The Seahawks have a secondary loaded with talent, including Pro-Bowlers Quandre Diggs, Jamal Adams and Tariq Woolen, and No. 5 overall pick Devon Witherspoon.
Yet when Pete Carroll met with the media following the final day of Seattle's three-day minicamp, it was another defensive back, cornerback Michael Jackson, who was receiving the highest praise.
"Michael Jackson has had the best camp of anybody," Carroll said. "He had a great camp. He stepped up to the challenge of it, had just a really productive, almost a dominant camp for us. That was great to see that, we need it."
Granted, Woolen has been out for most of offseason workouts with a knee injury—he's expected back for training camp—and Adams is still recovering from last year's season ending injury, but regardless of who is or isn't on the field, Carroll throwing that kind of praise on Jackson is a good sign for how much talent and depth the Seahawks have in their secondary.
With Woolen coming off a Pro-Bowl season as a rookie and with Witherspoon arriving as a Top 5 pick, a lot of people just assumed Jackson, a former fifth-round pick who bounced around with three teams and on multiple practice squads before landing in Seattle, would end up being the odd man out. Yet Jackson, who started all 17 games last year at left cornerback, has shown throughout organized team activities and minicamp that he isn't going to give up his spot without a fight, regularly turning in highlight plays, including an interception in the red zone on Tuesday during seven-on-seven drills.
"Mike challenged whenever he could, all of the techniques, all of the stuff we asked him to do," Carroll said. "Playing on both sides, he played some inside stuff too. But he just—his confidence is really at an all-time high for him. And I know that when he saw Tariq go down, it was important for him to step up so that we felt secure, we'd be OK, we could carry on. He just rose to this camp, and really, through all the weeks he's been great. He's ready to play."
Given all the talent the Seahawks have at cornerback and safety, where they added former Giants starter Julian Love, it's no surprise that Carroll, a former safety as a player, and a defensive backs coach early in his career before he became a defensive coordinator then later a head coach, is spending a lot of time dreaming up different ways to utilize all the talent Seattle has in its secondary.
"Oh yeah, my wheels are turning, yes," Carroll said. "They're turning, and they aren't going to stop either, no matter how long of a vacation this is, they ain't stopping. This is really exciting. The dimensions we have at the safety position, it's really, really special. (At cornerback), Tre Brown did really well at this camp as well. With Mike and Spoon and Riq and Tre, that's a good group, Coby (Bryant)'s got stuff to do for us too. It's going to be a real battle in camp. I hope everybody stays healthy so they put their best foot forward and all of that, but this is competitive as we've been in a long time. We expect to call on those guys. They're going to be covering people, they're going to be working hard, they're doing to be in matchups, and doing all the press stuff we work so hard at and all that… It's an area that I'm really fired up about."
When it comes to all the different things Carroll and his coaching staff could try with the secondary, one option they tinkered with this week is using Witherspoon at nickel corner. That move was made in part because Coby Bryant is dealing with a sprained toe, but also because the Seahawks just want to see what the rookie can do in that spot.
"He's capable of playing in there. Coby Bryant was banged up with a toe thing he had to take care of, so it gave us the opportunity to take a look at Spoon inside," Carroll said. "He was excited—I talked to him about it way back when, and he was all excited about it. He said, 'I can learn it all, I can get it,' he was really positive about it. So when we gave him the chance, he jumped right on it. He is a really good football learner. He gets it, man. It makes sense to him, and he does things naturally really well, and that expedites the process. This will be really good film again today to check him out, but we've seen him look pretty much in charge of the position, so we'll see how it goes."
Carroll said Witherspoon didn't play a lot of nickel in college but did play inside some, and added, "It didn't matter who he was playing, he was covering everybody. He's a special cover guy, his quickness and his instincts and all really lend to him being an effective player there."
While Witherspoon, as a first-round pick, is the offseason addition in the secondary who has received the most attention, he's not the only newcomer on the back end that Carroll is excited about. Love, who signed as a free agent in March, has also made a really strong first impression.
"He has been fantastic," Carroll said. "He's a young man still, but he's like he's been around forever. He's got great sense, great awareness and presence. He totally gets football, it makes sense to him, he's an excellent communicator. Really a gifted, smooth athlete with real quickness. And it comes from really great instincts. He's looked great. I know it has been obvious to Quandre that he's got a guy over there who really can command what's going on, so they're sharing the duties and working together and growing. So he's another guy who's made a great first impression on us."
For now, Love is working as one of the two starting safeties along with Diggs, but the plan eventually is to get him on the field with Diggs and Adams frequently once Adams returns from his injury. Carroll said there's still no firm timetable on Adams' return, but he's still "competing and racing for camp" along with linebacker Jordyn Brooks, who is coming off a torn ACL.
Asked if he's concerned about Adams being ready for Week 1, Carroll said, ""No, not yet. We'll see. Let's get to camp first and see what happens. It may be too much to ask, I don't know, we'll see."
The Seahawks hit the practice field for the final day of minicamp on June 8, 2023 at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center.