Seahawks coach Pete Carroll was on 710 ESPN Seattle Monday morning to discuss his team's recently-concluded rookie minicamp, but the interview covered more than just rookies, including some interesting news on how the Seahawks might use cornerback Brandon Browner, who signed with Seattle this offseason. That leads off our three takeaways from Carroll's appearance the Brock and Salk Show.
1. Brandon Browner could have a hybrid role in 2016, and the secondary should be more flexible than ever.
Brandon Browner spent three seasons in Seattle as a starting cornerback from 2011 to 2013, but when the Seahawks re-signed Browner this offseason, one of the big questions was how he'll fit into the defense this time around. Carroll had hinted in the past that they had ideas of how they'll use Browner, and on Monday he provided a little more clarity, though it's always worth remembering that a lot can and does change between May and the start of the season.
"We're going to play him at safety in base downs, and then in nickel we're going to use him to match up at different spots playing inside," Carroll said. "So we may be able to develop a really unique role for him. Back to his New England days, they used him quite a bit inside and he really matched up on tight ends and slot receivers and things like that, and he matched up well. We'll see how that develops."
Talking about the secondary as a whole, Carroll went on to say, "You'll see us a little more matchup-oriented because the guys give us a chance to do that. We'd always do that if we had the opportunity. That may mean there might be some more dime packages and things like that instead of nickel."
In other words, Browner's playing time might not come at the expense of another defensive back, but rather there might be more instances of having an extra defensive back or two on the field because of the flexibility of players like Browner, Jeremy Lane and DeShawn Shead.
Another reason Carroll is excited about the secondary is that players are in a better place, both mentally and physically, than at this time last year when Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman and Lane were all recovering from injuries, and the entire team was getting over a heartbreaking Super Bowl loss.
"It was a very challenging offseason (last year) for those guys physically, and it was mentally for Kam, he had all sorts of stuff he was going through, so it was very, very challenging," Carroll said. "Even going into (Super Bowl XLIX), we were all but beat to heck. So those guys are all having much better offseasons. They're just in flow, they really have command of the leadership spots and really are busting their tails. It's incredibly fun to see."
Carroll called his defensive back position group, "an amazing room right now," noting the improvement of Shead last year and the health of Lane, who was recovering from a torn ACL and broken arm at this time last year.
"It's deep, it's competitive, it's fast, with great leadership," Carroll said. "And a system that we're going to continue to grow and ask our guys to do more things on the back end. It's a great group."
2. The rookies "fit the bill."
It's one thing to evaluate a player from afar, but it's something else for a team to finally get an up-close look at its newly-acquired talent, and after three days of rookie minicamp, Carroll came away very excited about what he saw.
"We had a great weekend," he said. "It was really fun to watch these guys.
"Across the board everybody seemed to fit the bill so well, the picks we made. They just lived up to the billing, that's part of it. And the execution was really, really clean."
Carroll again mentioned that having former college teammates at center and quarterback—TCU's Joey Hunt and Trevone Boykin—contributed to that clean play, noting that last year there were seven fumbles on the quarterback-center exchange in one rookie minicamp practice, and none this year.
Carroll also liked what he saw off the field, saying, "It seemed to be a very tight-knit group already, I don't know how you do that that fast."
Carroll said that in first-round pick Germain Ifedi and second-rounder Jarran Reed, "I feel like we got two number ones." Those two also look to be emerging as early leaders among the young players, with Carroll saying they "stood out and seemed to command the respect… It just seemed like they're fit to be guys who want to lead."
Another reason for optimism about this rookie class is that the Seahawks felt like they acquired talented players while also addressing needs.
"We wanted to hit it on the O-line first, we needed to hit it on the D-line, we needed to get this thing shored up that happened," Carroll said. "And we needed to get the running back position to get more competitive and add some depth there. So those were the three focuses, and we hit it just right."
3. This offseason feels like a rebirth.
Seahawks players and coaches have been optimistic about the team's future from the day their 2015 season ended in Carolina, and not just because of the talent on the roster. Comparing this to the offseason between the 2012 and 2013 season, the Seahawks see this offseason as a more positive and productive one than when they had to deal with the challenges that come both with winning and losing the Super Bowl. And based on what Carroll has seen from his players so far, that optimism is only growing.
"The players, they're tuned in," Carroll said. "These guys are ready for the challenge. It almost like a rebirth kind of thing. We've been through a lot of stuff, we've been challenged by a lot of stuff, we've learned so much. Winning, losing, trying to come back again, and still maintaining this huge standard and expectation. We know it's right there for us, everybody feels it. That's what' really fueling the energy around the building and why we're so enthused. Then we hit it with this draft, so it's feeling pretty good. Millions of things have to happen, but we're in the right place right now."
With the Day 1 jitters out of their systems, the players got into their groove during Day 2 of Seahawks Rookie Minicamp.