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That's OTA, as in ornery, tough and aggressive
As OTA practices go, the first three of the offseason went pretty darn well for the Seahawks last week.
There were athletic plays on both sides of the ball, but still enough of the less-artistic kinds of plays so that Pete Carroll’s staff can coach to them. Each of the three quarterbacks vying for the starting job took advantage of his equal-as-they-throw reps to make don’t-forget-about-me plays. The oh-so-young, but oh-so-talented secondary continued to show that jealousy also can be a virtue. Chirpy even slipped into chippy a couple of times, giving Carroll an opportunity to commend the spirit but condemn stepping over the line.
And what can we expect for an encore when the players return to the practice fields at Virginia Mason Athletic Center this week? More of the same, and then some – starting Wednesday, when the session will be open to the media.
“It was pretty standard, the first three days of practice in the offseason,” fourth-year center Max Unger said Tuesday after the offensive players had completed their workout in the offseason program. “We were kind of getting used to some of the new guys we’ve brought in.
“But it’s nice starting off where we were last season and kind of moving from there. We’re not going start from the first page as we did out of the lockout.”
That was the 136-day lockout that erased the offseason last year and left the offensive players to scramble while learning the system being implemented by coordinator Darrell Bevell and assistant head coach/line coach Tom Cable in their first season on Carroll’s staff.
Unger finds himself in the eye of the new storm that is the Seahawks’ offense. It has yet to be determined who he will be snapping the ball to – either incumbent starter Tarvaris Jackson, free-agent addition Matt Flynn or rookie Russell Wilson. It is no secret who Unger and his fellow linemen will be blocking for – Marshawn Lynch, who is coming off career-bests in rushing yards (1,204) and touchdowns (13) despite running behind a line that featured six different starting combinations because of season-long spate of injuries.
As for those new players Unger mentioned, there’s tight end Kellen Winslow, who was acquired last week in a trade with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to complement Zach Miller, a free-agent addition last year; running back Robert Turbin, who was selected in the fourth round of the April NFL Draft to allow the running game to continue imposing its will when Lynch needs a breather; and linemen Deuce Lutui and Alex Barron, former starters for other NFL teams who are competing for playing time with the Seahawks.
While the major offensive installation last week brought a lot of newness for the new players, Unger and the other holdovers used it as a refresher course.
“It was very similar,” Unger said, before catching himself and adding through a smile, “I mean, not very similar, exactly the same. There were a couple new steps here and there. But this is kind of the time where we can really get into it and learn pretty much everything about the offense.
“That’s kind of mostly what we’re taking away from this.”
Continued growth also is the goal on defense, even in a secondary that sent three players to the Pro Bowl last season.
“I think we’re gelling really well,” said Earl Thomas, who was voted the starting free safety on the NFC squad and joined by strong safety Kam Chancellor and cornerback Brandon Browner as the first-year starters were added to the NFL all-star game as injury replacements.
“This offseason, we’re benefitting a lot just because they’re breaking everything down and we’re understanding things more.”
The proof has been in the plays Thomas and his co-conspirators in glove-coverage have been making as the defense looks to improve on ranking No. 9 in the league last season. Thursday, Chancellor and rookie middle linebacker Bobby Wagner made interceptions and longtime starter Marcus Trufant showed he’s taking to his new role as the nickel back with an impressive play to break up another pass. Wednesday, second-year corner Richard Sherman had a pick as well as two other notable plays in a four-snap sequence, while safety Roy Lewis tipped a pass that was intercepted by cornerback Phillip Adams. Tuesday, the 6-foot-3 Sherman used his length to break up a couple of passes.
“I feel we have a great chance to be successful this year, especially in that DB room because everybody’s young and they’re hungry,” Thomas said.
And that can lead to a feeding-frenzy approach on the field when the ball is in the air.
“This is going to make us great, because everybody holds each other accountable,” Thomas said. “Everybody’s hungry and everybody’s a playmaker back there. It’s a good jealous when somebody makes a pick, because somebody else then wants to make a play.
“So this week, our whole outlook as a DB group we just want to get better each day. We don’t want to have any setbacks and I think we’ve been on the right track so far.”