Seahawks training camp is back! And almost back to normal as fans were again in attendance, even if COVID-19 protocols mean there can be no interaction between players and spectators this year (so, sadly, no autographs or selfies).
But most of the rest of the familiar trappings of camp at the VMAC were back after a year away.
Also back are our training camp impressions. Each day during the open practices of camp Seahawks beat writers Bob Condotta and Adam Jude will throw out a few of their thoughts.
First, three impressions from Jude:
Run it up
Everyone is optimistic and excited at the start of training camp. And they should be.
As much as anything, Pete Carroll sounded especially excited about his running-back room. And he should be.
Chris Carson is back in the fold after agreeing to a two-year deal (worth up to $10.425 million) to return as the Seahawks’ No. 1 option.
Even better, Rashaad Penny is, by all accounts, healthy and ready to be a regular contributor in what shapes up to be a vital season for him as his rookie contract runs out.
“The running back spot with, with Penny coming back, is a really exciting place,” Carroll said. “Rashaad came back at 225 (pounds). He looks great. He worked out here (in Renton) all throughout the offseason, and it really paid off. It’s the best he’s looked since we’ve (had) him.”
Add in Alex Collins and DeeJay Dallas — plus undrafted free agent Josh Johnson — and this has a chance to be the deepest running back group Carroll has had in Seattle.
Collins, in particular, could be a breakout candidate in training camp — a veteran with a real chance to grab hold of the No. 2 job, should Penny falter. Collins, listed at 5-10 and 210 pounds, got more touches than anyone during team periods on Wednesday, and he looked fast.
Good depth at tight end, too
The signing of ex-Ram Gerald Everett could end up being the best addition to the Seahawks’ offense — especially given his familiarity with new OC Shane Waldron — and solidified a position the Seahawks expect to utilize more in the new offense.
Will Dissly enters his fourth season, and the 6-7 Colby Parkinson is another camp breakout candidate in his second season.
“The tight end spot is really competitive because we don’t know who’s going to take the bulk of the plays,” Carroll said. “We really liked the position a lot. We’re really fired up about Gerald Everett; we really think he can do a ton, but we’re not sure how to mix those guys yet. We’ve got to find that out as we go through.
“Colby Parkinson looks exciting too for playing time, and we know Will’s in there. So it’s a really nice competitive spot.”
12s back on the berm
The gates opened about an hour before the start of Wednesday’s workout, and Seahawks fans quickly flooded back to the berm overlooking the practice fields.
It was the first time in two years 12s were allowed back at practice.
Because of COVID protocols, Carroll and players are not allowed to interact with fans at training camp, but players and coaches did make a point to walk toward the berm after practice and wave to fans before exiting the field.
“Our guys love bouncing off them and just hearing the noise and the chants,” Carroll said.
And three from Condotta:
No surprises to starting lineups
Carroll talked enthusiastically after practice about all the competition there is for starting jobs at positions such as cornerback, tight end, center and right tackle.
But the position groupings on the first day did not reveal any surprises with the only changes due to players who were sitting out.
The offense featured the expected skill position starters of Russell Wilson, Carson, Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf with Dissly and Everett sharing the tight end duties. As for the offensive line, the starting group featured, from left to right, Jamarco Jones, Damien Lewis, Kyle Fuller, Gabe Jackson and Brandon Shell. Jones and Fuller replaced Ethan Pocic (hamstring) and Duane Brown (rest day) respectively.
The starting defensive line featured the expected mix of Carlos Dunlap and Benson Mayowa at the LEO/rush end spot, with Kerry Hyder on the other side and Poona Ford and Bryan Mone inside.
The linebacking trio was Bobby Wagner, Jordyn Brooks and Darrell Taylor.
And the secondary, with Jamal Adams out, consisted of Quandre Diggs at free safety and Marquise Blair at strong with D.J. Reed at right cornerback and Ahkello Witherspoon on the left side.
Blair hitting ground running
Speaking of Blair, it’s worth noting one more time that he was full go, just as he was during minicamp in the spring.
Blair, a third-year safety out of Utah, suffered an ACL injury in the second game of last season, and such injuries can sometimes linger, which is why it was a somewhat pleasant surprise to see him as active as he was in the spring.
Blair showed again Wednesday that the injury appears to be a non-factor. Blair was not only a constant presence on defense filling in for Adams in the base defense and working as the starting nickel, but also on special teams as the up back on the punt team, a spot that in recent years has been held by the departed Shaquem Griffin and the currently injured Travis Homer.
Carroll noted that Adams’ absence “really helps (Blair) get more reps and show where he fits in.’’
The Diggs-Adams combo will make it tough for Blair to be a regular safety anytime soon, barring injury. But Blair looks like he could return to being the nickel and maybe also force the Seahawks to find ways to get him on the field in some other packages.
Aldon Smith gets lots of work
As had been anticipated, Aldon Smith made his Seahawks practice debut, wearing No. 99.
And while he hadn’t taken the field in any capacity during the offseason program, he appeared to have no limitations Wednesday, getting extensive work during team drills at the rush end position.
Carroll said Smith was held out of offseason workouts because the team was uncertain of his conditioning and didn’t want to risk an injury. “We didn’t know the body of work coming in,’’ Carroll said.
But Carroll said it was evident Wednesday that Smith is “in really good shape. He’s worked really hard to get here.’’
It’s tough to make much of one, no-contact practice — it’ll be a while before anyone can know where Smith may fit in.
But Carroll indicated he’d seen some positive flashes Wednesday, saying “I can’t wait to get upstairs and see the film.’’
Smith has an arraignment set for Aug. 24 in connection with a battery charge in Louisiana. Carroll said he couldn’t speak to Smith’s legal situation so he didn’t answer directly if the team has any concerns over his availability. Seattle GM John Schneider said earlier the team would let the legal process play out before making any statements on his availability.