A sneak peak at the Seahawks linebackers drill at training camp
Oh, you wanted good Seahawks news from day five of training camp?
Well, the record-setting heat did finally subside a bit on Tuesday.
With the words top receiver Doug Baldwin will be out weeks with a left knee injury he brought to camp and Dion Jordan is going to be missing for “a while” because of a stress fracture in his leg to reduce an already-iffy pass rush, this was not exactly a triumphant news day in Seahawks camp.
But the team got better results on the field during practice at team headquarters.
Here is what I saw, heard and learned on Tuesday:
1. Maurice Alexander’s chance begins The Rams starter until they cut him in October was the starting strong safety for the second consecutive day, with Bradley McDougald at free safety on day five of The Earl Thomas Holdout Impasse.
The combinations the Seahawks have used at safety so far in camp have been the versatile McDougald at free safety with 2017 fourth-round pick Tedric Thompson at Thomas’ free-safety spot for a couple days, last year’s third-round choice Delano Hill at strong safety with McDougald at free safety—and now perhaps the most intriguing without-Earl option.
The Seahawks signed Alexander this spring to a low-risk, one-year deal worth $880,000. Finally on the field and full go after months recovering this offseason from a shoulder injury, he looks the part of trying to follow Kam Chancellor as the thumping safety closer to the line of scrimmage. Alexander is a stout 6 feet 2 and 220 pounds, with shoulders that expand with his pads. He was featured in the middle of the changed defense in a run-game scrimmage.
“Well, you look at his body type. He’s big. He’s strong,” Seahawks defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. said. “He has the ability to cover, as well. But his strength, as you know, with a size body like that, he can lower the shoulder on you.”
If Thomas extends his holdout toward the regular season, the Seahawks may decide to boost their younger, transitioning defense with the safety pairing with the most NFL starting experience.
That’s Alexander and McDougald.
“Just getting started with him and I can’t wait to see the film (from Tuesday),” Carroll said.
“I’m really excited to see how he fits in. I see him as a little bit different type of player than some of the guys that we have so I’m anxious to see what that means. I’m not quite sure at this point, but from what we’ve seen in the past, he’ll be a very physical guy who loves to hit you. I’m hoping that really jumps out.”
Not only does Alexander have starting experience in the league, he’s got it in Seattle’s NFC West. He’s started 23 games for the Rams the last three seasons. He’s played 13 games within the division.
“It’s fantastic, really. To have that play out...I mean, I know he can play,” Carroll said. “I just want to see what kind of player he is and how we can fit him in and find his style. You know, I think I probably said this a million times, but the safeties, they’re unique and their makeup is unique. We’ve had so many different guys over the years that, we fit the way we play to their style and all that, and I’m just excited to see what it is for us and then find out what that all means when it unveils itself.
“But Mo’s an exciting player.”
Then again, “Mo” may be on the bench whenever Thomas finally shows up, because the Seahawks like McDougald so much.
2. Amara Darboh finally shows up. Before Tuesday, I can’t really remember the third-round pick last year from Michigan doing much in any practice, summer, fall, winter or spring.
Then with Baldwin out, Brandon Marshall still not full go from toe and ankle surgeries last year and David Moore now out with a hip flexor, Darboh got a bigger chance. He made a sharp out cut at the goal line. Then Darboh made a deft, one-armed catch into the crook of his right arm of Wilson’s dart of a throw into tight coverage. That was for a touchdown in a red-zone drill. He made multiple other catches as Wilson seemed to throw to him more in one day than he had in months.
“He made some nice plays today. He’s doing really well,” Carroll said. “He’s fit and battling. He’s a big strong kid out there. He’s fast, too. He’s done some good stuff, but it’s just too early to call any of these positions or the opinions on these guys. But I’m just thrilled about the way that they’re going about it. They’re competing like crazy.”
General manager John Schneider has said he drafted Darboh for now polished and NFL-ready his route running was. Tuesday was the first time it was really noticeable and got results. Just as coaches are looking for a receiver to assert himself while Baldwin and Marshall mend.
3. Will Dissly can pass block, too. The rookie and former University of Washington defensive lineman Huskies coach Chris Petersen converted to tight end beginning at a bowl practice shined in one of each day’s Seahawks highlights in camp: the always-competitive pass-rush/pass-blocking drill.
The 6-4, 265-pound Dissly stonewalled rookie sixth-round pick Jacob Martin, who’s been a consistent subject of Carroll’s praise.
Then Dissly did that again on the next snap.
Dissly was reputed to be the best run-blocking tight end in this year’s draft. If he can pass block like he did in that drill, newly signed Ed Dickson (still limited by injury) won’t be Seattle’s only tight end known as skilled at stopping edge rushers. And that’d be two more blocking tight ends than the Seahawks had last season with Jimmy Graham and Luke Willson.
4. Rookie Jamarco Jones looks good. In the same pass-blocking drill, the rookie fifth-round pick from Ohio State fanned out and stood his ground at the point of impact with a charging outside linebacker on consecutive snaps.
And it was no garden-variety linebacker, either. Jones stopped K.J. Wright, the Seahawks’ Pro Bowl weakside backer.
With George Fant returning to full participation Monday from reconstructive knee surgery last summer, the attention’s been on left tackle Duane Brown’s contract extension and Fant potentially challenging Germain Ifedi for the job at right tackle. Jones looked Tuesday like he’s trying to get his coaches’ attention to not forget about him.
5. Russell Wilson has the play of the day. His receiving cast keeps changing, so much so Wilson said this camp feels like his rookie one. But Wilson keeps throwing sharp passes onto whoever’s hands.
Tuesday, Jaron Brown sprinted from the right side down the middle of the defense in a team scrimmage. Starting cornerback Byron Maxwell didn’t stay with Brown, and Alexander was late to provide help. Wilson threw a line drive about 50 yards over Alexander and Maxwell and onto Brown’s outstretched hands while the former Arizona Cardinal was in full stride. It was the best pass I’ve seen Wilson throw in this camp.
6. Shaquem Griffin’s speed, versatility show up on consecutive plays. Somebody asked Norton about what rookie linebacker Shaquem Griffin has shown as a weakside linebacker pass rushing. The lead defensive coach looked at the guy with an expression that said, “who needs pass rushing with all else Griffin can do?”
Then Norton sounded like Carroll and went on about how impressive Griffin’s speed is to everyone who watches him.
On one scrimmage play, the former safety at the University of Central Florida lined up outside on third-down running back C.J. Prosise, who was split right as if a wide receiver. Griffin ran step for step with Prosise, a former Notre Dame wide receiver. Before the next snap, Griffin showed an “A” gap blitz between the center and guard. Then he dropped off and ran in tight coverage with Dissly down the middle of the field. Both times, the quarterback’s throws went away from Griffin.
“Well, he’s best at a lot of things. I think his biggest strength is everyone knows, is his speed,” Norton said. “He’s really, really fast. He has a great combination with that speed, his mind. He really thinks well and really loves ball.
“So, it’s been a joy to coach him because he has his combination of speed, he loves ball and he understands what his strengths are, and he plays to them.“