The Seahawks were back at it on Tuesday, and for the first time in 2021 training camp, players wore pads, which meant the intensity picked up noticeably. Or as defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. put it after practice, "It's more like real football."
Here are five observations from Day 5 of Seahawks camp:
1. Closer to real football.
As Norton mentioned after practice, Wednesday looked and sounded a bit more like real football, even if defensive players still can't tackle to the ground. That was evident often, including on one of the better plays of the day, a Russell Wilson touchdown pass to Cody Thompson that saw Wilson rocket a pass through traffic to Thompson, who leapt to secure the catch despite a pretty hard hit courtesy of Cody Barton's shoulder.
While preseason games will give players their first look at full contact, these padded practices allow teams to start better evaluating players in the trenches, and defensive players in general. Even cornerbacks, who aren't necessarily known for hitting, benefit from the change, as they are now allowed to make more physical plays on the ball after having to hold back during the five-day acclimation period that kicks off camp and features rules closer to those of the offseason workout program.
2. The running backs enjoyed padded practice as well.
While defensive players might usually be the ones enjoying the added contact, Seattle's running backs also seemed to relish the chance to dish out a few hits. Early in practice, Rashaad Penny finished a run near the sideline by lowering a shoulder and giving cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon a pretty good shot, and throughout the afternoon, Chris Carson ran with the violent style that has made him one of the NFL's most productive backs over the past few seasons. Alex Collins, who has looked good throughout camp, also seemed to thrive off contact as he fought for extra yards.
3. The Seahawks look to be in good shape at guard.
On the first day of pads, the one-on-one pass-rush drills are always a must watch, and while there were plenty of standouts on both sides of the ball, two players who seemed to consistently win their battles were guards Gabe Jackson and Damien Lewis. Jackson, whose twitter handle is @bigsmooth61, lives up to that nickname with lateral movement that is indeed awfully smooth for a 335-pound human. Lewis, meanwhile, stonewalled several pass-rushers with both his power and his mobility. Lewis' impressive rookie season, as well as Jackson's impressive resume over his long career with the Raiders, should give the Seahawks a very strong guard tandem in 2021.
4. Kerry Hyder Jr. is slippery.
At 6-foot-2, 275 pounds, defensive end Kerry Hyder Jr. has the combination of speed and power that are a must for an NFL defensive end, but he also looks to have a harder-to-define trait that helps so many good pass rushers—he's slippery at the line of scrimmage. Sure, Hyder sometimes wins with power or with a speed rush or a spin move, but sometimes he gets into the backfield with a less perceptible move that has him somehow just slip between blockers despite them looking to be in good position to stop a pass-rush. That showed up on a few occasions Tuesday, including when despite being seemingly covered by multiple blockers, Hyder shot into the backfield to blow up a running play.
Hyder said after Seattle signed him that he looks up to fellow undrafted success story Michael Bennett, and it seems Hyder does possess some of the same traits as the former Seahawks Pro Bowler, including a slipperiness that allows him to get into the backfield.
5. Personnel updates.
Gabe Jackson was back after getting a day off on Monday. Middle linebacker Bobby Wagner missed a second straight practice while tending to a family matter. Safety Jamal Adams and left tackle Duane Brown continue to be spectators during practice, while tackle Jamarco Jones, defensive end Carlos Dunlap II and tight end Gerald Everett also sat out. Jones injured his knee in practice a day earlier, though Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said it wasn't serious, and there were no known injuries for Dunlap and Everett so their days off could have just been rest.