Best player: Richard Sherman. As good as the All-Pro cornerback was last season, Sherman's practice-field performances indicate that he's only just begun and that his third season could really be something. In a camp where quarterback Russell Wilson, All-Pro free safety Earl Thomas, All-Pro center Max Unger and Pro Bowl left tackle Russell Okung have been good enough to earn this spot, Sherman has stood out. And not just because he's a 6 feet 3.
Best offensive player: Doug Baldwin. His snaps as the slot receiver were expected to be slashed after the offseason trade to acquire Percy Harvin from the Minnesota Vikings. But with Harvin out indefinitely following hip surgery and leading receiver Sidney Rice also in and out of the lineup because of a knee situation that required a trip to Switzerland for a procedure, Baldwin got plenty of snaps in camp and made the most of them.
As Wilson put it, "Doug looks tremendous out here. He can play any position. … He has so much quickness, so much ability to run by a guy. But he also has the ability to make a guy miss and juke them so badly they just fall down."
Best special teams player: Jon Ryan. On special teams as good as those coordinated by Brian Schneider, there are plenty of candidates – a list that increased by two after the coverage efforts of rookie linebacker John Lotulelei and second-year running back Derrick Coleman in the opener. But the obvious selection remains the veteran punter who has spent the past five seasons rewriting the team record book. "He's just been killing the ball," Schneider said. That was apparent against the Chargers when he made the heavy air at Qualcomm Stadium seem like the mile-high air in Denver by getting off 65- , 60- (twice) and 59-yarders. Ryan also continues to provide steady hands as the hold for field goals and PATs, whether it's incumbent Steven Hauschka or Carson Wiggs doing the kicking.
Best rookie: Benson Mayowa. With apologies to the draft choices, the rookie free agent from Idaho has been stealing the show. And Mayowa gets bonus points for the winding road he took to a spot on the 90-man roster. Snubbed by the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, the pass-rusher attended a Regional Combine at Virginia Mason Athletic Center in March and was then invited to the Seahawks' rookie minicamp in May – on a tryout basis. He passed that test, and has been pressuring the quarterback ever since. He not only had 1.5 sacks in the preseason opener, Mayowa usually gets at least one a day during practice.
Best free-agent addition: Michael Bennett. It should have been defensive end Cliff Avril, but he missed most of camp with a hamstring injury. It could have been linebacker O'Brien Schofield, but he was a late arrival to camp after being claimed on waivers. It might have been wide receiver Early Doucet, but his stay after being claimed off waivers lasted all of five days. Bennett also has been in and out to rest a chronic knee problem. But when he's been in, especially during the preseason opener, Bennett has displayed the pass-rush ability that allowed him to collect nine sacks for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last season.
Best boomerang player: Tarvaris Jackson. Bennett also is a candidate, as he was with the Seahawks briefly as a rookie in 2009. But the way Jackson has played – and just been – since being re-signed in June after the Buffalo Bills released him makes you wonder if the club didn't keep the wrong backup QB last season. Jackson, who was traded to the Bills last August, has started in the league – including the 2010 season for the Seahawks. He provides Wilson with the veteran sounding board that was missing during his off-the-charts rookie season, as well as a QB who can step in and lead the team if needed.
Best performance at a new position: Allen Bradford and Jared Smith. This deserves offensive and defensive selections because of the jobs these two have done – Bradford in making the switch from running back to middle linebacker; Smith from defensive tackle at New Hampshire last season to NFL center this summer. Bradford started the preseason opener because Bobby Wagner was out and led the team with eight tackles. Smith is working with the No. 3 line, but starting to think like a center and, better yet, play like one.
Best unit: The secondary. It starts with the starters – Sherman, Thomas and their brothers in Legion of Boom-ness Kam Chancellor and Brandon Browner. But it definitely doesn't stop there. From Antoine Winfield, a three-time Pro Bowl corner with the Minnesota Vikings who was signed in free agency to be the nickel back. To the backup safety tandem of Chris Maragos and Jeron Johnson. To the incumbent backups on the corners, Walter Thurmond, Jeremy Lane and Byron Maxwell. To hopefuls DeShawn Shead, Winston Guy, Ron Parker and Will Blackmon. This group is deep and talented.
"I feel like if I can compete with these guys every day, once Week 1 comes I don't feel like the players we'll face will be as good as our DBs," wide receiver Golden Tate said. "Our whole secondary is Pro Bowl players, so I feel like I'm going against the best every single day."
Biggest disappointment: Injuries. It starts with Harvin, of course, but doesn't stop there. Tight end Zach Miller has yet to practice because of foot injury. The coaches envision James Carpenter becoming a road-grader of a blocker at left guard, but that won't happen until he can stay on the field – and now he's sidelined by a foot injury.
Biggest surprise: Mayowa. The rookie tackles – seventh-round draft choice Michael Bowie and free agent Alvin Bailey – deserve recognition. So does Bradford, who isn't just attempting the transition from running back to linebacker but doing it. Mayowa, however, has come from the NFL equivalent of Mars to flash some star qualities.