Russell Wilson gets more practice reps and -- viola! -- he’s suddenly sharper than aged cheddar from that state he led to the Rose Bowl in college.
Earl Thomas intercepts backup quarterback Trevone Boykin and -- presto! -- “it means we’re back, complete,” teammate Richard Sherman said. That was after Sherman bowed at Thomas’ feet on the field immediately after the pick.
Thomas Rawls gets the first plays and carries at running back and looks decisive. Doug Baldwin catches two passes from Wilson on as many snaps and signals first down. Jermaine Kearse turns one of Wilson’s few errant throws into a touchdown with a splendid, leaping, twisting catch that made his humbling 2016 seem like it never happened.
Monday’s mock game pitting the starting units against the reserves was the Seahawks’ most feel-good -- and look-good -- event so far in this eight days of training camp.
Yes, saying these was the best times of camp so far crosses a low bar. The first week-plus has included the possibility Malik McDowell won’t play his rookie Seahawks season this year plus Frank Clark punching teammate Germain Ifedi out of the starting offensive line for four days through Monday.
But Wilson’s heating up in time to make a cameo appearance Sunday in the first exhibition at the Los Angeles Chargers and the further cementing that Thomas is all the way back from his broken leg in December are two of Seattle’s better signs for this time of the summer.
Wilson, by the team’s wholly unofficial statistics for this wholly unofficial “game,” completed 15 of 18 throws for two touchdowns -- the other score was to J.D. McKissic, after Wilson pumped faked inside to Kenny Lawler and found McKissic alone on the right in the red zone. Wilson’s six drives leading the starting offense produced 17 points, two punts when the defense (wearing neon green) got stops, and a kneel-down to end the day.
New kicker Blair Walsh got the three points with a 38-yard field goal.
It came one day after Wilson’s sharpest practice this summer.
“Yeah, he’s had a couple really good few days back to back to back. He’s really on it,” coach Pete Carroll said. “He’s changing his reps a little bit. We want to get him a more reps to make sure he’s getting enough turns. Since we’ve done that he’s really picked up.
“He’s doing great. He’s in good shape, and he’s working the ball around really well.”
The one caveat to those numbers remains this team’s biggest issue for 2017: the offensive line gave up sacks on two of Wilson’s biggest completions Monday.
Reserve defensive end David Bass beat starting left tackle George Fant for what in a game would have been a sack of Wilson, before Wilson completed a pass to tight end Jimmy Graham into the red zone.
Then running back C.J. Prosise split out wide left and blew past everyone in the secondary for a 55-yard catch and run off Wilson’s pass -- which wouldn’t have happened in a real game, either. Rookie second-round pick Ethan Pocic got beaten soundly outside in pass protection on that play.
Pocic was there because Ifedi was limited to position drills only in his first practice since Clark punched him and gave him an unspecified injury. Carroll said Ifedi will participate more fully in practice Wednesday, after the players’ day off on Tuesday.
Thomas was back at his All-Pro free-safety spot zooming from sideline to sideline and hawking over-matched Boykin and No. 3 QB Austin Davis. The opposing quarterbacks will be far better onces the games get real -- with one of the best, Aaron Rodgers, up first on Sept. 10 at Green Bay. Yet what Thomas has shown these first eight days coming back from his broken tibia is perhaps Seattle’s camp highlight so far.
“It’s awesome. It’s awesome. It means we’re back, complete,” Sherman said. “He’s obviously a huge part of what we’re doing and what we want to do. We knew he’d be back. We know his personality, we know his work ethic. We had no question he’d be back in time. And we’re happy to see that we were right.”
OFFENSIVE LINE DU JOUR: Luke Joeckel got what Carroll described as a rest day; he had season-ending knee surgery in October while with Jacksonville. That meant another day, another starting line.
Fant was the left tackle with Rees Odhiambo and not Joeckel next to him at left guard. Justin Britt was again the center. Mark Glowinski played the first half of the scrimmage as the first-team right guard, with veteran offseason acquisition Oday Aboushi taking the second half there. Pocic’s time as the No. 1 right tackle may end Wednesday if Ifedi indeed returns to full participation.
In addition to what would have been the sacks, the starting line had two holding calls by the visiting NFL officiating crew on one drive early in Monday’s second half.
LACY MAKES WEIGHT AGAIN: Carroll said running back Eddie Lacy made his weight goal of 250 pounds or below last week for August, per his one-year, incentive-filled deal with the Seahawks. That means the former Green Bay Packers’ 1,110-yard back has collected three $55,000 bonuses so far. His next weigh-in with the team is next month.
“Yep. Perfectly on track,” Carroll said.
“Eddie is doing great. He hasn’t missed anything. He’s been very attentive to everything that we are doing. He can catch the football well; we know he can run thick and heavy. You don’t get to see all of that right now. He’s in good shape. He’s done everything we’ve asked him. He’s done a great job. It’s going to take us a while, but as we get to these games, everyone is going to get the football we can see how it feels with different guys running because we have a lot of diversity in the running back spot as well.”
What else I saw and heard from the mock game:
▪ Shaquill Griffin was the starting right cornerback, with Jeremy Lane out for the fourth straight practice with what Carroll said is a “soft-tissue injury.” Griffin, the rookie third-round pick from Central Florida, is seizing this chance.
As I wrote here last month saying he was the rookie draft choice with the best chance to start, Griffin looks the part of a Seahawks cornerback: tall (6-1) with long arms and blazing speed to run with any receiver and at the ball in flight.
“There is just nothing but positives,” Carroll said. “We have never had a guy that runs this fast that is this big.
“So right now it is all about technique. And he has no problem with it. But he will get a lot better. He will understand situations and the application of technique much more so, it’s just going to take time. He is going to get a lot of play time during preseason. We will see how he does.”
▪ DeAndre Elliott was the first nickel back inside with Lane out.
▪ Boykin overthrew a dump-off pass to Prosise over the middle by about 5 yards. Davis threw about 5 yards beyond the left sideline boundary way over an open undrafted rookie college track champion Cyril Grayson.
▪ Bradley McDougald did what defensive coordinator Kris Richard said he’d do soon after Seattle signed him from Tampa Bay this spring. McDougald filled in for resting strong safety Kam Chancellor on the starting defense for one drive, then for Thomas at free safety the next drive. The Seahawks seem to want to find ways to use McDougald back there some way, somehow this season. He’s looked good, and he has the experience of five NFL seasons.
“Really natural player. He fits in beautifully,” Carroll said. “He is really rotating with Kam and Earl. We feel like we have three starting safeties there that are really working it. That’s a great bonus for us. That’s the best we’ve been with that kind of experience and play-making ability. I think you guys are really going to like him.”
▪ Pro Bowl defensive end Cliff Avril beat reserve offensive lineman Will Pericak on consecutive snaps for what would have been a sack, then a stop of the cutting Rawls right into him for a loss of yards -- had tackling been allowed.
▪ When Bobby Wagner took a couple drives of rest from the starting defense, former 49ers starter Michael Wilhoite was the middle linebacker and Terence Garvin was the strong-side linebacker. Carroll has said those two plus the re-signing last week of veteran Mike Morgan make Seattle so much deeper and better at linebacker and at special teams for this season.
▪ Defensive end Cassius Marsh played some outside linebacker, as he did a bit last season. One running play Prosise took off 40 yards down the right sideline as a decoy away from the play. Marsh ran with the speedy Prosise nearly step for step. That had the watching Sherman off the sideline, running to Marsh and leaping with him for celebratory, shared chest bump.
▪ Elliott, who played cornerback in January’s divisional playoff loss at Atlanta after DeShawn Shead injured his knee, was the second-team left cornerback in addition to first nickel. Pierre Desir was the second right cornerback behind Griffin.
▪ The unofficial numbers from the mock game: