The Seahawks wrapped up offseason workouts Thursday with their final practice of a three-day mandatory minicamp, and while head coach Pete Carroll was excited about so many different things he saw over the past several weeks—from the continued growth of quarterback Russell Wilson, to the way Justin Britt is transitioning to center, to depth and versatility of his secondary—what caught his eye most this offseason was the progress made by this year's rookie class.
"I'm pleased that we finished on a high note with a lot of young guys getting a lot of reps today," Carroll said. "The young players that came in really worked hard to give themselves a chance. The whole idea here is for us to prepare them so that when they can get to camp time they can compete and get ready to go, and they've done everything they can that they could do so far. Today showed it, so we're really pleased. We had a bunch of snaps with those guys out there and it'll be good for our evaluations and all, but we've accomplished what we've needed to accomplish at this time. We're really concerned about the six weeks coming up, another opportunity for us to compete, and we want our guys to work really hard at least at the level that they've gained, because we're ready to go right now. But it is a long six weeks, so we're going to keep our fingers crossed that everybody gets back healthy and ready to go."
Carroll is "concerned" about the next six weeks not because he's one to expect bad things to happen, but rather because he saw so many encouraging things, he would just as soon start training camp now to build off of that progress.
"We want guys just to keep moving," he said. "They've invested so much and worked so hard to get to where they are, and now they're going to have to find their way to maintain it. Hopefully a lot of our guys will work out together and they'll figure out how to make sure that they can kind of feed off one another and compete and work out hard. They will. They will, but it is more uncertain than (nerve-wracking).
"With where they are right now, I wish we could start (training camp). If anything I'm concerned about what happens when they come back, because right now I know we have them where we want them. There's stuff for every one of those guys specifically we're calling on them to work on in these next six weeks, because we know enough about them now to do that. But we really could start camp today and we'd be fine."
Defensive coordinator Kris Richard echoed Carroll's thoughts about this offseason in terms of the focus on the younger players: "It was about them. It was absolutely about them. Right now it's about seeing how much that they can hold onto, how much can they grasp, and we threw the entire playbook at them, they had to learn it, we came to our three-day minicamp and we threw tons of stuff at them. So it's about the process of them learning, the process of their execution."
Among those rookies on Richard's side of the ball are two defensive linemen—second-round pick Jarran Reed and fifth-rounder Quinton Jefferson—who could take on significant roles as rookies. It's difficult for linemen on either side of the ball to prove themselves this time of year with contact at a minimum, but Richard likes what those two have shown so far.
"They're going to be valuable," Richard said. "They're going to be valuable for us. And again, it's not real football, so when we put the pads on that'll be the tell-tale sign, but what they've shown and who they are and what we've seen, the reason why they're here is because they're tough, physical, they're fast, and they fit the epitome of our defense. So we expect them to help us a lot."
On the offensive side of the ball, several rookies could contribute right away, including first-round pick Germain Ifedi, the likely starter at right guard. Another rookie who looks to have a big role early is running back C.J. Prosise, and the third-round pick was back in action the last couple of days after missing recent organized team activities with a hip flexor injury.
"He had a really good day today now," Carroll said. "This was his best day as a Seahawk. He got some good reps, he got some open field to move, he caught a couple balls really well. He's worked really hard, he knows his stuff, he knows his assignments for as many turns as he's had. He showed really good burst today and I can't wait to see the film. I thought it was a very good day for him."
Between the growth of the rookie class, the progress shown by other young players and the continued improvement and leadership of veterans, this has been the team's best session of offseason workouts in years, and perhaps the best yet under Carroll, according to several players and coaches. One thing in particular that stuck out to Carroll was the way the team pushed hard from a conditioning standpoint.
"We wanted to really work every day at our conditioning and push to really run hard every chance we got," Carroll said. "So we made a big emphasis on pursuit, a big emphasis on effort. We wanted to do one day at a time and see if we could put together a bunch of really good days, and we did that. The coaches did a really good job of emphasizing it and we got really good leadership from the guys around here, the standard was maintained, and we finished today flying around pretty good. It's been a good process throughout.
"You can never be good enough in pursuit and chasing the football and effort. There's not a time when you nail it. Every day you have to come back to it. So we really wanted to get a good pattern of thought with the guys with how hard we're going to work and how hard we're going to run, and we did that."
With so many encouraging signs on display and with so many rookies impressing coaches, Carroll believes this year's training camp "is going to be one of our most competitive camps. This is a chance for us to have a roster that reminds us of a couple years back, and hopefully it'll play out that way."
Photos from the third and final day of Seahawks minicamp practices held at Renton's Virginia Mason Athletic Center.