It’s real exciting. … He is one of the guys we like to play close to the line of scrimmage, he is a very natural football player, fitting on a run is not a big deal to him at all. The linebacking stuff is why they did that with him. I think it’s his pass defense that’s really shown up though, the instincts and jumping on routes and things, he made some very, very good plays.”