RENTON — The limitations of a rookie minicamp — no pads, no contact — make it a prime setting for a receiver to stand out.
But even with that context, Seahawks second-round pick D.K. Metcalf stood above the rest.
“That guy’s a freak,’’ marveled safety Ugo Amadi, who first went against Metcalf in summer camps when they were in high school. He was watching Friday as the 6-foot-4, 229-pound receiver made a leaping catch in traffic along the sidelines that served as the highlight play of the Seahawks’ first of three rookie minicamp practices this weekend.
“He may be even more unique than we thought,’’ said coach Pete Carroll after getting his first in-person look at Metcalf in a Seahawks uniform (No. 14).
Metcalf is one of three receivers the Seahawks drafted, though he was the only one on the field with fourth-round pick Gary Jennings and seventh-rounder John Ursua nursing hamstring injuries. Carroll said Ursua could practice but the team wants to be smart with him. Jennings, he said, needs a few more weeks to get healthy.
The highest expectations are for Metcalf as many pundits were surprised he didn’t go in the first round and was still available at the end of the second.
As Carroll said, there’s a long way to go yet.
“There has never been a guy who ran any faster who was that big and strong at the combine,’’ Carroll said of Metcalf’s 4.33 40-yard draft. “So he’s got all those things behind him. Now he’s got to figure out how to play football.’’
That was the question some had about Metcalf, noting that he only played two full seasons at Ole Miss and never had more than 39 catches in a season. One growing thought among scouts is that receivers who thrive in college using their athleticism to make contested catches don’t often see that translate to the NFL where everyone is that much bigger, stronger and faster.
The Seahawks are looking for Metcalf to master the subtler aspects of the game, such as creating separation and finding the open spots in a defense.
To make it easier on Metcalf the Seahawks are limiting him to the split-end position for now. As Carroll notes, all receivers learn all the spots.
“We are going to start him where we know that he can fit right now,’’ Carroll said. “But we are wide open to everything.’’
And if it was his leap that caught everyone’s eyes Friday, Carroll said it was something lower to the ground — his feet — that might have been impressive.
“Sometimes the bigger guys, their feet just don’t move as quick,’’ Carroll said. “His feet were really lightning quick (on film), and he showed it out here today already. That shows the potential is there to make him an excellent releaser (off the line of scrimmage). He’s already going to be really strong using his hands to get of the ball. But that combination, when we get a chance to tie it all together it should be a really good package.’’
Here are six more observations from Friday’s minicamp:
Ifedi still in Seattle’s plans
The Seahawks made it official this week that they are not picking up an option for the 2020 season on the contract of right tackle Germain Ifedi. The option would have paid Ifedi $10.35 million, an amount it didn’t figure Seattle would want to assure now.
Still, Carroll said that doesn’t mean the team doesn’t want to keep Ifedi, just that they would prefer to do it a different number and time.
“Well, there’s a lot of factors,’’ Carroll said. “You know, we’re in the midst of trying to continue to fit the roster together and all of that and the big demands, sometimes we can jump on it, sometimes we can’t. We love Germain. He’s grown with us. He’s become a solid football player and done a great job, starting a ton of games for us and hanging in there and being tough about it, and we’d love to have him. This is not an indication of anything, but we like the guy and we hope he’ll be with us for a long time.’’
Amadi gets some time at nickel
Carroll said again Friday the plan is to use second-round pick Marquise Blair at strong safety and Amadi at free.
But Amadi also got some time playing nickel Friday. It’s something he did with regularity at Oregon and something that many figured he would try with the Seahawks, especially given that the nickel position is wide open after the loss of last year’s starter, Justin Coleman, in free agency.
Carroll said free safety will remain Amadi’s primary position, but the team wants to see how he looks in the slot.
Amadi said being used at nickel was no surprise, because he’s played just about everywhere in the secondary in his career.
Burr-Kirven at weakside linebacker
One of the biggest ways players can stand out in this setting is with their ability to quickly assimilate what the team is trying to teach them.
By that measure, Carroll said two who impressed him Friday were linebackers Cody Barton and Ben Burr-Kirven.
“Both (Burr-Kirven) and Cody were really impressive just throughout the first day of having so much command of what we were doing, the communication and their awareness, changing the fronts and doing the things they had to do,’’ Carroll said. “They were really good at it today. Even with as simple as the installation is, it’s still a lot and the offense is doing enough formationally that it challenges them.’’
Carroll said Burr-Kirven will play primarily weakside, which will set up some interesting competition. The starter is K.J. Wright and Mychal Kendricks, Austin Calitro and Shaquem Griffin saw time last season because of injuries. Even Barkevious Mingo played there in a few schemes.
That appears to mean Barton will be used more as a middle linebacker. But Carroll said the plan is for each to learn both spots, saying they will “have great versatility in time.’’
Carroll likes his Jazz (Ferguson)
Another receiver who caught Carroll’s eye is Jazz Ferguson, who was officially announced as one of 12 players the Seahawks signed as an undrafted free agent.
Ferguson began his career at LSU but was dismissed from the team in 2016 for what reports said was a failed drug test. He transferred to Northwestern State where he had 66 receptions for 1,117 yards and 13 touchdowns last season.
Listed at 6-5, 228 pounds, he is actually about 6-4, 240, Carroll said.
“I’ve watched a lot of Jazz to see him do the stuff that a big man does,” Carroll said. “He plays very well at the sidelines and very good body control, a good physical presence going up for the ball, can make that the high catches and can catch the ball back shoulder type stuff.’’
Two tryout players literally stood out
Also attending the camp are 44 players on a tryout basis, hoping to do enough to get signed to the 90-man roster (which, of course, means releasing someone to make room).
It’s too early to say who may have a shot.
But two players looked the part Friday — 6-9 offensive tackle Jordan Murray of North Texas and 6-2, 234-pound receiver Daniel Williams, a third-year player who has also been on the rosters of the Jets, Browns and Washington the past two seasons.
Asked if he’d ever seen a 6-9 tackle before, Carrolll said: “I don’t know, but I have not gotten over it yet and I’m serious. OK. Six-nine and then you stand next to him or anybody stands next to him and he just, he just makes everybody look like a punk, you know? So I don’t know how he did today. I couldn’t tell, but he impressed me. I stood well away from him whenever I had a chance.’’
As for Williams, Carroll said he impressed also with his attitude.
“He was very quick and spirited, and we like that part of it,’’ Carroll said. “And he looked very comfortable out here and so, you know, just the first day is all we can tell. But just general athleticism and all that was good. I liked what I saw today cause he really juiced up and had fun playing and all that.’’
Status quo on Doug Baldwin
Carroll repeated what he and general manager John Schneider said last week about Doug Baldwin — he is still weighing his future — while making it clear that retirement may be the most legitimate option at this point.
“I was with him today in the training room,’’ Carroll said. “(He’s) working out and working hard, trying to get himself right. It’s a big challenge and you know; he’s got a lot to overcome.’’