Russell Wilson dropped back in the pocket, but before he could get rid of the ball or scramble to buy time, Bruce Irvin and Michael Bennett were in the backfield to "sack" the quarterback
After staying away from the voluntary portion of the Seattle Seahawks' offseason workouts, both Irvin and Bennett were back for this week's mandatory minicamp, and both were right back in the mix making big plays with the starting defense.
But of course when it comes to Irvin, the questions after practice weren't about his play that day or his preparation for the 2015 season as much as they were about his long-term future. Irvin, Seattle's first-round pick in the 2012 draft, is heading into the final year of his rookie contract because the Seahawks elected to not pick up his fifth-year option. Irvin said that decision reminded him about the business side of the game, but that it doesn't change anything for this season other than perhaps serving as a motivator.
"I got the message that it's a business," said Irvin, who worked out in Atlanta this offseason before joining the team this week. "It is what it is. That don't change my mindset, I'm still going to go out there and have the best season I've had so far. I can't do nothing about what they're doing upstairs. All that will take care of itself.
"It gave me extra motivation, I can say that. I got a little complacent and I feel like that really put a chip on my shoulder. I'm going to go out here and handle my business. I've been busting my tail while I've been away from here, and I feel like I'm ready to do what I've got to do."
Irvin, who had 6.5 sacks and two interceptions—both returned for touchdowns—last season, also reiterated that he wants to stay with the team that took a chance on him in the draft three years ago. Irvin was quoted earlier this offseason as saying he wants to play in Atlanta, his hometown, after this year, but said his comments, which came at an Atlanta Hawks playoff game, were misinterpreted.
"I want to be in Seattle," he said. "Obviously my words got misinterpreted. In 2012, I had a lot of questions coming out before the draft. Pete and John stuck their necks out there for me and took me in the first round, so why wouldn't I want to be here? I'm from Atlanta, my whole family is still in Atlanta; that's every kid's dream to play for their home team, but right now I'm in Seattle and I love being in Seattle, and hopefully that's for the rest of my career."
With Irvin back, he went back to his usual spot at strongside linebacker with the No. 1 defense, as well as a defensive end in the nickel defense. Bennett was also back in his usual roles—end in base defense and defensive tackle in the nickel—while Marshawn Lynch was in attendance but did not practice.
Also back for minicamp was Tarvaris Jackson, who re-signed with Seattle earlier this week. Jackson, who has spent the past two season backing up Russell Wilson, ended practice with a touchdown pass to tight end Jimmy Graham.
"He gives us great confidence," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "He took the group down in OT today and won OT today, he was the MVP, straight from Montgomery, Alabama or whatever. He's a steadying force for us. He's been around. He's a great guy, players really respond to him. Tough as nails, he knows our system beautifully and supports Russell and his efforts very well. He's got to compete now. He's battling. R.J. (Archer) who has had a really good offseason with us, which is great, how we like it. But it's great to have T-Jack back."
In addition to a few players being back in action, here are four things that stood out in Thursday's practice:
Drew Nowak Is A Legitimate Contender For The Center Job
While Lemuel Jeanpierre got the first reps at center with the first-team offense, Drew Nowak split time in that role, marking the second straight practice he has worked with the starters. Nowak, who has primarily been a guard prior to this year, will get his real test when pads go on in training camp, but so far he has impressed his coaches.
"We are giving Drew a real look at that spot," Carroll said. "That is a real key spot for you guys to watch as we go through the season, the preseason and all that to see how it works out. It will be as competitive as any spot we have. Lem has does a nice job. Lem is really the elder statesman in that group. We wanted to learn a lot about Drew because he was a guy that changed from defense to offense from college. We loved his competitiveness and his toughness and we just want to see how far he can take it. He seems to be handling himself very well in the competition."
Patrick Lewis and rookie Kristjan Sokoli are also in the mix, though Carroll and Tom Cable will want to narrow the competition down to two or three players early in camp. Carroll did say that the Seahawks do not plan to add any additional candidates for that job through free agency.
The Seahawks Have Some New Faces At Linebacker
Eric Pinkins played safety at San Diego State, but the Seahawks drafted him initially envisioning him as a big cornerback. Pinkins practiced both corner and safety last year before being sidelined by injury, but now the Seahawks are looking at him at strongside linebacker this offseason. Pinkins' athleticism could be a big asset if he learns the position, and Carroll has been impressed with what he has seen so far, calling Pinkins, "probably the most improved guy on the football field."
And Pinkins isn't the only player learning the strongside linebacker spot. Defensive end Cassius Marsh also saw time there Thursday.
"He's in that same makeup—250 pounds, he runs well, he's got good length to him and all, that he can be a SAM backer, as well as a LEO—we've seen Bruce do the same thing over time. That's just for flexibility for the future and trying to see how well he adapts to that and this was really his first day of working at it, he's been studying it for some time, but did a nice job today. He's got a learning curve, but he did a nice job today."
Brandon Mebane Looks Ready To Go
Mebane ended his 2014 season on injured reserve with a hamstring injury and didn't practice during OTAs or minicamp, but based on the work he was doing off to the side Thursday, Mebane looks like he'll be ready to go at training camp. While his teammates practice, Mebane went through drills with a trainer and appeared to be moving very well, an encouraging sign for the Seahawks' defensive line.
Wright and McNeil III Made The Plays Of The Day
Receiver Douglas McNeil III hauled in a very impressive touchdown catch, leaping over Marcus Burley to haul in a pass from Tarvaris Jackson. And while that was arguably the highlight of the day for the offense, it was not the best catch during Thursday's practice. Instead, that belonged to K.J. Wright, who made a diving, one-handed catch off a Russell Wilson pass that was tipped by Kam Chancellor, barely getting his hand under the ball before it hit the ground.
The Seahawks enjoyed a day outside for the final day of minicamp.