The Seahawks were back in pads Friday for one more practice ahead of Saturday's mock game, which will be held at CenturyLink Field as the team prepares for game action in a year with no preseason games.
"There's a lot of stuff going on for this first game for us," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "We're doing everything that we can do to make it as game-like in terms of all of what it takes to get to the game, and that's all of the work that goes on in the locker room, pregame stuff, the pregame routines on the field, stuff to get ready back in the locker room, the timeframes. We're doing all those exactly like a game—halftime's 12 minutes the whole thing, and coaches in the booth, we're doing all that. As much as anything this is really about procedural approach, getting that thing knocked out. When you have four games, you have plenty of time to work that out, so I want to make sure that we have this nailed here at home for sure. So that's one of the big emphasis."
Obviously what we're going to do is we're going to get a really good test on the first couple weeks of work you know, and see who knows what and see if guys are commanding their stuff on offense and defense. The tempo, the exchanges that we make, going in and out of substitutions, all that kind of stuff to make us really sharp at game time when it comes up… This is kind of like the first preseason game for us trying to get everything organized and get off to a good start."
With the mock game coming up, here are five observations from Friday's practice, and how they relate to Saturday's mock game:
1. Russell Wilson is really good (duh)/How will the starting offense function Saturday?
Sometimes even the obvious needs to be stated from time to time if only as a reminder for folks not to take for granted a good thing. That's the case with Wilson having a good day or making a good play—we all just come to expect it at this point—but even in Year 9 he can still find ways to impress. On Friday Wilson did that on a pass rolling to his left on which he fired a dart through traffic, while running at nearly full speed, for a touchdown to David Moore.
As for Saturday's mock game, nobody is too worried about Wilson being ready for the regular season, but there are questions about how that unit as a whole will function, particularly with a new-look offensive line that will feature at least three new starters this season. That unit should only continue to improve as it builds continuity, but Saturday will be a good early benchmark to see how it is progressing.
2. Marquise Blair is a playmaker/How will a new-look secondary look?
When Carroll was talking earlier in camp about the possibility of using Marquise Blair as a nickel defensive back, he mentioned that the position could be a good fit because "he can pressure from there" and that it's a spot where the ball will come his way, leading to opportunities to make plays.
On Friday, Blair managed to back up his coach's words on consecutive plays in the red zone, first recording a "sack" while blitzing, then one play later breaking up a pass in the end zone with a leaping effort.
Blair still has work to do to secure the nickel job—fellow second-year back Ugo Amadi has also had a strong camp, and the Seahawks also have enough cornerback depth that other options could emerge—but Saturday will give him a good opportunity to state his case. Saturday will also be the best look yet at a defense featuring Jamal Adams, the All-Pro safety Seattle added in a trade last month, as well as cornerback Quinton Dunbar, who was added in a trade earlier in the offseason.
3. Alton Robinson keeps showing up/Is a new-look pass rush ready to produce?
Whether in team drills or one-on-one pass-rush drills, rookie defensive end Alton Robinson, a fifth-round pick out of Syracuse, manages to flash just about every day, and he did so on a couple of occasions again on Friday, getting into the backfield to stuff a run for a loss.
Robinson is just part of what will be a very different group at defensive end this year along with fellow draft pick Darrell Taylor—the second-round pick out of Tennessee isn't practicing yet due to a leg injury—and free-agent additions Benson Mayowa and Bruce Irvin, a strongside linebacker/rush end hybrid. Much like the offensive line, the players lining up opposite that group in the trenches needs these mock games and the added physicality to show what they can do.
4. Carlos Hyde continues to impress/Who stands out in a very deep backfield?
With Chris Carson away from practice and with Rashaad Penny on the physically unable to perform list, free-agent signing Carlos Hyde has been getting a lot of work, and he continues to look very much like the 1,000-yard rusher he was last season. As Carroll has noted, Hyde is somewhat similar to Carson in that he is a physical, downhill runner, but he also has plenty of lateral agility to make people miss.
With Travis Homer and rookie DeeJay Dallas also having strong camps, those two and Hyde are all battling to earn playing time behind Carson, the presumed starter, and these mock games will provide good opportunity to shine.
5. Freddie Swain was back/Who will take over return duties (if they're up for grabs)?
After missing a few days with a groin injury, rookie receiver Freddie Swain was back in action Friday, and one play early that stood out for the sixth-round pick out of Florida was a kick return early in practice. Swain, one of several returners fielding kicks, recognized a short kick and was able to catch it while running forward at nearly full speed—not an easy skill at all for a returner—then he made a couple of decisive cuts and exploded upfield.
Normally the Seahawks would skip kickoffs and punts in a mock game, but with no preseason, Carroll said they'll work on those situations in the three mock games. There's still a chance the Seahawks use Tyler Lockett in the return game, but if they want to take that off his plate—he came off of return duties in the second half of last season following a serious leg contusion—then Swain will be one of several candidates to watch in that competition. Travis Homer and David Moore took over kick and punt return duties, respectively, last season, so they'd obviously be in the mix, but early in camp a lot of other players, Swain, John Ursua, DeeJay Dallas and Phillip Dorsett II among others, have also been involved.