The Seahawks held their sixth practice of 2023 training camp on Tuesday, their second straight in pads, and as was the case Monday, the physical nature of practice was notable.
"I'm not a big fan of not being in pads, because to me that's not real football," defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt said. "I think you guys have heard me call it Underwear Olympics before, but now it's the real deal. We had a great day yesterday, today we gave up some things that we did not give up yesterday, and really overall in camp. But that's good, it gives you something to get on the guys, things you've got to get corrected. But I love the spirit and competition."
Here are six observations from Day 6 of camp:
1. Devon Witherspoon brings a fiery, physical presence to the secondary.
The Seahawks selected cornerback Devon Witherspoon with the No. 5 overall pick for a number of reasons, from his coverage skills to his instinct to one trait that isn't always common at that position: his physical, hard-hitting style.
The past two days have allowed Witherspoon to show off his physicality playing both outside corner and nickel, and the rookie had his best day of camp so far on Tuesday when he made several plays, showing up both in coverage, breaking up multiple passes, and making some noteworthy hits when catches were made in front of him. He also had a "sack" of Drew Lock on a corner blitz.
But while Witherspoon couldn't actually tackle a quarterback wearing a red jersey, he didn't take it easy on his teammates, at one point tackling Dee Eskridge on the sideline after a third-down catch by the third-year receiver, with the two both popping up and exchanging a little smack talk as they went back to the huddle. Later, Witherspoon knocked fellow first-round pick Jaxon Smith-Njigba to the ground after a catch, then helped his teammate up, giving him a little pat on the head.
"I love the spirit and the energy he brings playing this game," Hurtt said. "It's infectious. A young kid, that's how he is all the time, that's something everybody else will build off of. He had a heck of day. Super competitive."
And while full-on tackling is generally not something you see in practice, nor is it something coaches encourage, Hurtt didn't mind a little extra enthusiasm from his rookie corner.
"Let him go," Hurtt said. "The way the rules go with the CBA, it's dialed back enough. They protect them, so when it's time to go, it's go time."
2. The safety depth is impressive.
When Jamal Adams is back, the Seahawks have one of the best safety duos in the NFL, with him and Quandre Diggs each having multiple Pro-Bowl selections, and in Adams' case, All-Pro nods, on their resumes. But what is most evident at that position early in camp is how deep the Seahawks are behind those two. Yes, Diggs is still making his share of plays, including an interception to end Monday's practice, but on Tuesday the Seahawks were getting big play after big play out of other safeties. Julian Love, who has been with the starting defense with Adams out—and who is expected to stay on the field quite a bit even after Adams returns, had an interception on a deep ball in the end zone, while Joey Blount, who has looked good throughout camp, was in the backfield multiple times to blow up running plays. Rookie Jerrick Reed II also had a couple of highlight plays, including a pass breakup in the end zone on a ball thrown to DK Metcalf, and another nice breakup on the sideline to deny Eskridge a catch.
"It's good to see that for the young guys," Hurtt said. "We've got really high-quality depth. It's good to see those guys continue to grow. A lot of those guys are making a lot of plays all camp long."
3. Tyler Lockett is a master of his craft.
It's easy in training camp to focus on the newcomers, either rookies or free-agent additions, to see how they look, or to pay attention to the competitions for starting jobs or roster spots. And sometimes while watching those things its easy to overlook the standout play from the players who have been doing it for years in a Seahawks uniform. That, of course, brings us to Tyler Lockett, who heading into his ninth season looks as dangerous as ever coming off of four consecutive 1,000-yard seasons.
One play in particular on Tuesday illustrated just how good Lockett is at his job, and how subtle his excellent route-running skills can be. While Doug Baldwin could make an opponent look foolish with a crossover or another move than might make a defensive back fall over, Lockett's moves to get open are often more subtle—just a slight adjustment in his route or a head nod or body lean that gets a defender going the wrong way, then suddenly he's wide open. That happened on a third-and-long play with the defense in dime—six defensive backs—a situation that should favor the defense. Yet even with those six defensive backs on the field, Lockett managed to find himself running open deep over the middle, and Geno Smith hit him in stride for a long touchdown that was one of the offensive highlights of the day.
4. Vi Jones is making a good early impression in Year 2.
Vi Jones joined the Seahawks as an undrafted rookie last season, and during his first season, most of which was spent on the practice squad, he split time between inside and outside linebacker, meaning he was playing both off-ball and on the line of scrimmage as an edge player. Those are two pretty different roles despite both being called linebacker in Seattle's 3-4 defense, and this year he is focusing full time on inside linebacker. And the early results with Jones sticking to one spot have been intriguing, as the second-year player has made several standout plays early in camp, including an interception last week.
On Tuesday, with Devin Bush getting a day off, Jones worked extensively with the No. 1 defense, playing alongside Bobby Wagner.
"He looks like a different guy," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Sunday. "He looks like a linebacker now. He's played outside for us, he's moved around in college some, we've put him behind the football to see if he can help us there, but he got hurt in the springtime. He missed three or four weeks. He didn't get to make a lot of progress, but he was learning and studying. When he came back out here, he was very comfortable with it. I don't know what his high level is at this point. He's really athletic, he's tall, he's fast, lean, and explosive. Let's just see what happens. We know he can play on special teams. We're trying to develop him as a linebacker and see how far he can take it."
5. Uchenna Nwosu was all over the backfield.
Among the several defensive highlights for the defense Tuesday were multiple plays made by Uchenna Nwosu that led to losses for the offense. In one red-zone session late in practice, Nwosu blew past a blocker for a sack, then a few plays later he again quickly got into the backfield for a tackle for loss on a running play.
Nwosu was one of Seattle's best defensive players last season, leading to a three-year contract extension, and early in camp he looks poised to once again be a playmaker on that side of the ball. The fact that he's having a strong camp is no surprise to Hurtt.
"Consistent, physical, do his job, great leader," Hurtt said. "He embodies everything you want to look for in a guy to be a Seahawk. Leader, competitive, tough, physical, can do all the tricks of the trade of the job, and help bring other people along with him."
6. The kick return competition looks to be wide open.
During a special teams portion of practice, the Seahawks spent a good amount of time practicing kick returns, and there appears to be a pretty open competition brewing for that role. DeeJay Dallas, who has returned kicks in the past, including last season, was one of four players returning kicks Tuesday along with Dee Eskridge, who took over that role last season from Dallas before suffering a hand injury that landed him on injured reserve; Tre Brown, who had return experience in college; and rookie Kenny McIntosh, who also returned kicks in college.
Preseason games will give those players the best chance to state their case for the job, but what is already evident is that there appear to be several viable candidates to return kicks.
The Seahawks held their first padded practice of Training Camp on Monday, July 31, 2023 at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center.