The Seattle Seahawks wrapped up the veteran minicamp today with a practiced that lasted nearly two hours.
Today I focused on watching the defense, including this video clip above, which shows defensive line/assistant coach Dan Quinn (on the sled) and defensive coordinator Gus Bradley (foreground) working with the defensive line on the sled. Again, nothing earth shattering here, but just a look-in to get a feel for what's going on at practice.
The last two days Seattle's coaches have focused on installing the base offense and defense, making sure the players are picking things up.
We've seen a lot more teaching in the last couple days, with position groups working on specific things, and then taking that specific learning and putting together during team drills.
One thing that I've found interesting is the emphasis on stripping the ball and creating turnovers. The defense works on strip drills at the beginning of each practice, which includes station drills focused on stripping the ball from in front of the ball carrier, from behind the ball carrier and rushing the quarterback.
They also have nifty footballs on a rope so they don't waste time retrieving them after they knock the ball away.
And during 1-on-1 passing drills, inside running drills, passing drills and team scrimmages the defensive players are constantly hacking at ball carriers trying to get the ball out.
All NFL teams work on this, but defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said it's been a point of emphasis this week because Seattle finished 27th in the league in turnovers forced in 2008 (20 overall, nine interceptions and 11 fumbles recovered). The Hawks finished seventh in the league in turnovers forced (34) during their 2007 playoff run.
Bradley said if Seattle is going to play more of a cover-2 scheme and keep plays in front of them, then they have to rally to the ball and be physical at the point of attack.
"We've got to have our guys -- if are going to try and make this zone concept really work for us -- then we have to go after strips because that's the advantage of doing it," Bradley said. Listen to Bradley talk about the defensive changes here.
Linebacker Lofa Tatupu also noted the amount of pursuit drills the defense is doing during practice.
"A little hard work never hurt anybody," he said. "Not to say we weren't working hard before, but I feel the difference in the practices. And I tell you one thing, we'll be one of the best conditioned teams in the league. So it won't be for a lack of effort if we suffer any losses."
Offensive coordinator Greg Knapp is putting the same expectations on the offense. The ball carrier is required to run 40 yards each time on each play, and Knapp doesn't let anyone off the hook. He even jumped receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh for not following through with the drill after he caught a pass on a short sideline route. The offensive line is also required to get down field on pass plays to get another block. The coaches are doing this to create a habit they hope will translate to the game, but it's also part of holding every player accountable.
Chris Spencer's back appears okay, and he made it through the week fine. Spencer said he had a herniated disk which caused numbness and pain shooting down his legs, and that he eventually couldn't feel his toes and had to go on the injured list for fear of making it worse.
Spencer said after resting his back and allowing it to calm down, he began his rehabilitation and he feels 100 percent healthy now. During his rehab, Spencer said he worked on strengthening his back muscles.
"It went good today," Spencer said about returning to the field. "I'm just knocking of a little rust and trying to get back into my full go. With a back injury you're kind of tentative at first, but once I got into practice and started moving I wasn't thinking about it."
Spencer said with the switch to zone blocking that he has more responsibility in terms of making line calls and reading defenses. Specifically, along with anticipating blitzes and line shifts, Spencer also is responsible for accounting for the safeties and where they are rotating.
However, Spencer said he's ahead of the curve because offensive line coach Mike Solari set the foundation for the scheme last season, and now the Seahawks are actually implementing it.