Observations from Tuesday's practice includes notes on the offensive line, the tailback spot, Earl Thomas, and more.
Here are some (well, six) observations from the Seahawks’ ninth practice of training camp Tuesday from beat reporters Jayson Jenks and Bob Condotta.
First, three from Jenks:
1. Safety Earl Thomas still flies to the ball. Thomas has been so good and so consistent the last several years that sometimes I find myself not watching him during practice because you know what you’re going to get. But on Tuesday, I tried (key word: tried) to focus on Thomas during the team portion of practice, and one thing stood out, which is the thing that always stands out about watching Thomas: He flies to the ball. He is so decisive, and when he makes up his mind, he doesn’t hesitate. He just goes. There was one play in the flat, a quick pass, and Thomas read it, reacted and arrived around the same time as the ball. In other words: He looked just like you’d expect Earl Thomas to look.
2. Defensive linemen Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett have both looked really good. I think I’ve written this before, and I’m pretty sure Bob has too, but Avril and Bennett just keep popping up. In team drills, in the one-on-one drills against the offensive line, Avril and Bennett are simply disruptive. What really stands out is how crafty they are. Sometimes Bennett jumps the snap and slips through the line; sometimes he gets a lineman off balance with his hands and uses a spin move. Avril is thet same way. Both are as crafty as they are talented.
3. Newly acquired offensive lineman Jahri Evans worked with the third-team offensive line. The Seahawks have flat-out said that Evans hasn’t been promised a starting job, despite his lengthy list of accomplishments. He has the pedigree, but the Seahawks need to see if he’s good enough still to improve their line. They want to see him at left guard first before moving him back to right guard, where he played the last 10 seasons in the league. Evans worked with the third-team offensive line on Tuesday, his first day participating in the team portion of practice, which shows if nothing else that Evans has to prove his value.
And three from Condotta:
1. Add another member of the 2011 Huskies to the roster. The signing of Josh Shirley as a rush end means the Seahawks now have six members of the 2011 Washington Huskies on their roster. The others are receivers Jermaine Kearse, Kevin Smith and Kasen Williams and fullbacks Jonathan Amosa and Tani Tupou. Shirley, who was with the team from January to May, was brought back to replace the injured Tavaris Barnes (who was waived as injured) and will add depth at the rush end/LEO position. Shirley got right to work and had a couple if impressive “wins” in the one-on-one pass rush drill, once blowing right past J’Marcus Webb. Said coach Pete Carroll after practice: “It’s good to get Josh back. Josh has been a guy that’s an outside guy, he can rush the passer and play SAM linebacker, we’re going to work him at the Leo spot right now, some rush depth as we’re going into the preseason here. We’ll see how he does. He’s always been on the edge of being with us, he’s a guy we really like, so it’s good to get him out.”
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2. The running back depth continues to be, well, interesting. For a team that depends on running the ball as much as the Seahawks do, the running back spot has been rather adventurous so far this preseason. Thomas Rawls, as detailed here, is back but with no clear timeline for when he’ll see game action. And each of the team’s three drafted rookies sat out during team drills on Tuesday — Alex Collins, who has been worked heavily, with a sore ankle and C.J. Prosise and Zac Brooks with hamstring injuries that have lingered for a week or so. That had Christine Michael again getting the starter’s carries on Tuesday with recently-signed Cameron Marshall and Troymaine Pope and then converted defensive back George Farmer getting the rest. It may all be much ado about nothing as the Seahawks expect Rawls back for the regular season and Collins is mostly just getting some rest after having done the bulk of the work to this point along with Michael. More ominous is the continued absence of Prosise, who has been ticketed for a specific role as a third-down tailback. “He’s missed a ton, there’s no other way to put it,” Carroll said. “He missed a lot in the end of OTAs [organized team activities] also. He finished OTAs with three days of good work that showed us what we’re looking for, so it’s just frustrating for everybody because we know he’s got a lot to learn, he’s got a big role that he has a chance to fill. If he does well with it. It’s just been unfortunate and frustrating, I would think he might have a chance for the next game, this game or the next game. We’ll dump it on him. He’s studying really hard, he’s working at it, and he’s doing good in his rehab, but there’s nothing like getting in the huddle, breaking the huddle with everybody and doing the whole stuff.” Carroll said it’s not too late for Prosise to get the work done in training camp that he needs to be ready for the season. But it’s telling that the team switched Farmer to a role that is the same as that of Prosise. “I am anxious to see how he fits,” Carroll said. “George is a fantastic athlete. He’s done a lot at receiver and running back in college and all through his days. He played DB and all that back in the past, so he’s done everything. He is such a versatile player. We thought we could give him a shot. We are looking at him in a similar role to where we might play C.J.”
3. Bradley Sowell is making a run at the left tackle spot. That’s what Carroll said after practice on Tuesday, anyway, dropping that nugget into a longer answer about how he sees the offensive line coming together. Here’s Carroll’s full answer on the offensive line: “Yeah, we are making progress. We are making really good progress. I think we are ahead of where we have been with our groups, when we have had to fit together, you know, a new group of guys, we are ahead. I think we picked up where we left off in terms of schematically what we are doing upfront and that’s a big deal for us. It was a big issue to see if we were able to do that schematically and technically if our guys could really hold the pocket like we were and respond to the speed of quickening our passing game, they’ve done that, so we are very positive about that we are making real progress. I like the competitiveness of the guys. Bradley Sowell’s done a really nice job. He’s played both sides. He is competing for playing time to start, he’s giving Garry [Gilliam] a run there, which is great and he gives us flexibility. This is really the first chance I get to see Jahri [Evans] really on good film, this is the first real practice for him to see if he can fit into the competition of it all as well. The young guys have all improved, we are really happy about it, but we’ve got to keep pushing, keep getting better.” For what it’s worth, the offensive line alignments today were as they have been for most of camp — with Gilliam at left tackle and Webb at right, with Sowell working with the second unit at left tackle and Terry Poole at right tackle. The only real interesting thing in how anyone on the line was used as rookie Rees Odhiambo getting an extended run at right tackle during a late team session, working with the No. 3 offense. But that is something the team has done before, and Carroll has said Odhiambo will be used at tackle as well as guard going forward.