If you watch Seahawks practice day after day, you start to notice a few reoccurring themes.
Tight end Jimmy Graham is almost unstoppable, rookie receiver Tyler Lockett looks like the real deal, it's tough to complete passes on cornerback Richard Sherman, defensive ends Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril often times look unblockable, and so on.
After almost two weeks of training camp, it's looking like you can add "Cassius Marsh running past a tackle" to that list.
"He has improved on his rush skills, on the edge rushing," defensive line coach Travis Jones said. "That's what we're concentrating on with him now… In the Leo position in base and defensive end in nickel, and he has really excelled and done well in camp."
After showing flashes both as an edge rusher and an interior pass rusher in camp last season, Marsh looked like he might be a factor during his rookie season, but a broken foot ended his season in October. As Jones notes, Marsh's role is more defined this season, with rookie Frank Clark doing more of the Bennett-like inside-out work—think of Marsh as playing a similar role as Avril.
And the beauty of Seattle's defense for a player like Marsh or Clark or Jordan Hill is that winning a starting role isn't a prerequisite for being an important part of the defense. The Seahawks want to look more like they did in 2013 when, thanks to a deep rotation, Bennett led defensive linemen in playing time while being on the field for fewer than 60 percent of the snaps.
However much Marsh gets onto the field on gameday, for now he's just happy to be playing football again after having a promising rookie campaign cut short.
"I love football, so it was hard to be away, especially with us going so deep into the playoffs," said Marsh, a 2014 fourth-round pick out of UCLA. "Watching the guys make plays together and not being a part of it was tough. But it was a blessing in disguise. I got to work real hard and get better.
"It was definitely tough. I feel like I was starting to come on. I had made some plays in games, I had some good practices, but like I said, to me it was a blessing in disguise. I got to do some great things in the offseason, and it's paying off for me now."
As you often hear from athletes coming back from an injury, there was a silver lining to that time away. Marsh discovered a newfound focus he said wasn't there before, and while he didn't change his weight significantly, he is a faster, more-defined 254-pounder than he was last season or in college.
"I did nothing but grind this offseason," said, who appeared in five games and recorded five tackles. "That injury really did something to me, really refocused me. I'm just happy to be out here, happy to be out on the field learning from the guys."
The Seahawks experimented with Marsh at strongside linebacker during offseason workouts, seeing if he could make the same transition to base defense linebacker/nickel defense pass-rusher that Bruce Irvin made in 2013. Marsh said he's comfortable doing that, but for now with the Seahawks so deep at linebacker, Marsh is sticking to defensive end, and 11 practices into camp, the results have been very encouraging.
Of course for any young player, and especially one who missed most of a season, showing that that potential can carry over to games is the next important step. Marsh will likely be on the field plenty in Friday's preseason opener, and both he and his coaches are eager to see just how much progress he has made when he gets a chance to do the type of full-contact work that can't be replicated in practice.
"He's practicing very well," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "It's going to be game reps that are going to show how effective he is, he looks terrific in practice."
Terrific in practice isn't the same thing as getting it done on game day, but for Marsh, it has certainly been an encouraging start, one that bodes well both for his future and for that of the Seahawks' defensive line.
"He's shown us that he's a very instinctive football player, he really has a great sense for the game, and he can do a lot of things in the game," Carroll said. "Because he went down early he got back early and he's really primed. He's in great shape, he's hauling tail around here, and he's off to a good start in this camp."
The Seahawks chose 108th Cassius March from UCLA.