At the eighth practice of Seahawks training camp presented by Bing, the team conducted a "Mock Game" in front of a capacity crowd of 2,600 fans at Renton's Virginia Mason Athletic Center.
The workout wasn't quite a full-on, pad-popping scrimmage, as tackling to the ground was still a no-no, just as it's been through the club's previous seven practices. But the session did provide plenty more game situations than a typical practice from which we can begin to draw conclusions as to how the Seahawks might look when they open exhibition play against the Denver Broncos next Friday, Aug. 14 at Seattle's CenturyLink Field.
On Friday, Seahawks.com digital media reporter John Boyle shared three things to watch for in today's "Mock Game," so let's take time to review where things stand with the questions Boyle posed.
1. Did The New Standout Pass Catchers Shine Again?
Tight end Jimmy Graham, the three-time Pro Bowler acquired this offseason in a trade with the New Orleans Saints, and rookie wide receiver Tyler Lockett, who the Seahawks traded up to select in the third-round (No. 69 overall) of this year's draft, are the two pass catchers we've been calling out most in our practice observations for their exceptional play so far.
Graham finished Saturday's mock game with two catches, including an exciting grab of a Russell Wilson pass over the middle of the field where Graham used his 6-foot-7, 265-pound frame to go up and get the ball over a smaller defender.
"The chemistry has been more than I could ever imagine," Graham said of his relationship with Wilson. "For example, today in the scrimmage we had one we didn't connect on. So then after practice we did it about four or five times. That's how we're going to do it every day, each and every day. I told him anything we're iffy about we're going to get it after practice because the season is right here and when those big moments come I want that connection to be right."
Lockett finished Saturday's scrimmage with one catch, but the former Kansas State standout found himself working in with the first-team offense often. Lockett frequently lined up in three-receiver sets with some combination of Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, Ricardo Lockette, or Chris Matthews.
2. How Did The New Corners Hold Up?
With Byron Maxwell joining the Philadelphia Eagles in free agency this offseason and Jeremy Lane (arm/knee) and Tharold Simon (shoulder) starting the preseason on the team's physically unable to perform list, cornerback has become a position to keep a close eye on during training camp.
Cary Williams, the eight-year veteran Seattle signed this offseason from the Eagles, appears likely to replace Maxwell as the team's starting cornerback opposite All-Pro Richard Sherman. Williams worked with the first-team defense at right corner on Saturday and recorded a pick to close out the mock game as Tarvaris Jackson faced pressure from defensive end Cliff Avril.
Will Blackmon, who spent 2013 in training camp with the Seahawks, was the first-man-up at the nickel cornerback spot and made his mark, snagging a goal-line interception of R.J. Archer on a ball intended for B.J. Daniels and returning it 100 yards down the sideline for a touchdown.
Despite Williams and Blackmon recording highlight-reel plays, Carroll said the competition at each spot is ongoing.
"I want to leave the competition on here for the nickel spot, and Cary's got to push, too," Carroll said. "Cary's got all the experience you could ever want, but I don't want to just close the door on the other guys."
Carroll mentioned a few names battling Williams for the job at right cornerback: Blackmon; Simon, who Carroll expects back sooner rather than later; and the newly-acquired Mohammed Seisay, who recorded an impressive pick of Wilson on a deep ball intended for Graham. Fighting Blackmon at the nickel spot is third-year pro Marcus Burley, who worked behind Blackmon on Saturday, and rookie Tye Smith, who Carroll said has shown "really good coverage skills inside" during one-on-one drills.
3. How Did The Offensive Line Rotation Shake Out?
Two of the team's starting spots on the offensive line are up for grabs - center and left guard - and Saturday's scrimmage offered a glimpse at the favorite to land each position.
Working at center with the first-team offense was Drew Nowak, the 6-foot-3, 292-pound fourth-year pro who originally entered the League as a defensive tackle for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Nowak has been competing alongside veteran center Lemuel Jeanpierre, who started three games for the Seahawks last year in place of an injured Max Unger. In the early stages of camp, Carroll said Jeanpierre would be the starting center if the team were to play a game right now, but that thought process has changed.
"That was earlier," Carroll said. "Drew Nowak is doing a really good job right now. Drew's getting a great shot to show us how he fits together with it. Like we said, that was a real key spot for competition, and that's on. Drew has been doing a good job. He's come a long way. He's another guy who's come from the other side of the ball just a year ago, so he needs every snap to show he's understanding and he can communicate and all that. But the indications are really good. He's really strong and he's shown really good smarts, so we'll see what happens."
Left guard in the first-team offense belonged to Alvin Bailey after rookie Kristjan Sokoli saw plenty of work there in recent training camp practices. Rookie Mark Glowinski was the first to back up Bailey at the spot.
Today's mock game at Seahawks Training Camp presented by Bing was good preparation for the first preseason game at CenturyLink Field next Friday.
Emptying Out The Notebook
- Earl Thomas came off the team's physically unable to perform list earlier this week, but has not yet participated in practice and watched Saturday's scrimmage from the sideline. Coming off PUP, Carroll said Thomas is able to take advantage of 50-plus snaps during the team's walk-through practices each night. "It's still a couple weeks away, but we're getting closer and we're trying to get him involved so he can continue to progress, too."
- Marshawn Lynch got the day off, so the bulk of the running back touches went to Robert Turbin, who was spelled by Christine Michael and Thomas Rawls.
- Douglas McNeil III, who recently converted from wide receiver to cornerback, stuck with the defensive side of the football on Saturday, playing 25-30 plays by Carroll's estimation. Carroll said McNeil III was "doing fine" at wideout but at 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds also had intriguing size for a defensive back. "He's really long, he's really fast, he's got a real motor about him," said Carroll. "He's a real aggressive kid, so I asked them to go ahead and take a look at it. Let's see if we can put him into that side of the ball and see what would happen. He's taller than Sherm, he's a little bit longer than Sherm, he's about Sherm's speed, and Sherm is taking him under his wing and trying to help him as fast as he can to bring him along."
- A couple injury updates: Tight end Cooper Helfet (ribs) and defensive end Obum Gwacham (elbow) sat out on Saturday.
Mock Game Unofficial Stats
12/16 2 TD 1 INT
5 Drives - INT, FG, TD, TD, Punt
8/15 0 TD 1 INT
5 Drives – Punt, Punt, Punt, TD, INT
4/9 0 TD 2 INT
3 Drives – Punt, INT, INT
Baldwin, Doug 4
Williams, Kasen 4
Graham, Jimmy 2
Turbin 2 TD
Cottom, B. 1
Lockett, T. 1
Willson, L. 1 TD
Allen, R. 1
Matthews, C. 1
McCoy, A. 1
Daniels, B.J. 1
Lockette, R. 1
Seisay, Mohammed 1
Terrell, Steven 1
Blackmon, Will 1 - TD
Williams, Cary 1