Wilson not only rookie to shine
RENTON – Former Seattle Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren used to have a tactful phrase to describe some of the young players in the depth chart cellar early in NFL camp. They soon will be “free to go about their life’s work,” he said.
Most of the 58 players in action with the Seahawks over the weekend at rookie and tryout camp will never again put on an NFL uniform. So it stands as a challenge to judge performances by those competing against the short-timers.
But there were a number of Rookie Camp All-Stars whose life’s work will be playing football for money.
Russell Wilson was not the highest draft pick, but, as a quarterback, his appearance was the most eagerly anticipated. And some first impressions are what you might expect. At 5-foot-11, he’s shorter than just about every NFL quarterback you’ve ever seen.
But after a few plays, you stop paying attention to his size and instead notice how he plays the position.
The ball leaves his hand in a hurry and gets to where it needs to be quickly. Of some 500 plays over the weekend, the Seahawks only had to re-rack the offense one time to get the right play processed. So he has a surprising command of the huddle already.
He completed balls deep and wide, and as impressive, he has the touch and accuracy to find flaring backs in perfect stride.
He had a few balls tipped at the line on Friday, but fewer as the weekend progressed. Questions of durability and adaptation and performance against big-time defenders remain, but coach Pete Carroll said he’s already shown enough to be tossed into competition for the starting job.
That is a significant accomplishment in just three practices in shorts – for a quarterback of any size.
Top draft pick Bruce Irvin did not dominate as a pass rusher, but that is good in some ways. Much of the time he was going against a veteran try-out tackle, Alex Barron, a former first-round draft pick of the Rams. Barron, at 6-foot-7 and 320 pounds, has a first-rounder’s body. He missed last season with an injury, and has a history of penalties and under-achievement, but he handled Irvin well enough that he seems worthy of a longer look as potential high-quality line depth.
Of the other draft picks, running back Robert Turbin shows a nice burst, and linebackers Bobby Wagner and Korey Toomer are both impressive athletes who flow to the play. Defensive linemen Jaye Howard and Greg Scruggs both are big guys who are lean and have pass-rushing potential.
Carroll touted converted defensive lineman J.R. Sweezy at guard, and also free agent guard Rishaw Johnson. But a non-drafted lineman who also really looks the part is Joel Figueroa, a 6-5, 322-pound long-armed guard out of Miami who plays with an appropriately surly attitude.
The success of recent undrafted Seahawks such as Doug Baldwin and David Hawthorne provide hope to anybody who gets a jersey in these camps, and a couple of relative unknowns kept making impressive plays.
Receiver Phil Bates is a converted quarterback from Ohio U. who is 6-1, 220, goes up strong and grabs the ball like he’s using a pair of Vise-Grips. He and Wilson connected on dozens of completions over the weekend.
At 5-11, 185 pounds, Donny Lisowski does not fit the new profile of Seahawks cornerbacks. But all he did was cover guys closely and make plays when the ball came near. The O’Dea High product played at Montana, and his speed (in the range of 4.3 seconds in the 4-yard dash) grabbed the attention of an important evaluator this weekend.
“I was really fired up about him,” Carroll said of Lisowsky. “I think he’ll surprise you. I’m anxious to see what he can do on special teams and all kinds of stuff. He’s a playmaker and was all over the field.”
Although the players might have been addressed by their numbers on occasion because coaches sometimes whiffed on their names, they were on an NFL field, getting a chance to be seen and coached by an NFL staff.
“To get out there and be in the NFL for a weekend and show what they can do … they’ll never forget it,” Carroll said. “This is a first step for a lot of these guys. And for some of them, it will be their only step. We try to treat these days with them with a lot of respect for where their hearts are.”
True. At the end of practice on Sunday, general manager John Schneider was near the edge of the field shaking hands with guys as they came off – probably for the last time. Small thing, but a nice gesture as they head off to discover their life’s work.