Seahawks Insider Blog

Seahawks final minicamp practice ends offseason. What did they accomplish?

Richard Sherman (right) jokes with rookie and fellow cornerback Shaquill Griffin during the Seahawks’ final practice of the offseason Thursday in Renton. The minicamp finale had a definite last-day-of-school feel to it.
Richard Sherman (right) jokes with rookie and fellow cornerback Shaquill Griffin during the Seahawks’ final practice of the offseason Thursday in Renton. The minicamp finale had a definite last-day-of-school feel to it. AP

RENTON Richard Sherman gave pointers to Shaquill Griffin. Then the three-time All-Pro and the rookie fellow cornerback both took off their helmets and laughed.

Eddie Lacy danced in place to the rap music blaring off the walls of the indoor practice facility, playfully bending his knees and swinging his hips from side to side.

Jimmy Graham -- who is paid handsomely to catch passes, not throw them -- ended practice by nailing the goal post with a throw from more than half the field away.

Thursday’s final practice of minicamp and thus the Seahawks’ offseason had a noticeably giddy, last-day-of-school feel to it.

No wonder. The players are now off for their longest stretch until at least January: six weeks to go home or wherever, until training camp begins on the final weekend of July.

“Yeah, this is like the last day of school,” offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said following the afternoon practice in out of the rain. “These guys can’t wait to get out of here.”

Like kids from a strict private school, the Seahawks didn’t just get sent off into their summer vacation to do whatever. Each position coach gave each player a detailed plan with strength and conditioning benchmarks to meet between now and training camp. That’s so guys don’t show up and pull hamstrings and groins or simply hurl during the first camp practices into August because they are out of shape.

So what did these Seahawks accomplish in their seven practices of organized team activities (after the NFL took four away last fall for too much contract in previous OTAs) plus three practices of mandatory minicamp?

1. They learned Earl Thomas are Tyler Lockett are much healthier and closer to returning to full participation than they could have expected.

Thomas is already there. Six months and 11 days after he broke his tibia, the three-time All-Pro was full go again Thursday as the starting free safety.

Coach Pete Carroll says there is no doubt Thomas will be ready for the start of training camp.

“I will be ready for the first game,” Thomas said this week.

The offseason workouts gave all evidence he will indeed be starting on Sept. 10 at Green Bay.

Lockett’s prognosis is cloudier. The wide receiver and Pro Bowl kick returner broke his fibula and tibia three weeks after Thomas’ injury, on Christmas Eve. Unlike Thomas, Lockett had surgery. Carroll said Lockett is behind Thomas in his recovery, naturally. But Thursday’s was the third consecutive practice with Lockett running down the sidelines catching passes without an apparent limp or hesitation.

Yet Carroll said the team is unsure whether Lockett will be ready for the start of camp.

From what I saw in these offseason practices, he will be ready for the start of the regular season.

Carroll also mentioned as iffy at best to be fully participating at the start of training camp: cornerback DeShawn Shead (knee surgery in January), defensive end Dion Jordan (recent knee surgery), defensive lineman Quinton Jefferson (surgery from last season) and wide receiver Tanner McEvoy (toe surgery last month, which Carroll called a big “setback” for last season’s undrafted rookie surprise).

I asked Carroll if Shead might be ready for the season opener in three months.

“No, I don’t think so,” Carroll said before adding, “I should never say no to him” and again praising Shead’s fiendish rehabilitation work to get back.

2. The offensive line remains somewhat unsettled, but George Fant is taking steps to be the left tackle again.

For the second time in as many weeks Carroll raved about Fant’s transformation this offseason -- both physically (he’s gained 25 pounds since January thanks to Mom’s cooking), and football-wise.

“This is the first offseason he’s ever had as a football player,” Carroll said.

As in, ever. Fant, of course, was an undrafted college basketball player this time last season.

The more the coaches talk, the more it sounds like Fant will be the starting left tackle entering the preseason, if not the real season.

Asked Thursday if Fant had shown enough that he has a chance to start in 2017, Carroll said: “There’s no question. There’s no question he has, because he’s improved. His awareness, his communication, as it should, as we talked about that one-year to year two jump has already happened.

“But more than that, he had a phenomenal offseason in terms of getting stronger and he maintained his quickness and his mobility. But this is the first offseason he’s ever had as a football player, and it shows. He made great advancements and he worked really hard at it and he’s really fired up to come on back with what he knows now, how he sees things, and with his body. It might be a 25-pound swing on body right now. And he looks great.”

Fant starting would leave Luke Joeckel versus Rees Odhiambo, the OTA and minicamp first teamer, at left guard. The Seahawks are paying Joeckel more than $7 million guaranteed on his one-year contract, so he’s going to start somewhere. The last three weeks Joeckel was the left guard then left tackle, in that order, during position drills. The team held him out of team scrimmaging, a precaution as he continues to recovery from season-ending knee surgery in October when the former second-overall draft choice was still with Jacksonville.

Joeckel started five games at left guard last season before the injury. He made the first 34 starts of his career from 2013-15 at left tackle for the Jaguars. Seahawks general manager John Schneider has said he like Joeckel’s play more at left guard when he was with Jacksonville.

“He’s absolutely ready to do both,” Carroll said of guard and tackle. “That’s a real plus for us.”

Carroll said rookie second-round pick Ethan Pocic proved the same thing. Pocic, a center at LSU, was the second-team right tackle in scrimmaging this week.

The rest of the line seems set: Justin Britt back as the starting center after an impressive 2016 debut there; Mark Glowinski over offseason signee Oday Aboushi so far at right guard, after Glowinski started at left guard last season; and 2016 top draft choice Germain Ifedi at right tackle. Ifedi was the right guard his rookie year.

3. The right-cornerback job remains wide open opposite Sherman.

OTAs and minicamp, the defense was mostly in nickel defense with five defensive backs. The inside nickel was Jeremy Lane again. The starting right cornerback in nickel was rookie third-round pick Shaquill Griffin in OTAs then veteran special-teams man Neiko Thorpe this week in minicamp.

When asked who may be the starting right cornerback for the start of the regular season, the first man Carroll mentioned Thursday was Lane. That would be in base defense. Seattle’s been in base with four defensive backs about 35-40 percent of the time the last couple seasons, so Griffin and Thorpe could be battling outside for what essential would be a starting job.

Defensive coordinator Kris Richard said Thursday Griffin has “one of the best corner minds we’ve had, for a young guy.”

Griffin has shown speed, awareness, and a 6 feet and nearly 200 pounds has the size and reach the Seahawks love in their press corners. But OTAs and minicamp rules prohibit defensive backs from making plays on passes in the air, the NFL’s way to minimize contact. Richard and Carroll mentioned they are anxious to see how Griffin looks when in training camp while making plays on the ball and getting physical with receivers.

4. Eddie Lacy is on track to share the lead running-back role with Thomas Rawls.

Lacy has earned $110,000 in bonuses just by doing what his contract specified: weigh less than 255 pounds in May and 250 pounds this month. He’s doing it with a mini village of support behind him, including P90X home workouts and the “Beach Body Challenge.”

The former NFL offensive rookie of the year with the Green Bay Packers didn’t do any team scrimmaging following October ankle surgery, and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell mentioned Thursday how anxious Lacy was to get on the field for those periods. Bevell also mentioned, sounding almost surprised, how well the bullish runner catches passes.

This scene from OTAs is why the Seahawks are encouraged Lacy is ultra-motivated for a big season.

But Rawls doesn’t sound like he’s in any mood to cede ground as the starter.

5. The offseason’s drama is in the team’s past. So says the team, anyway.

My final question to Carroll before the team broke for his summer break was what he thought of Sherman’s expansive press conference Wednesday, and how he felt the team dealt with an offseason that included an ESPN story of locker-room turmoil centered around Sherman versus Russell Wilson, the team hosting but not signing controversial quarterback Colin Kaepernick plus the Seahawks’ oddly open talk about fielding trade offers for Sherman.

“I think the reference would be to some article that came out. Are we over that? Yeah,” Carroll said, scoffing. “Well over that. I don’t think that in any way dictated the offseason, or we would base our offseason accomplishment based on that; that had nothing to do with anything.

“I think he spoke very well to the points, and he answered your questions, and he did, really, an admiration job of making things clear to you guys. I think you should know where we stand now. If you didn’t and you are uncertain, you should know where we are coming from. Sherm and I in particular have had an incredibly profitable and beneficial offseason working together, getting ready. His mind is ready to go after it in a huge way for the season coming up. His focus in these practices was excellent. What he added and all that, I couldn’t be more happy. He and Kam and Earl coming back, you could really feel their factor in the locker room and on the field, and it’s great to have those guys function at that kind of level.

“I’m really proud of Sherm in how he handled himself. I thought it was really well done.”

As long as they win this season, this issue will likely stay in the past. As long as they win.

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