On the eighth day of Seahawks organized team activity (OTA) practices Tuesday, DK Metcalf impressed the team with his perseverance and Rashaad Penny with his continued maturation while a whole bunch of regulars remained out.
Here are my impressions of what was the third OTA open to the media.
DEFENSE REMAINS SHORT-HANDED
Of what could be a likely starting lineup if the season began today, seven starters remained on the sidelines when it came time for team drills, six on defense — tackle Jarran Reed, end Ziggy Ansah, linebackers Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright and safeties Bradley McDougald and Lano Hill (yes, Lano, as he has officially changed his name from Delano, according to the team, which listed him as Lano on an updated roster handed to media on Tuesday). Wagner continues to ”participate” by watching and coaching from the sideline as he negotiates a contract extension with the team while the rest are resting or rehabbing injuries.
A few other key defensive players also were out, including linemen Quinton Jefferson, Nazair Jones and Jamie Meder and linebackers Mychal Kendricks and Ben Burr-Kirven. Also out on Tuesday were cornerback Kalan Reed and safety Marquise Blair, each for the first time this year in sessions open to the media. It’s unclear the issues with Reed or Blair as coach Pete Carroll will not meet the media this week until Thursday.
But this is the time of year when teams play it ultracautious to make sure guys are healthy for training camp, and that could be all that’s going on here.
By contrast, the offense remains at fairly full strength — of a likely starting lineup the only player out is running back Chris Carson, rehabbing from knee surgery.
But two new young players were out Tuesday — receiver Amara Darboh, who had appeared to be having a good offseason that was propelling him back into the mix at that spot, and rookie running back Travis Homer.
Also remaining out are players who have been out such as tight end Will Dissly, receivers Gary Jennings (yet to practice with the team in any capacity due to a hamstring issue), Caleb Scott and Malik Turner and linemen Jordan Roos and Demetrius Knox.
Seattle’s starting offensive line, though, has been largely intact throughout OTAs: Duane Brown, Mike Iupati, Justin Britt, D.J. Fluker and Germain Ifedi going left to right.
METCALF SHOWS SOME METTLE
Just about every move DK Metcalf makes is sure to be analyzed — if not overanalyzed — particularly in light of the hype that greeted his drafting and then his performance in the team’s rookie minicamp.
It’s fair to say his impact has predictably leveled off some as OTAs — and the team’s veteran players — arrived. Metcalf had a drop on a slant route Tuesday on a day when the passing game in general often seemed to be a struggle.
But late in the day Metcalf also showed the coaches an ability to bounce back from a bad play that he’ll need to make it in the NFL.
During a red-zone drill Metcalf was targeted on a fade route going one-on-one against undrafted rookie cornerback Davante Davis, who broke up the pass.
The Seahawks decided to try again, going right back to Metcalf on the next play. This time, Metcalf got better position against Davis and reeled in the pass for a touchdown, a sequence that impressed offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer.
“We went right back to him and he made good on his promise to make that play,’’ Schottenheimer said. “ … tried to throw a little fade to DK (on the first play) and he didn’t quite finish it. Came right back to it. Paxton (Lynch) made a nice throw on the outside, see him compete for the ball. That was good.’’
Metcalf also spent some time working after practice with Russell Wilson, Tyler Lockett and Keenan Reynolds, a session in which he appeared to be working specifically on route releases with Lockett.
Lockett said that as a veteran he just saw wanted to pass along some stuff to Metcalf and that, overall, he thinks Metcalf is on a good path to contribute significantly right off the bat.
“He’s away ahead of what people on the outside probably expect him to be,’’ Lockett said.
JARON BROWN MAKING PRESENCE FELT
While there has been much attention on Metcalf, the typical starting three receivers throughout the OTAs open to the media have been all veterans — Lockett, Jaron Brown and David Moore.
In that alignment, Lockett is more often than not lined up inside, fulfilling the role typically held in the past by Doug Baldwin, though the team insists Lockett will continue to be used outside often, as well (as Pro Football Focus has detailed, Lockett was actually used about equally inside and outside in 2018 with Baldwin dealing with a number of injuries and missing three games).
About the only certainty in Seattle’s receiving corps at the moment is that Lockett will line up somewhere with the starters with both Brown and Moore needing to hold off Metcalf and others to retain their spots.
But to hear the coaches tell it, Brown may he hard to dislodge despite what was a statistically underwhelming first year in Seattle in 2018 when he had just 14 receptions for 166 yards and only eight catches in the final 14 games of the season, including the playoff loss to Dallas (he had just three catches for 16 yards in the final five games including the playoff).
Schottenheimer said Tuesday that Brown has had a great offseason, and repeated what Carroll has said before that Brown could have put up bigger numbers last season if the team had simply gone to him more.
“Jaron Brown, he’s not a young guy, but wow, talking about just an unbelievable camp, I mean, really stepping up,’’ Schottenheimer said.
Brown, according to Schottenheimer, “did so much of the dirty work for us last year that you kind of forgot — we kind of forgot — that he’s a really established receiver and he’s looked dynamic out here.’’
That the team could save $2.75 million by releasing him while taking a $975,000 dead cap hit has led to the obvious thought that it’s not a given that he’ll be on the roster in September. But for now, he seems on his way to being in the rotation.
PENNY GIVING SEAHAWKS HAPPY THOUGHTS
With Carson out this spring while rehabbing from knee surgery, Rashaad Penny continues to take the starter’s reps at tailback.
And like Brown, he’s caught the eye of the coaches for his play and conditioning.
Penny is listed at 220 pounds but at one point last season was said to weigh 236 pounds by Carroll. Penny later disputed that, saying he never weighed quite that much. But Carroll’s comments led to some speculation of how more weight might have impacted Penny’s play (though it’s worth noting that despite dealing with a few injuries he led the Seahawks with a 4.9 yards per carry average last season).
The team won’t officially weigh players for this year until later this month. But Schottenheimer said he won’t be surprised if Penny weighs a little less than advertised.
“He looks slimmer,’’ Schottenheimer said. “ … he looks better. He’s moving around better.’’
But as much as how he’s carrying his weight has impressed the Seahawks is also how he is carrying himself.
“It’s been cool to watch Rashaad, watch him grow up, watch him mature, watch him learn to kind of be a pro,’’ Schottenheimer said. “I’m really pleased with the way he is attacking practice right now. I think last year he didn’t know what he didn’t know. Now he’s got some leadership ability, he’s getting a ton of reps because obviously Chris is out. But it’s been fun to watch him grow. The talent is there — we all know that. It’s just him putting consecutive days in a row and I think he has done that the last couple of weeks.’’
OFFENSIVE LINE STABLE AND VOCAL
As noted above, one of the most stable aspects of the team remains the offensive line, which has been intact throughout the offseason with no indication anything will change, barring the obvious potential of injury.
“In my 22 years of coaching I don’t know if I’ve been around a more vocal veteran group than those guys,’’ Schottenheimer said. “I mean the addition of Mike Iupati along with Duane and Fluke and Justin Britt and Germain, it’s fun to come to work with those guys.’’
More in flux is who will be the backups.
Tuesday, Jamarco Jones typically lined up as the backup left tackle with Ethan Pocic and Jordan Simmons as the backups at left guard, Joey Hunt at center, Phil Haynes at right guard and George Fant and Elijah Nkansah and at right tackle. Pocic has also taken some snaps at center.
AND A FEW MORE ….
- With Wagner, Wright, Kendricks all out, the usual starting inside linebacking duo on Tuesday was Austin Calitro at MLB and Shaquem Griffin at WLB. Griffin also has been getting some work at SLB and Cody Barton also rotates in at MLB.
- The starting safety duo on Tuesday was again Tedric Thompson at free and Shalom Luani at strong with Ugo Amadi and Marwin Evans typically the number two safety duo. But again, that’s with the likes of Hill, McDougald and Blair all out.
- Akeem King remains the usual starting nickel.
- Jacob Hollister, the tight end acquired from the Patriots for a seventh-round pick after the draft, has continued to impress with his speed. “Tell you what, terrific acquisition,’’ Schottenheimer said. “He’s had a great camp. The speed element is awesome. Really good route runner. A lot like Tyler in terms of the instincts, just the ability to get open. Has a great feel for coverage, man and zone and things like that.’’
- Fant caught a pass when lined up as a tight end and Schottenheimer joked that Fant’s ability as a pass receiver means “we’ve got some pretty explosive playmakers.’’ While Fant gets some work at tackle, for now his main role appears to be the one he refined last year as an eligible tackle/tight end.
- Seattle will hold OTAs the next two days — Thursday’s will be open to the media — then take the weekend off before reconvening for mandatory minicamp next week. Then the team will break for the summer.