The Seahawks began preparation for their regular-season opener with a "bonus Monday" practice, kicking off a week that will end with what head coach Pete Carroll called, "an enormous event coming up, opening day for the NFL."
While the Seahawks will stick with their every-game-is-a-championship-game approach while preparing this week, they can also appreciate all the work that went into getting ready for the regular season, which begins with a home game against the Dolphins on Sunday.
"We worked so hard to get to this point," Carroll said. "We're very happy with how things turned out in the offseason and getting our guys together, getting ready for camp and being healthy and ready to go for the season. We're really pumped up about it. It's a great event, it's really something special so we're excited to be a part of it."
Here are six takeaways from Pete Carroll's press conference following Monday's practice.
1. Garry Gilliam earned the starting nod at right tackle.
The last competition for a starting job on Seattle's offensive line appears to be settled, at least for Week 1, with Garry Gilliam getting the call at right tackle. The interior line of Mark Glowinski at left guard, Justin Britt at center and rookie Germain Ifedi at right guard has stayed the same throughout training camp and the preseason, but things were less settled at tackle throughout that process. Gilliam opened camp at left tackle with J'Marcus Webb playing right tackle, but when a knee injury slowed Webb, Gilliam moved to the right side with Bradley Sowell taking over at left tackle. Sowell's play since then helped him solidify that spot, while right tackle remained a battle all the way up to the last preseason game, with Gilliam and Webb alternating series with the No. 1 line. In the end, Gilliam did enough to win the job, though Carroll made it clear that Webb still can push for playing time going forward even if he's not the Week 1 starter.
"We told you it was going to take all of camp to do it, we did take all of camp and figured it out," Carroll said of the competition at right tackle. "We feel good about Garry, his continuity from last year helps. His development—he's just getting started, his upside is still out there. I think it gives us great flexibility having J'Marcus, he'll play on both sides for us and continue to battle to play. So it's a competition in progress on both sides. Bradley has done a great job at the other side. We'll keep working our guys and make sure we're doing the right thing with them, but right now, I thought Garry had a good finish to his camp and he's ready to go."
2. A big rookie class is a statement that the Seahawks "believe young guys can play."
The current Seahawks roster has 15 rookies, eight of them draft picks and seven of them undrafted free agents. Some of those players like Ifedi, Jarran Reed and C.J. Prosise will step into big roles right away while others may contribute only on special teams, but regardless of what roles these rookies have right off the bat, Carroll is excited about having so many rookies step up to win roster spots.
"It's kind of like a freshman class, isn't it?" Carroll said. "I think it's a good statement about what we're doing and we believe in young guys. We believe young guys can play. We committed to that a long time ago, and it's worked out fine for us. We'll see how these guys do, we'll have to wait and see, but it's a good statement of the process and getting guys in here that can compete and battle for spots. I'm happy about it, I'm not worried about it at all."
While not every rookie will be expected to play a big role immediately, Carroll has noticed over the years that rookies often times can make limited contributions early, then provide a mid-to-late-season boost as they get up to speed.
"We want our guys to fit in as early as we can, so we try to find things that they can do well and get them on the field and let them contribute to us," he said. "The sooner they start contributing and feeling the confidence that they do something, the faster they develop. That's really how it has been. Then somewhere around half of the season you've got guys that are really comfortable playing. You've brought your young guys into the fold, and I think that has always helped us strength wise and productivity wise at the end of football seasons. It's an important element as you build your roster throughout the season. We have to play them to find that out, and we've got to work them into that to have access to those guys."
3. The Seahawks are "just trying to get a little bit better" with latest roster moves.
As if often the case for the Seahawks and every NFL team this time of year, Seattle made a couple of changes to its roster over the weekend in addition to just cutting the roster down to 53 players. The Seahawks traded for Raiders safety Dewey McDonald, and also picked up former 49ers defensive tackle Garrison Smith off of waivers.
"Both of those guys just looked like they had a chance to help us," Carroll said. "We were just trying to get a little bit better, and we thought those guys would be better on the roster than other guys that we let go. It was really just the competition of it and through the film and watching them. It was just our evaluation process, so hopefully they'll help us."
With McDonald, who played safety in Oakland, the Seahawks plan to take a look at him at weakside linebacker. He'll also be asked to contribute on special teams, perhaps lightening the load for DeShawn Shead, who last season had big roles both on special teams and on defense.
"He looks like a guy who can help us immediately on special teams, he may be able to help us with DeShawn Shead who plays so much on teams and in the same kind of role, because DeShawn is going to play a lot of snaps for us otherwise," Carroll said. "I'm hoping that he'll fit in nicely."
4. DeShawn Shead could be used in matchups with tight ends.
When the Seahawks signed Brandon Browner, who has since been released, one possible role for him mentioned by Carroll was a that of a big defensive back who could match up well with bigger receivers or pass-catching tight ends. If the Seahawks are still looking for somebody to do that against certain opponents, it could end up being Shead, who has experience playing both safety and corner.
"We're fortunate in that DeShawn Shead can do a little bit of everything," Carroll said. "He's played safety, he's played corner, he's played nickel, so DeShawn gives us that guy if we want to match up at corner on a tight end that's a big producing guy, that's the way we can go. We had real nice flexibility with our guys, Jeremy (Lane) gives us that flexibility, too, and so does Tharold (Simon)."
5. Tani Tupou has made a "terrific transition" to playing fullback.
The Seahawks re-signed Tani Tupou Monday, a rookie defensive-lineman-turned-fullback who has a chance to have a significant role immediately as the only fullback on the roster. Tupou worked at both defensive tackle and fullback in the preseason, and impressed coaches with how quickly he adapted to his new position.
"He did a great job," Carroll said. "He's made a terrific transition, he can play on both sides of the ball. We're excited to see him go. He's a big, pounding fullback at 280 plus and he's made a transition quickly. He showed it right off the bat, it wasn't like it took him a long time. He made good statements early on so we were excited about him throughout. He didn't do much of that in college—I asked (Washington coach Chris Petersen) about that—he didn't do a lot but he did some, and it just made sense to him."
6. C.J. Prosise has impressed in limited playing time.
Third-round pick C.J. Prosise missed a significant part of training camp and two preseason games with a hamstring injury, but since returning to action, the running back out of Notre Dame has made a strong impression.
"He's a talented football player," Carroll said. "It was really exciting to see what he did on special teams last week. He made some special plays and really showed his heart and his athleticism in another area. There really isn't anything that he hasn't done well. Very smart, he spent a good and appropriate amount of time studying while he was down so that it didn't hurt him in terms of his assignments and principles and protections and things like that. He did a very good job, we haven't seen anything we don't like. He's really a complete football player."
Prosise was one of several running backs to have impress in the preseason which made for some tough decisions when setting the roster, including waiving undrafted rookie Troymaine Pope, who had a very impressive preseason and was claimed off of waivers by the Jets.
"He's a really good player, he's a nice player," Carroll said of Pope. "We liked our running backs, we're in good shape at that spot right there, but he did have a really good preseason and he was a great find. We'll see what happens with the Jets."
Check out the best photos from the Seahawks practice held at Virginia Mason Athletic Center on Monday as the team prepares for the first regular season game of 2016 against the Miami Dolphins.