RENTON — Lano Hill’s return to a heated safety competition, an offense that rebounded from a tough practice the day before, another good day from Paxton Lynch, and more of what we learned from Day 13 of Seahawks training camp Monday.
Lano Hill says ‘I still believe in myself’
Lano Hill ended the 2018 regular season as Seattle’s starter at strong safety and may well have held that spot into the playoff game against Dallas had he not suffered a hip injury that required surgery.
Hill is still trying to get all the way back, but he took a significant step Monday when he got on the field for the first time in team drills, mostly working with the second-team defense.
“It felt good to get back out there with the team, just to run around with them and get the feeling back,’’ Hill said.
Listed at 6 feet, 1 inch and 216 pounds, Hill also lost some weight during his recovery because “I couldn’t move’’ for a while. Just how much, he declined to say. “But I’m back now,’’ he said. “That’s all that matters.’’
The safety dynamic, though, has changed greatly during his time away. The Seahawks drafted Marquise Blair and Ugo Amadi in April, then brought back popular veteran DeShawn Shead right as camp began.
Seattle continues go to with Tedric Thompson and Bradley McDougald as its starters in camp, with coach Pete Carroll having given a pretty big endorsement of Thompson on Sunday.
That hardly means the starting spots are set. If Blair continues to make the kind of impact he did in the preseason opener against Denver, then Seattle will have a hard time keeping him off the field.
But at the moment, Seattle appears to have six safeties worth keeping, and possibly only four or five roster spots to fit them.
Hill’s absence has made it easy for some observers to conclude he could be the odd man out. He had barely played in his two-year Seahawks career other than on special teams before starting the final two games of last season when Thompson was injured (and with Earl Thomas long out of the picture), with McDougald moving to free safety. Seattle won both games (against Kansas City and Arizona), and Carroll said he liked what he saw of the Hill-McDougald tandem. Absence, though, can make the mind forgot about a player in the NFL.
But Hill, a fourth-round choice in 2017 out of Michigan, said he doesn’t care what anyone on the outside thinks.
“I still believe in myself,’’ he said. “I know what I can do. I ain’t worried about nobody else.’’
Now he’ll finally again get to try to back that up on the field.
“I mean, it’s football,’’ he said of the bad timing of his injury a year ago. “You get injured, you come back stronger. It’s part of the game.’’
Oh, and as for his name change from Delano? Hill says it was pretty simple.
“Nobody called me by my name so I just took two letters off of it to make it official,” he said.
Big day for offense
A day after the defense was stronger, the offense bounced back Monday during what was an especially intense practice with the team in helmets and shoulder pads.
I detailed Gary Jennings’ big day here, but he was far from the only one.
Russell Wilson concluded one late team session with two straight lasers that were worthy of $35 million a year: the first on a sideline route that Jaron Brown caught while tiptoeing to stay in, and the next on a fade route to David Moore for a touchdown.
The day ended fittingly enough with another touchdown, though this one with some controversy, when Jazz Ferguson caught about a 35-yard pass from Paxton Lynch for an apparent TD.
The side judge ruled, though, that Ferguson had pushed off on cornerback Tre Flowers, negating the play.
Carroll then raced over to the official, who was standing in front of about 100 members of the U.S. Army and Coast Guard who were present for military appreciation day.
Carroll animatedly asked what they thought, and when most raised their arms to signal touchdown, Carroll decided it was a TD to end the practice.
Lynch taking advantage of opportunity
Speaking of Lynch, he was pretty solid throughout, appearing to build on the momentum of his performance in Thursday’s preseason opener.
Lynch again got all the team snaps that Wilson didn’t take, with recently-signed J.T. Barrett again doing only individual drills.
Maybe that’s helping Lynch find his rhythm.
At one point, Lynch lofted a perfectly thrown pass into the arms of DK Metcalf down the sideline, basically a replica of the play the two almost completed against Denver. This time, Metcalf got behind cornerback Jeremy Boykins and hauled in the pass for a long gain.
King being groomed to help outside?
It’s always risky to read too much into a few moves here and there at this time in training camp, especially with Carroll having said to expect a lot of rotating of guys in different spots this week. This is still a week when the Seahawks are looking at a lot of different things before they begin really trying to solidify everything in the final two weeks of the preseason.
But it was hard not to notice Akeem King getting the call during one team session to play with the first team defense at left cornerback, where Shaquill Griffin usually plays.
Griffin then worked with the second-team defense.
King has been the starting nickel most of camp, but the Seahawks this week are going with Kalan Reed at that spot with the first-team defense.
King also got some snaps playing on the outside against Denver and had the highest grade of any Seattle defensive player from Pro Football Focus for his play against the Broncos.
The Seahawks like versatility, and King — who also has played safety in his NFL career — has a build more like an outside corner, listed at 6 feet, 1 inch and 215 pounds. So maybe the Seahawks are just giving him some more work there to see how it looks.
But it’s something to keep an eye on.
Let’s clear out the notebook with a bunch of observations.
• Branden Jackson spent the day working as the primary starter at the five-technique defensive end spot, where Quinton Jefferson was the starter on Thursday (Jefferson appeared to be getting the day off). The other starters on the line were Cassius Marsh at LEO and Jarran Reed and Poona Ford inside. Rasheem Green has also been making a move at that end spot but on Monday worked mostly with the second team behind Jackson. The No. 2 line was most often Green and Jacob Martin at ends, with Nazair Jones and Earl Mitchell/Al Woods at tackle.
• Bobby Wagner remains out, so the starting linebackers were as they’ve been in his absence: Austin Calitro at MLB, K.J. Wright at WLB and Mychal Kendricks at SLB. The No. 2 LBs were typically Cody Barton at MLB and Ben Burr-Kirven at WLB. Shaquem Griffin remains out.
• The usual secondary starters were Griffin and Flowers at CB and Thompson and McDougald at safety. Blair consistently worked with the second-team defense along with either Shead or Hill. Amadi appeared to spend the day mostly working as a nickel.
• With Mike Iupati out, Ethan Pocic continues to work as the starter at left guard. When D.J. Fluker was out for a few plays on Monday, veteran Marcus Martin went into his spot at right guard.