Day 4 of Seahawks training camp featured intense action on the field and a few unusual sights in the sky. For starters, the Seahawks practiced under the layer of smoke that is covering the Puget Sound region thanks to forest fires in British Columbia; and Thursday's practice also included the annual visit from the Blue Angels, who are practicing ahead of this weekend's Seafair performances. And yes, even highly-paid and famous professional athletes still can't help but look up to the sky when an F/A-18 Hornet flies overhead, especially Jimmy Graham, who does a lot of flying himself.
Other than the happenings in the sky, here are five things that stood out from Thursday's practice:
1. The defensive backs don't make life easy on receivers.
In theory, a receiver vs. defensive back one-on-one drill should heavily favor the offensive player. For starters, the receiver and the quarterback know where they want to go with the play and the defensive back has to react, and secondly, unlike in a game situation where there can be help from other players, or on some routes the threat of another defensive back coming in for a big hit, receivers only have one opponent to worry about in one-on-ones.
But while Seahawks receivers have made plenty of plays in those drills, they have been anything but automatic against Seattle's physical defensive backs, especially in the past two practices since pads went on and more physical play has been allowed.
In what should come a surprise to no one, Richard Sherman makes it particularly hard on receivers trying to get off the line—he kept one receiver from advancing more than 2 or 3 yards off the line of scrimmage Thursday—but he's far from alone in making his presence felt. Neiko Thorpe, who was a standout on special teams last year, plays very physically, and rookie Shaquill Griffin showed strong hands breaking up a couple of passes.
2. Rookie lineman Ethan Pocic is "doing very well" in his first camp.
Ethan Pocic played center for most of his career at LSU, but his versatility is one of the reasons the Seahawks drafted him in the second round. Pocic has played primarily at right guard and right tackle since arriving in Seattle, and on Thursday he saw significant time with the No. 1 offense at right tackle after Germain Ifedi left practice. Despite not having a lot of background at tackle, Pocic has more than held his own thus far in camp.
"He's doing very well," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "… Ethan is a very good learner, he's got a really level head, he's a very good communicator. As we've said from the start, he has tremendous flexibility. He spent most of the time (in college) at center, he has played guard and tackle. He can do all three spots—he hasn't had any center work yet other than a little bit of snapping the football earlier on—but I don't see what he doesn't have the flexibility to do all of the things we've talked about, which makes him a very valuable pick. Really exactly what we had hoped for when we checked him out in the draft and thought he might be a very special guy for us. He's off to a great start, and it's not too big for him. He played hundreds of hundreds of snaps in college against great competition, and has always been able to be successful. Nothing but good signs, really good signs."
3. Blair Walsh is off to a good start.
As the only kicker on Seattle's roster Blair Walsh is competing with himself at the moment, but needs to show his coaches that he's ready for that job between now and the start of the season, and so far he is making a strong impression in his first training camp with the Seahawks. Walsh did have one field goal miss in the team portion of practice Thursday, but had been perfect the previous two days, and more importantly, he's showing coaches what they want to see. Carroll also noted that settling on Tyler Ott at long snapper should help the consistency of the kicking game after having Ott battle with Nolan Frese for that job in the offseason and the first three days of camp.
"He's off to a good start," Carroll said. "You notice we made a little move here with the snapper to make sure he gets all the time with Tyler, and he's doing fine. He's a great worker, really a good athlete. He's an explosive kicker, he's real quickness about him. He's got really good work habits, he's tough on himself. We think we got a really good one, and he kicks the hell out of the ball on kickoffs too. He kicks the ball a mile. So it all looks good."
4. Overqualified tackling dummies.
While the Seahawks don't tackle all the way to the ground in practice, that doesn't mean they don't take proper tackling technique very seriously. In fact, teaching safe, effective tackling has become an important side project for Carroll and former Seahawks assistant Rocky Seto in recent years.
One way the Seahawks worked on their tackling Thursday involved defensive players tackling assistant linebackers coach John Glenn and defensive quality control coach Tom Donatell on to a pad on the ground. Players and the two coaches seemed to enjoy the drill, especially Bobby Wagner, who flipped Glenn over while grinning the entire time.
Defensive backs also worked on their tackling with a drill that had them drop back into coverage, then break hard on a pass to tackle a moving target—a pad being carried by a teammate serving as the receiver.
5. Michael Bennett, quarterback?
OK, so Seattle's Pro-Bowl defensive end probably won't be switching positions anytime soon, but Bennett did have some fun after practice, organizing a mini-scrimmage with a group of kids. Bennett served as quarterback, throwing a few passes and showing off his ability to scramble and avoid the pass rush of small children—though while he might deny it, he did appear to be touched down for a sack before completing one pass.
"I won," Bennett declared when asked about the game. "I was the quarterback, I scored every time, so I feel really good. I know what it feels like to be Russell (Wilson) for like twenty minutes. It was good."
Following Day 4 of Seahawks training camp, defensive end Michael Bennett played quarterback and wide receiver during a friendly game of touch-football with several youth on-site.
- Malik McDowell, who was injured in a vehicular accident last month, reported to camp Thursday and was placed on the non-football injury list. The Seahawks are still assessing his injuries, and Carroll could not yet offer any timeline on McDowell's recovery. "He's got all kinds of appointments to make sure we know exactly what's going on," Carroll said. "I really don't have much to report, but it's going to take a while to figure it out."
- Second-year receiver Kenny Lawler, who has been a bright spot early in camp, left practice early after making a sliding catch. Carroll did not know Lawler's status immediately after practice, noting, "He slid and caught a ball like a baseball slide, and something caught in the turf. I don't know what it was, I don't know if it was his knee or his ankle. He got up OK, but I don't know the report on that."
Photos of fans from the fourth day of 2017 Seahawks training camp at Renton's Virginia Mason Athletic Center.