Day 2 of Seahawks training camp ended with Kevin Smith making a spectacular diving catch across the middle of the field, then leaping to his feet and sprinting to the end zone for a touchdown. That was one of just several plays made by some of the lesser-known receivers on Seattle's roster Saturday, which brings us to observations from the second day of camp:
1. The Seahawks are bigger and deeper at receiver this year
Seattle's receivers, led by starters Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse, did a lot of good things last year, but with 6-foot-2 Ricardo Lockette representing the biggest player at the position for much of the year, no one was mistaking the group as being big by NFL standards. But with Chris Matthews (6-5, 218) emerging late in the season, first on special teams, then with a spectacular Super Bowl performance, and with Douglas McNeil III (6-3, 200) showing flashes in offseason workouts and again in camp, the Seahawks suddenly have noticeably more size at receiver.
"We have a great group, there's size, there's some smaller guys too, there is a lot of size and we're going to end up letting all of those guys compete and then we'll see how they fall, and we'll end up taking the best however many are able to fit on our roster," Bevell said. "We do like the size though, it shows up quickly. Without a doubt, it helps Russell in different ways and it does show up for us. You can see them, you can see those guys particularly when they're running into traffic areas, between the numbers, between the hashes."
McNeill made a pair of long catches on deep balls, one from Tarvaris Jackson and one from R.J. Archer, while Matthews continues to look more and more like a player who could be a regular contributor. McNeil, Smith, Kasen Williams and plenty of other talented receivers have work to do to make the team at what is looking like a very deep position, but plays like the one Smith made or the ones McNeil made show that whoever makes the team will have done a lot to earn those roster spots.
Smith also had a nice catch for a "touchdown" on a deep ball from Jackson, though unless linebacker Mike Morgan had temporarily gone blind mid-play, he would have sacked Jackson if defensive players were allowed to hit quarterbacks rather than just run by them with a touch. Even so, it was a nice catch and effort to get inside the pylon after the grab.
2. DE Cassius Marsh looks very quick
Fourth-round pick Cassius showed a lot of potential in camp last season, but he went down early in the season with a broken foot. Marsh is healthy and back on the field, and he very much looks like somebody ready to contribute to the defensive line rotations this season. At one point, Marsh blew by rookie tackle Jesse Davis on consecutive plays, showing impressive quickness off the line of scrimmage. Marsh so far has been working with the second-team, but considering Seattle's preference to rotate linemen, he definitely has a good chance to carve out a significant role for himself in 2015.
3. Jimmy Graham's chemistry with Russell Wilson continues to grow.
Of all the catches Jimmy Graham made in Saturday's practice, and there were many, perhaps none were more important than a relatively short gain early in team drills. Graham had longer catches, and more spectacular ones—none better than the leaping catch over rookie safety Keenan Lambert, who was with stride for stride with Graham, on a back-shoulder throw down the sideline—but what made an early-practice catch so significant is that it was the result of Graham breaking off of his route and coming back after Russell Wilson escaped pressure and move out of the pocket. Understanding the team's "scramble rules" is a big deal for Seahawks receivers and tight ends considering how often Wilson is on the move, so the fact that Graham is demonstrating the ability to do that early on is encouraging. In New Orleans, Graham more often than not was tasked with running a precise route, knowing exactly when and where the ball would be delivered. Those kind of plays are certainly a part of Seattle's offense, but so too are the more seemingly random ones, which aren't actually entirely random, that have lead to so many big gains.
Emptying out the notebook
- Fullback Derrick Coleman was a spectator Saturday, the result of a hamstring injury that is considered day-to-day.
- The six players who were out to open camp—cornerback Jeremy Lane, receiver Paul Richardson, cornerback Tharold Simon, safety Earl Thomas, safety Dion Bailey and defensive tackle Jesse Williams—remained on the sideline or did conditioning work on the side. Safety Kam Chancellor once again was a no-show having not yet reported to camp.
- Running back Robert Turbin, who is coming back from offseason hip surgery, did significantly more work in team drills after being limited Friday.
- For the second straight practice, Lemuel Jeanpierre and Drew Nowak took the first-team reps at center.
- While most backs and receivers practice holding the ball tight at the end of runs to prevent the defense from stripping the ball, something players often try to do well after the whistle, Marshawn Lynch has made a point of punctuating runs and catches by flipping the ball to the nearest defender. Perhaps he doesn't want his arms getting beat up this early in camp.
- Speaking of Lynch, his cousin Ryan Murphy, a seventh-round pick out of Oregon State, had a nice interception on a ball thrown behind the intended target.
- A leaping grab by Luke Willson in seven-on-seven drill momentarily looked like a play headed for disaster with DeShawn Shead and Steven Terrell converging on the play. The two safeties, currently working with the first team with Thomas and Chancellor out, fortunately pulled up at the last moment to avoid a collision.
It was a beautiful, sunny day at Day 2 of Seahawks Training Camp presented by Bing.