Competitive juices continue to overflow at Seahawks training camp

Posted Jul 30, 2014

The Seahawks had the best defense in the NFL last season, which only made the offense better by working against it every day in practice. During training camp practices, the units have picked up the competition where it left off.

Imagine that the practice fields at Virginia Mason Athletic Center are actually a grass-covered chessboard. That would make the players the beyond-competitive pieces in this analogy-stretching exercise.

Controlling the white-clad defense is coordinator Dan Quinn. On the other end, with their hands all over the blue-jerseyed offense, are coordinator Darrell Bevell and line coach/assistant head coach Tom Cable.

A reach? Perhaps, but if quarterback Russell Wilson has said it once, he has said once a week that working against a defense that led the NFL in average points and yards allowed last season is the best thing that could happen to help prepare the offense.

That works both ways, and it has been apparent during the first five practices at the team’s Training Camp presented by Bing.

“We totally feel the same way,” Quinn said after Wednesday’s practice along the shores of Lake Washington when asked about Wilson’s frequent assessment. “The nice part with Tom and with Bev, there’s a lot of challenging schemes that go on regarding this offense – both in the run game and in the pass game.

“So it’s a terrific matchup for us, along with the players who get to go against each other. Today was a good day where we featured a lot of one-on-one (matchups).”

Like Pro Bowl center Max Unger vs. Pro Bowl-caliber nose tackle Brandon Mebane. Like All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman going against wide receivers Percy Harvin and Doug Baldwin. Like Wilson trying to outsmart All-Pro free safety Earl Thomas. Like rock-solid tight end Zach Miller vs. rock-steady linebacker K.J. Wright. Like rookie right tackle Justin Britt getting a baptism by blowtorch while lining up opposite veteran pass-rusher Cliff Avril.

“Just for that emphasis of the competition of going against each other to really make both units as good as they can,” Quinn said. “You admire and appreciate how hard they’re going against each other, and the respect is for each other and how hard they’re going against each other.

“It’s how hard can I go at you for both of us to play at our very best.”

You get the picture, just as the players get the best from – and of – the competition. It’s not uncommon for one of the Seahawks to say that the player he faces in practice every day is better than the players he will face on any given Sunday.

Quinn’s crew has the upper hand, at least statistically. Last season, the defense ranked No. 1 in the league in average yards (273.6) and passing yards (172.0) allowed for the first time in franchise history. It also allowed the fewest points in the league, while generating the most turnovers (39). The run defense? It tied for seventh, allowing an average of 101.6 yards.

And that remains the challenge – and focus of the competition – for the offense. It can become closer to being the best by getting the upper hand on the best, even if it is in practice.

“We have to really be on our stuff,” Bevell said. “You’re talking about the best defense in the NFL. They’ve proved that. So every position, there’s a competition going on – whether we’re going against Sherm or Earl or Mebane. Every position is really a strong position. So it just makes our guys better each and every day as we come out here.

“It’s an opportunity to compete, and they’re competing against the best players.”

It also helps Bevell better evaluate his players because of the level of competition on the practice field.

“Yeah,” he said. “All of a sudden you’ve got one of your rookies stepping in there and going up against Richard Sherman or (cornerback Byron) Maxwell or Earl. You’re going to get a good feel for them really early.”

Back to that chess game – and the coaches competing against each another, as well.

“We’re trying to win,” said Bevell, well aware that there is a large scoreboard at one corner of the practice fields that keeps score during drills. “We’re trying to compete. We have a very strong defense and our offense has been solid and held its own. But we want to continue to improve, get better. We want to be able to put ourselves up against those guys.

“So whatever we need to do to win, we’re going to do it.”

The real winners in this competitive chess game that is played out in pads and helmets? It’s the entire team, which is coming off a 13-win regular season to tie for the best mark in franchise history and the Seahawks’ first Super Bowl championship.

“The mindset is we become good players by how hard we work,” Quinn said. “And the thought of the competition is: How well can you and I push against each other to elevate both of our games?”