RENTON — What the NFL called “Back Together Saturday’’ — all 32 NFL teams holding training camp practices as something of a celebration of the opening of a new season — was a day for the defense at the VMAC in Renton.
While any practice features some good plays on both sides, the majority Saturday came from Seattle’s defense.
There weren’t any interceptions — which can be hard to come by during this early portion of camp when full contact is not allowed.
But defenders can still put themselves in position at times to make some plays on the ball. And they did a few times Saturday. Most notable was a two-play sequence from left cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon midway through the proceedings.
Witherspoon’s big day leads off our daily observations from Seahawks training camp.
Spoon makes his case
On the sequence in question, Witherspoon first broke up a pass intended for DK Metcalf. Then on the next play, he broke up another near the end zone intended for tight end Gerald Everett.
The two plays highlighted what has been a strong start to camp for a player signed to a one-year contract worth up to $4 million with the idea (fervent hope?) that he can take over for the departed Shaquill Griffin.
“That’s the best he showed was today,’’ Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “… He’s physically right. He’s fast enough. He’s athletic enough. He’s fluid, he’s really tall and long — good, great reach. Man, his feet — and his feet move like a smaller guy. So he’s got, he’s got all the things we’re looking for.’’
At another point in practice Witherspoon also had tight coverage on Tyler Lockett on a pass that was overthrown but likely would have not been completed anyway.
Still, the cornerback spot remains an open and ongoing competition. D.J. Reed has worked as the starter on the right side, but the Seahawks on Friday had Damarious Randall and Tre Flowers work as the starting corners, and Carroll said Saturday that the competition is far from over.
Witherspoon, though, is a player the Seahawks have high expectations for, and it figures to take a lot to beat him out. They like what he showed with the 49ers the past four years when healthy and have had their eye on him since his days at Colorado. He also has lots of experience working in a system similar to Seattle’s, under former 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, a former Seahawks assistant.
Saturday showed Witherspoon might already be grabbing his expected hold on the job.
DK has big day
The one receiver who stood out Saturday was one who is always impossible to miss — Metcalf.
While Witherspoon batted one pass from him, Metcalf got open a number of other times and turned in the offensive highlight of the day when he reeled in a roughly 70-yard TD pass from Wilson.
Wilson rolled out on the play to buy time from the rush — and in these early noncontact days of practice, it’s worth remembering that the offense is generally allowed to play out plays that might end more quickly in a real game. But whether Wilson might have gotten hit on the play in a real game, it was a really pretty one regardless as Wilson lofted a deep, arcing pass to Metcalf who made the grab to race into the end zone.
Metcalf also almost had another TD on what was a pretty catch in the corner of the end zone but was officially ruled out of bounds.
But typifying the kind of day it was for the offense, Wilson at another point overthrew an open Metcalf, which isn’t all that easy to do.
Other defensive highlights
If Witherspoon was the defensive star of the day, there were other defenders who turned in some nice plays. Here’s a few others I saw:
— L.J. Collier, who Carroll raved afterward appears in the best shape of his three-year Seahawks career, broke through on one rush to force Wilson to throw it away quickly.
— Pierre Desir also had a breakup of a Geno Smith pass intended for Colby Parkinson.
— Tre Flowers had tight coverage on Parkinson, which caused hesitation on the throw and a sack.
— Aldon Smith, who worked consistently with the second unit as an edge rusher, and Alton Robinson each had sacks.
— Poona Ford, who was his usual disruptive self much of the day, impressed on a play when he didn’t get credit for anything other than hustle and athleticism. On a long Chris Carson run, Ford raced downfield and wasn’t too far off Carson when he cut back about 30 yards downfield.
Geno Smith makes a few big plays
A few hours before it became known that the Seahawks will sign Sean Mannion to add to the quarterback room, backup Geno Smith had a solid practice.
Smith, who sat out some of the end of Wednesday’s practice with a foot/leg injury, looked fine Saturday, completing two touchdown passes. One was a 55-yarder to Darvin Kidsy Jr., who got wide open against the No. 1 defense — one of the only lapses of the day for the defense (and from my vantage point, it was hard to tell whose specific responsibility the play might have been). The other was about a 15-yarder or so to John Ursua, who got open behind former Husky Jordan Miller.
Smith also took off running a few times to get some positive yards.
Smith has been the clear backup behind Wilson in practices so far — which makes sense given that’s been his job the past two years. So the addition of Mannion would seem more likely aimed at adding competition with Smith. Seattle’s other two QBs on its roster are Danny Etling and Alex McGough, a 2018 seventh-round pick of the Seahawks.
When Smith was hobbled for a while Wednesday, Etling ran the No. 2 offense.
The Seahawks wouldn’t seem likely to keep five QBs so expect something to give there soon.