Seattle Seahawks

A Hercules at wide receiver, and 4 other things to follow during Seahawks’ rookie minicamp

TNT’s Gregg Bell on what shocked Pete Carroll about the Seahawks’ 2019 draft that had SO many moves

The News Tribune’s Gregg Bell on what shocked coach Pete Carroll about the Seahawks’ 2019 NFL draft that had SO many moves.
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The News Tribune’s Gregg Bell on what shocked coach Pete Carroll about the Seahawks’ 2019 NFL draft that had SO many moves.

The Seahawks’ eventful offseason continues this weekend with the annual rookie minicamp.

Eleven draft choices, second-most in the NFL last weekend, will join a dozen or so undrafted rookie free agents and dozens more tryout and first-year veteran players with none or little league-game experience. They will practice Friday and Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning on the team’s lakeside fields at Seahawks headquarters in Renton.

Below is a list of the five things I’ll be watching for this weekend.

What I won’t be watching for: contact. The workouts are helmets-and-shorts affairs, with no pads and no hitting. The league’s collective bargaining agreement prohibits contact in offseason practices,

In fact, the full-go hitting for Seattle really doesn’t occur until the four preseason games in August. The Seahawks don’t truly go full-go in contact in training camp, other than the hand-to-hand combat along the line of scrimmage that is as routine for linemen as the sun rising.

The no contract means the true evaluation and intrigue for at least one rookie draft pick won’t happen until August (see below):

1. Is D.K. Metcalf Popeye? Hercules? Superhuman?

He was a national sensation and internet phenomenon for his pre-draft workouts and images, and his shirtless meeting at the league’s scouting combine with also-topless Seahawks coach Pete Carroll.

And there were the stories of his body fat being a ridiculous 1.9 percent.

Metcalf set that straight last weekend. He told us after the Seahawks drafted him his body fat is actually “about 3 percent.”

Must have had Doritos at his draft party.

All eyes at this minicamp will be on Metcalf, simply to see if he indeed is as sculpted as he appears.

Yet Seattle’s second-round draft choice from Mississippi is more determined to begin this weekend proving he is a fiendish worker and talented wide receiver past neck injuries of recent years. That he’s ready to contribute immediately in the NFL—not just be a 6-foot-3-1/2-inch, 229-pound physical marvel who runs 40 yards in 4.33 seconds.

“My life has changed because of people taking notice of what I’ve been able to do with my body and my numbers,” Metcalf said.

“It’s time for me to just show what kind of football player that I am.”

2. How much is L.J. Collier an outside pass rusher?

Not much, according to his best work last year at Texas Christian. And what Carroll and general manager John Schneider said after the Seahawks made the defensive end their first-round draft choice last weekend.

Talk to Seattle’s coaches, scouts and personnel guys and the same adjective keeps coming up for Collier: “heavy-handed.” That means more of a thudding, powerful rusher that can bowl over offensive tackles and guards than a speed pass rusher off the edge.

Think more Michael Bennett than Cliff Avril.

Carroll does.

“He’s going to play ‘five technique’ (off the shoulder of the offensive tackle) for us. He’s very flexible and can move around,” Carroll said. “The guy that I saw pop up on the TV that he’s a lot like is Michael Bennett.

“He has the versatility and the style and the penetration ability. He’s really slippery. He has terrific pass-rush makeup and so we’re going to fit him right in the scheme in that regard and look forward to that. You could see it early on that he had that kind of stuff to him. He’s really long and has good length to him, a really nice pass rush bag of tricks. He’s got all the stuff.

“We think we have something really special in him and I fell in love with the fact that he had a big chip on his shoulder and he wanted to prove it and all that too. He really fit in.”

Seattle still needs a true outside, speed rusher or two off the edge after trading Frank Clark to Kansas City last week. The team hosted former Detroit Lions franchise-tag player and sack man Ziggy Ansah on a free-agent visit this week. The Seahawks are considered a favorite to sign him May 7, on and after which unrestricted free agents signed do not count against compensatory picks in the 2020 draft.

“We’re not done,” Carroll said after drafting Collier, talking about pass rushers.

Seahawks general manager John Schneider, coach Pete Carroll on Seahawks’ eventful (as usual) start to the NFL draft: two taxes, four additional picks—and a pass rusher.

3. Is Marquise Blair exclusively a strong safety? And what about Ugo Amadi?

The Seahawks drafted Blair in the second round, before the more heralded Metcal. And it was because of his hitting.

“He’s a silent assassin,” Schneider said.

But Blair’s not going to be hitting anyone in this or any Seahawks minicamp this month and next. Short of that, it will be interesting to see how much Blair plays at strong safety and how much he lines up at free safety. He played both at Utah, about “50-50,” he said.

Carroll said last weekend the coaches will begin Blair at strong safety. If he shines in that role into the summer it’s conceivable the Seahawks would move starter Bradley McDougald, brilliant as a strong safety in 2018, back to free safety. That would leave Tedric Thompson on the sidelines. Thompson, Seattle’s fourth-round pick in 2017, started the last three months of last season at free safety after Earl Thomas broke his leg.

Thomas signed with Baltimore in free agency in March.

Carroll said Ugo Amadi, the fourth-round pick from Oregon, will begin as a free safety. Amadi also played nickel defensive back inside versus slot receivers while with the Ducks.

Seattle lost nickel back Justin Coleman to Detroit in free agency this offseason.

4. Can Jazz Ferguson join Seattle’s wide-receiver movement?

Carroll said the first priority in last week’s draft was not finding more edge pass rushers, as everyone assumed after the Seahawks traded Clark.

It was to get faster and bigger at wide receiver.

“That was the number one thing: we wanted to get fast, make sure we can complement the stuff, like running down the field, take advantage of Russell’s ability to throw the ball down the field, which is awesome,” Carroll said. “ And be able to complement the work that we were able to do with Tyler (Lockett), make sure that he’s not the only fast guy who can take the top off.

“We’re really excited about that.”

This priority became an imperative after top wide receiver Doug Baldwin told the team he’s considering retirement, and seems likely to have played his final NFL game at age 30 following three surgeries this offseason.

Pro Bowl veteran wide receiver Doug Baldwin, Russell Wilson’s foo target, has told Seahawks he is considering retirement, GM John Schneider, coach Pete Carroll say during the NFL draft.

So the Seahawks drafted three wide receivers, their most in 38 years. Metcalf, fourth-round choice Gary Jennings and seventh-round pick John Ursua will be at the minicamp.

So will Jazz Ferguson.

He is 6-5, 227 pounds. He runs a 4.45 40. Some in Louisiana think he can run a 4.3. His is the kind of backstory Carroll loves, and loves to capitalize upon in collecting motivated players.

All that is why Seattle signed him as an undrafted rookie free agent, according to Ferguson.

He began his career at LSU but then had academic issues and failed a drug test. He landed in state at the Football Championship Subdivision Northwestern State. He paid his own way his first year there because he didn’t have the grades to qualify for a scholarship. He worked to pay for school that year while playing on Northwestern State’s scout team. In 2018 the former LSU washout and lower-division scout-team walk-on became the Southland Conference’s offensive player of the year.

Overcoming adversity and being humbled, two of Carroll’s most desired traits in players: Check, and check.

This weekend will be a first look at how Ferguson might fit in this new emphasis on Wilson throwing the deep pass to huge, zooming wide receivers.

5. Who could be this year’s undrafted breakout Seahawk?

Ferguson is an early candidate. There will be others.

There always are.

Carroll’s Seahawks for years have been among the league leaders in undrafted rookies on the active roster during the regular season. This rookie minicamp is where Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, Thomas Rawls and other eventual starters and Seattle Super Bowl champions made their first impressions as undrafted rookies. They took full advantage of Carroll’s mantra to “always compete,” regardless of status or pedigree.

Expect multiple rookie free agents to do the same this weekend.

Gregg Bell is the Seahawks and NFL writer for The News Tribune. In January 2019 he was named the Washington state sportswriter of the year by the National Sports Media Association. He started covering the NFL in 2002 as the Oakland Raiders beat writer for The Sacramento Bee. The Ohio native began covering the Seahawks in their first Super Bowl season of 2005. In a prior life he graduated from West Point and served as a tactical intelligence officer in the U.S. Army, so he may ask you to drop and give him 10.