The Seahawks cranked up the physicality on Monday with players practicing in pads for the first time in training camp.
After Uchenna Nwosu blew up a running play for a loss, his teammates mobbed him in appreciation of the big play, a group celebration that featured Jamal Adams, who is still on the physically unable to perform list, playing the role of hype man for his teammate.
It was just one of many plays that illustrated the difference between the first four practices of training camp, and Monday's practice, the first padded session of camp.
As is the case every year, the early days of camp feature plenty of exciting action, but not the physicality that makes football what it is, but that started to change Monday, particularly in the trenches and during running drills. And for a defense looking to improve against the run, practices like these are crucial.
"We felt good," linebacker Bobby Wagner said. "The energy was there. Obviously (run defense) is a big part of the defense that we want to improve on, so we think that's the first step to coming out in practice and setting the tone like that. We've just got to build on it. It's a lot of guys learning how to fit and a lot of guys learning how to use their pads and things of that nature, knocking that rust off but it was a good strong day."
It was a particularly strong day, Wagner noted, for the defensive front, which was so good at doing its job that Wagner and his fellow inside linebackers didn't see a ton of action. Among the standouts, in addition to Nwosu's big play, were defensive end Dre'Mont Jones, who had a couple of run stops in the backfield, and outside linebacker Boye Mafe, who had a couple of nice pass-rush wins that would have produced sacks were quarterbacks not off limits to contact.
"The D-line did such a good job that the ball never really made it up to us," Wagner said. "They were attacking the ball in the backfield, which I'm OK with. They've been in the backfield every play and they really set the tone for us today. So that's something we are going to look for all season."
When it comes to the run defense in particular, Wagner explained a bit more what it is that needs to take place for Seattle to clean up in that area.
"I think it's just understanding your run fits," he said. "I think what it means by that is that the team is not just going to line up and let's say you have an A or B gap, they are not just going to line up and come right at you. They're going to move a guy, they're going to motion a guy, and all of those motions change a gap. So you have to know what your gap is after that and just having an understanding. Sometimes they'll motion and put the nickel into the fit and now the nickel has the run gap or they'll move the tight end and make the outside guy have to fold back in. There are different ways that the offense does to mess with your run fits so just being mindful of that, being able to communicate that with everybody and just be on the same page, I think that's the biggest emphasis."
And it wasn't just defensive players and linemen in the trenches who enjoyed the extra physicality that came with the first padded practice of camp.
"It was fun for us to get to hit each other, and for the defense to finally stop complaining about what's a sack or what's not a sack," receiver DK Metcalf said. "It was fun to finally run into somebody and not get in trouble."
The Seahawks held their first padded practice of Training Camp on Monday, July 31, 2023 at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center.