Seahawks rookie first-round pick Rashaad Penny on his first days in NFL
Let's start with the most compelling: What Shaquem Griffin is doing is nothing short of amazing.
And, to hear folks from Central Florida tell it, Griffin's impressive first days with the Seahawks were more of the usual from the most unique rookie linebacker Seattle—heck, the entire NFL—has ever had.
Coach Pete Carroll marveled last weekend that the first one-handed player drafted into the modern NFL was flying around so aggressively at the start of Seattle's rookie minicamp coaches had to "chill him out." And that was during a walk-through drill.
Those who know the relentless Griffin around Orlando, Fla., got a laugh at that.
Griffin will be trying to win a situational role behind Pro Bowl outside linebacker K.J. Wright on the weak side this summer, while contributing to special-teams kick coverage. It's going to get especially real in the coming weeks when Shaquem and his twin brother Shaquill, the Seahawks' starting cornerback who is older than Shaquem by one minute, are on the field together for organized team activities and the mandatory minicamp June 12-14.
What has Shaquill told Shaquem about these first days in the NFL and with the Seahawks?
“Work. Stay humble," Shaquem said. "He said you can’t predict anything. The only thing you can do is do your best and give everything you got and let everything else play for itself.
"That’s one thing I’m here to do to is give all I got and hopefully I’ll be a guy who can contribute in any way possible.”
Here are observations and what the (almost) always-positive Carroll said about, each of Seattle's nine rookie draft choices during the three days of minicamp practices that ended Sunday.
First round: Rashaad Penny.
The 27th-overall pick is only the third running back Seattle's drafted in the first round, after Curt Warner (1983) and Shaun Alexander (2000). Penny looked bigger in his No. 20 practice jersey and no pads than 5-feet-11 and 220 pounds, as the Seahawks list him.
The nature of these no-pads, no-contact minicamps makes pass plays stand out. Plus, NFL rules prohibit defenders from even making any kind of play on throws in flight, in the interest of player safety and injury prevention. So receivers tend to look good, really good, this time of year.
Still, Penny — who led the nation in rushing with 2,200 yards and 23 touchdowns at San Diego State — looked better in the passing game than perhaps the Seahawks expected. At one point, he was split out catching slant passes, like a wide receiver.
"Rashaad came out very comfortable," Carroll said. "We moved him around a lot just to see things that he could do, just to start gathering information. A little bit in the running game but more in the passing game just to see what we could see."
Now, on to pass blocking.
Here's more of the first impression that Penny could be worth more to Seattle's offense as a three-down back in 2018.
Third round: Rasheem Green.
Green played a pass-rushing defensive tackle at USC largely because that line had NFL-quality ends. In the minicamp, he looked like what Seattle drafted him to be: Big enough to play inside, long and quick enough to pass rush outside. It's the Michael Bennett role the Pro Bowl end had until the Seahawks traded him this offseason.
It's also what Malik McDowell, Seattle's 2017 top pick, could have been had he not crashed an ATV last summer and sustained head injuries that have his career in doubt.
Again, it's way early. With no pads, no one was truly getting blocked. But, as Carroll put it, Green "looked like he’s been coached for a long time."
"As a matter of fact, his (USC defensive line) coach, Kenechi Udeze, who had been with us (as a Seahawks assistant) and is an old Trojan and all that, has done a terrific job with him," said Carroll, the former USC head man.
"You can just see his awareness and just his feel for things showed up already; using his hands and timing and some stuff that he did was good. He's an experienced kid for a 20-year-old."
Green turns 21 next week.
Fourth round: Will Dissly.
The former defensive lineman Washington coach Chris Petersen converted to tight end after Dissly was messing around catching passes during a Huskies bowl practice dropped some throws throughout the weekend, including a couple deep over the middle off his hands. But he also natural skills such as smooth route running — he wasn't a lumbering ex-D-lineman. He extended his hands well out in front of his chest, adjusting those mitts quickly to catch the ball.
He's reputed to be the best blocking tight end in this draft class. So the Bozeman, Mont., native won't get a full chance to show his best until after training camp begins the last week of July.
"Very bright kid, obviously, could pick stuff up right away," Carroll said, "but probably looked better in the passing game than we expected. We saw him catch the ball well, but he just looked really clean running routes and all so that was great.”
Fifth round: Shaquem Griffin.
Carroll said Griffin "looked very comfortable" as weak-side linebacker, what the Seahawks call the "Will" linebacker.
"He has a sense already for scheme and terminology. The position is the right spot for him, it looks like," the coach said. "We can be aggressive and use his speed."
Griffin was a linebacker his final two years at Central Florida, and was one of college football's best at it. In 2016 he was the American Athletic Conference's defensive player of the year. Last season he was again an all-conference linebacker for a 13-0 team that beat Auburn in the Peach Bowl on New Year's Day.
His first two seasons before that, Shaquem was a safety at UCF. Shaquill said the day Seattle drafted his twin he envisioned a possible hybrid linebacker/safety role for Shaquem moving all over the defense.
Given his speed and attacking of passes in the air plus his tackling ability, Carroll hinted Griffin could play safety, too.
“I’m not going to close off anything on what we might try," Carroll said. "There’s so many plays in nickel scheme where you need guys that can be in coverage. His ability, and having the background of playing safety, playing linebacker fits perfectly.
"So the 'Will' backer spot in nickel is one where you’re involved in coverage the whole time. So he’ll learn a ton from K.J. and have a chance to figure out how to play that spot. I think he’s in a good spot.
"But could he (play safety)? Yeah, he could. He could play both ends of it.”
Fifth round: Tre Flowers.
The first days of the Seahawks converting him from Oklahoma State safety to cornerback looked smooth. Flowers just looks like a Seahawks cornerback.
He is 6-3, the same height as Richard Sherman. Flowers' 33 7/8-inch arms are 1 7/8 inches longer than Sherman's measured at his combine.
"This is one that I’m really excited about," Carroll said.
"We spotted a player that we thought had special qualities that could be a corner. He’s played safety basically his whole life. I think he’s been a 3½ year starter at OK State, and I really liked the way he played there. But because he’s so tall and because he’s so agile and he’s a good tackler and a good all around player, I think we’ve got a chance to have a really nice prospect."
Carroll mentioned that besides Brandon Browner, a 6-4 cornerback for the Seahawks from 2011-13, Flowers is probably the tallest cornerback he's coached with Seattle, "so it’ll be fun to work with him.”
Fifth round: Michael Dickson.
This guy has the potential to make punts fun.
On the first day of the minicamp Carroll lined up offensive and defensive linemen about 50 yards away from Dickson. The coach had the big guys try to catch the Aussie's soaring, swerving boomerang punts. It was comical. Dissly and many others flailed. Few manged to catch them.
"The competition was really not for the catchers. It was a chance to see the punter kick the football, and see how he would do with a bunch of guys watching, try to put some heat on him," Carroll said. "And he banged the ball pretty good today.
"There was a lot of good stuff to draw from.”
Carroll and general manager John Schneider say Jon Ryan will remain on the roster for a summer competition with the University of Texas star punter who played Australian Rules Football from age 8 to 18 in his native country.
Ryan, 36, is the longest-tenured Seahawk; he's been on the team since 2008, two years before Carroll and Schneider arrived. The Seahawks could save $2 million against their salary cap for this year by releasing Ryan, who has two years and $5.6 million left on his deal.
The competition will begin. But Seattle didn't trade up seven spots and give a seventh-round pick to Denver on draft day to cut Dickson.
Sixth round: Jamarco Jones.
Jones practiced at left tackle in the minicamp, the same position he started his last two seasons at Ohio State. Left tackle is where Duane Brown plays as Seattle's best and most-accomplished blocker. Brown turns 33 in August. He has this year remaining on his contract. He says he wants to extend it so he can retire with the Seahawks.
Carroll left open the possibility of Jones playing right tackle, too.
"We’ll move him a little, in time, just to see the flexibility that he has," Carroll said. "He’s a good ballplayer and everything looked great for the first time out. We’re a million miles away from knowing what a lineman can do when we’re in this kind of camp, but it’s a good start.”
Sixth round: Jacob Martin.
An edge pass rusher at strong-side defensive end at Temple, Martin showed athleticism and nimbleness that made the Seahawks think he may be able to play strong-side linebacker, too. Seattle needs one, after not re-signing veteran Michael Wilhoite when his one-year contract ended at the end of last season. Really, the Seahawks have needed a "Sam" linebacker since Bruce Irvin left to sign with Oakland in free agency in the spring of 2016.
"Jacob is a really agile football player. He’s got some flexibility," Carroll said. "We’re playing him at the 'Leo' (end) spot, (retired Cliff Avril's former position) right now to see how he looks there. He’s been a rusher primarily.
"He’s got linebacker skills: really good speed, really good agility. So we’ll see what that means down the road here. But that’s a good sign just that there’s some flexibility where we can play him. He look like he can play the 'Sam' backer spot as well. But we really like him at the start to see him coming off the edge. His chase and his motor is really special, so we’ll see how that fits with us.”
Seventh round: Alex McGough.
Again, pass plays and thus quarterbacks typically look good when no one is rushing the thrower, no one is hitting him, and no one is defending his passes. Yet McGough, who impressed the Seahawks with his ability to throw accurately while escaping his many pursuers in Florida International's games in his college spread offense, further impressed his new team with his arm strength and accuracy from the pocket.
One-time NFL starter Austin Davis remains the likely No. 2 to Russell Wilson again now that he's re-signed. But McGough showed he has promise to develop for the longer term.
"Probably the surprise of the (first rookie minicamp) day was Alex. I thought Alex did a very nice job," Carroll said. "He showed really good arm strength. We know that he’s very mobile. He showed a lot of mobility out of him. He got chased a lot last year on film, so we know that he can move around and make things happen. But he had really good arm strength and he threw the ball really accurately (here) for his first time out."