RENTON -- Whenever the Seahawks backs and receivers head to one end of the field to challenge the linebackers and secondary in their daily 7-on-7 session, the linemen on both sides of the ball retreat to the other end to engage in their more personal and primitive duels.
In successive pairs, an offensive lineman attempts to pass block an on-rushing defender. It’s one-on-one, facemask-to-facemask, and it’s often the most intense session of the day.
Since the defenders know it’s a pass play, and they’re only going to get single-blocked, they have a significant advantage. So, assessing the outcomes is a little unfair to offensive linemen.But these can be real indicator moments for players, particularly as regards their attitude and athleticism.
That rookie guard Germain Ifedi stood tough against Pro Bowl defensive end Michael Bennett on Monday was a good sign for the newly reconfigured Seahawks offensive line.
Others performed well, too, particularly guard Mark Glowinski. All of them across the front deserve close attention this preseason becauase the universal critique of the Seahawks chances in 2016 concern the development of the offensive line
There’s a rich history to this drill around here. Jacob Green and Bryan Millard had some storied battles back in the Chuck Knox days.
Linebacker Chad Brown still tells the story about the first day that Hall of Fame tackle Walter Jones showed up in camp in 1997 and lined up for the pass-protection session. Brown, a Pro Bowl talent, the previous season had beaten gifted tackle Tony Boselli for two sacks with his favorite move in a game.
Brown decided he would test Jones right off the bat with that move. Jones stonewalled him. Same results the second time. Brown said that he thinks the experience going against Jones damaged his confidence for a long while. It certainly showed how quickly Jones could handle the best in the NFL.
Rookie first-round pick Steve Hutchinson showed up for training camp in 2001 and found himself lined up against one of the best interior pass rushers in the history of the league, John Randle, who had been brought in from the Vikings. Hutchinson would end up making it to seven Pro Bowls, and he has cited the lessons learned from Randle as keys to his early progress.
On the other side of the ball, nose tackle Brandon Mebane was unblockable in his first pass-protection session in 2007. He didn’t go on to rack up many sacks in his career in Seattle, but on that first day, he showed the leverage he gained from his low center of gravity. And over the years, Mebane and center Max Unger had some duels that were the highlights of the day’s practices -- and both later said how important those were to improving them as players.
Bennett has become one of the league’s best pass rushers because of his quick get-off and high-revving motor, but also because he has to be one of the best at using his hands. Former D-line coach and coordinator Dan Quinn was so good at teaching rushers the art of hand-fighting, being able to keep offensive linemen from get hold of them.
Bennett, too, is relentless, as is bookend rusher Cliff Avril, who probably doesn’t get the credit he deserves because so many of his great rushes end up in quarterback hurries and hits rather than the more noticable sacks. So, Seahawks defenders are expected to dominate these sessions.
Aside from Ifedi, Glowinski was very sharp in his match-ups. And a player I might rate as Most Improved thus far has been second-year tackle Terry Poole. Coach Pete Carroll cited his improved fitness and preparedness, and it’s been obvious in his play. He’s big and strong and aggressive, and at least for now, shows promise as a backup on the right side.
-- Running backs coach Sherman Smith provided insightful background on the impressive start of Christine Michael, my column topic in the TNT Tuesday morning. Michael was traded by the Hawks at the start of last season, and subsequently was cut by Dallas and Washington.
He returned a new man late last season, though, and is picking up where he left off, working well with the first offense while Thomas Rawls recovers from his ankle injury.
“The physical part was never an issue,” Smith said. “He’s one of the most talented guys I’ve ever seen.” Smith was the Seahawks’ original running back in 1976, and he’s been coaching almost ever since. He tutored Eddie George with the Titans, for instance. For him to say that Michael is among the most talented backs he’s ever seen is a high endorsement.
Smith helped Michael take that negative of being cut by two teams and turn it into a positive when he returned to Seattle.
“The thing I said to him was that this wasn’t about him proving anybody wrong for letting him go, it was about proving us right for having drafted him the second round in the first place,” Smith said. “We were the team that wanted him.”