A look back at who caught the eye during the rookie minicamp

Posted May 19, 2014

Monday metatarsal musings: After their impressive efforts in the Seahawks’ three-day minicamp over the weekend, several members of the 2014 rookie class will be worth keeping an eye on as the offseason gives way to training camp and the preseason.

More than 6,000 words. Two features and another story featuring what might have been the play of the Seahawks’ three-day rookie minicamp. The return of Hawkville, times three. The signing of three draft choices. And, to cap it all off, a spirited scrimmage that was, in the words of fullback and seventh-round draft choice Kiero Small, “Competition at its best right there.”

Yes, it was a busy weekend at Virginia Mason Athletic Center. But not even all that copy and conversation was enough to convey everything that transpired.

And that’s what these metatarsal musings are for – footnotes to fill in around the footprints that were left all over the Seahawks’ practices field along the shores of Lake Washington.

It has become increasingly difficult for rookies – draft choices included – to earn spots on the 53-man roster, and even harder than that for them to make an impact because of the talent and depth that general manager John Schneider, coach Pete Carroll and their staffs have collected and cultivated during the past four offseasons.

But as former Seahawks scout and NFL wide receiver Bucky Brooks put it the other day in his role as an analyst at, “Overall, the Seahawks’ (draft) class lacks sizzle, but Carroll and Co. will surely find a way to develop these new additions into key contributors down the road.”

The Seahawks’ drafts in 2011 and 2012 also were downgraded at the time, but look at them now. The 2011 draft delivered All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman (fifth round), versatile and productive linebacker K.J. Wright (fourth), cornerback Byron Maxwell (sixth) and linebacker and Super Bowl XLVIII MVP Malcolm Smith (seventh). In 2012, it was Pro Bowl quarterback Russell Wilson (third round), middle linebacker and two-time leading tackler Bobby Wagner (second), linebacker/pass-rusher Bruce Irvin (first), starting right guard J.R. Sweezy (seventh) and nickel back and special-teams standout Jeremy Lane (sixth).

And the rookie pools also have included undrafted free agents who have performed like players who should have been drafted, or at least shown the potential to – wide receivers Doug Baldwin (2011) and Jermaine Kearse (2012), defensive end Benson Mayowa (2013), defensive back DeShawn Shead (2012), safety Jeron Johnson (2011) and linebacker Mike Morgan (2011).

Some had “it” right away – like Wilson, Wagner, Baldwin, Wright and Irvin. Other took time to develop “it” and/or took advantage of opportunities that opened when others were injured to get “it” – like Sherman, Maxwell, Smith and Kearse.

Who has a chance to beat the long odds this summer? Here are a few candidates from what we saw and heard the past three days:

Paul Richardson – The wide receiver from Colorado participated only in Friday’s practice, when he “banged his shoulder a little bit,” as Carroll put it. But in that one practice, and especially on that one play, the team’s top draft choice showed the speed and big-play ability that prompted the Seahawks to make him the 45th pick overall. Richardson hooked up with free-agent QB Keith Price for a 65-yard touchdown by getting past sixth-round pick Eric Pinkins and then flaunting an extra gear along the sideline when the ball was in the air.

Kevin Norwood – The other wide receiver drafted by the Seahawks (fourth round) made eye-opening catches in every practice. At 6 feet 2, Norwood is taller than Baldwin (5-10), Kearse (6-1) and Percy Harvin (5-11) and showed the skills to blend nicely with the vets in the three- and four-receiver sets. What really stood out were Norwood’s soft hands.

Justin Britt – Line coach Tim Cable said on draft day that the second-round pick would compete with Michael Bowie for the right tackle that opened when Breno Giacomini signed with the New York Jets in free agency. Britt showed why during the three-day minicamp, when he was working on the right side in the No. 1 line. “He’s a real serious, mature kid and I think he would jump right into the competition, exactly like we planned,” Carroll said. “I think he would be right there with Michael Bowie and they will be battling it out.”

Garry Gilliam – The 6-5, 306-pound Gilliam, who was signed as free agent after the draft, worked at left tackle during the offseason program last week, because Russell Okung is recovering from foot surgery. Gilliam also was there with the No. 1 line over the weekend. And he’s starting to look like that’s where he belongs, even if it is in a backup role for now. Gilliam was a tight end when he got to Penn State and he showed his athletic ability in pass protection and as a run blocker. “He has really good mobility, he has left tackle type of quickness,” Carroll said. “He looked very good at the spot, so that’s a real plus for us. We need help there. We need the competition there.”

Jackson Jeffcoat – Watching his speed and tenacity off the edge as the Leo end only prompted a repetitive question: Why wasn’t the defensive end from Texas drafted? Jeffcoat was pressuring the passer when he wasn’t “sacking” the quarterback during Sunday’s scrimmage. “He’s a really good athlete,” Carroll said of the 6-3, 253-pound Jeffcoat. “He fits in athletically with the guys that play for us.” 

Cassius Marsh – The first of the team’s four selections in the fourth round of the draft was bringing the same kind of pressure from the five-technique end spot that Jeffcoat was delivering from the Leo end. Marsh has the versatility to also line up at the three-technique tackle spot in the nickel line. “He was really flying the whole time,” Carroll said. “He never showed any signs at all of wearing down. He’s very active, a very instinctive football player.”

Eric Pinkins – The sixth-round pick played a hybrid “warrior safety” position at San Diego State. During the minicamp, he played cornerback on Friday and Saturday and free safety on Sunday. You could almost see the wheels turning in his head while Pinkins was getting acclimated to the corner position, but he was more fluid and instinctive at safety. With the number of sub packages the Seahawks use, the coaches will find a way to utilize everything the 6-3, 220-pound Pinkins is capable of adding to an already productive mix.

Keith Price – There are four quarterbacks ahead of him in the rotation when the vets are around – Wilson; former starter and incumbent backup Tarvaris Jackson; Terrelle Pryor, who was acquired last month in the trade with the Oakland Raiders; and B.J. Daniels, who spent most of last season on the practice squad. But over the weekend, the QB wearing No. 1 was No. 1, and Price displayed touch, accuracy and recognition skills. “He did a very good job,” Carroll said of the rookie free-agent addition. “And it looks like he can help us.”

There were others, as well. Like free-agent tight end Rashaun Allen; linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis, a fourth-round draft choice; free-agent defensive tackle Andru Pulu; and defensive tackle Jimmy Staten, a fifth-round pick; free-agent defensive end Adham Talaat; and Small, who at 247 pounds isn’t.

Those who continue to flash when the OTA practices begin next week, and the rookies are working with the vets against the vets, will show they deserve even longer looks in the full-squad minicamp next month and when training camp opens in late July.

“They had great work. They had a really good camp,” Carroll said of the group in general after Sunday’s final practice. “The lead was taken by the draft picks. … It’s really, really exciting to see these guys come out and battle like they did.

“As we go through this, we have some tough decisions.”