When Seahawks receivers coach Dave Canales was asked about the battle for roster spots at his position, he proceeded to name just about every receiver on Seattle's roster.
"I've got to talk about the whole group, really," Canales began, before talking about Kenny Lawler's hands, Kevin Smith and Kasen Williams' experience having been on the active roster last year, Douglas McNeil III "starting to come into his own," Antwan Goodley being "hard to cover these past couple of days," Tanner McEvoy's potential special teams value because of his defensive background, and so on.
Canales isn't just trying to pump everyone up to act like he's not playing favorites, he really has to cover just about everyone when it comes to the competition at receiver behind Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, Tyler Lockett and, if healthy, Paul Richardson, because there really are no favorites.
"It's a really good group of guys after those top four guys," Canales said. "It's going to be a pretty heated competition. We're going to take it all the way through the preseason… We couldn't be more fired up about that group."
In any given practice, you're likely to see Williams make a spectacular leaping grab like the one he hauled in Monday, or see Deshon Foxx stretching the field with his speed, or see McNeil III use his size to make a play, or see Smith pull in a tough, contested catch. In the past the Seahawks have most often kept six receivers on their 53-man roster, and as things stand right now, it's looking like deciding on those last couple of spots is going to be very, very difficult.
"All of our young receivers are looking fantastic right now," Baldwin said. "I know it's early in camp. We haven't really hit the dog days of camp yet so we will see, but they are doing a fantastic job right now."
Williams, a local product who starred at Skyline High School before going to the University of Washington, has the advantage of having been on the active roster last season after working his way up from the practice squad, as does fellow Husky Kevin Smith.
Williams keeps a journal, and said one thing he wrote recently is how he is more confident in camp this year because of that experience.
"It definitely built my confidence, and I want to continue to ride that wave and continue to be successful and be comfortable out here," he said. "Last year, I was nervous, but once I started making plays, that comfortability kicked in, and that's what I need—to play relaxed and not worry about the playbook or the fans or making the team, just being myself and playing.
"I think (the competition) is going really well, and I feel like good competition always brings out the best in us. We're competing as often as possible, whether it's in the film room, on the field, in the weight room. Whatever it is, any time we get a chance to compete, we're going to do so. I think it's gone real well for us. Everyone has been competing at a high level, and it's just fun to watch everyone be successful."
One thing Williams and everyone battling for a roster spot at any position knows very well is that being able to make an impact on special teams can be the difference between a spot on the 53-man roster and landing on the waiver wire.
"That's actually what it comes down to," Williams said. "You can make as many plays as you want, but if your special teams isn't there, then you're not going to find a spot on this team. Special teams is one of the most important things."
Richardson, a former second-round pick who played in only one game last season because of knee and hamstring injuries, may or may not be a little safer when it comes to winning a roster spot, but he won't treat training camp that way after having to sit out last year while recovering from a torn ACL.
"Last year I was watching," Richardson said. "I couldn't even go inside the white lines. Now I'm out here able to perform inside the white lines, so it's been fun."
Richardson said he's too busy worrying about his own performance to think about how it stacks up against his fellow receivers in camp.
"That doesn't really concern me," he said. "We have a lot of guys, we all do different things, we all bring different things to the table. We don't have two guys who play the same in our receiver group, so it's just going to come down to whatever the team needs. The coaches and the decision-makers will do what's best for us."
And the way things look early in camp, those decision-makers are going to have their hands full when it comes time to make decisions at receiver.
"I think it's a really good group you saw," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "A great catch out there by Goodley today. Kasen had a big catch in the team period earlier. I'm anxious to see how it fits together with Lawler, we haven't seen a lot of him yet—he's just getting going and he really made some nice plays yesterday. McEvoy's getting a shot at it. I mean, all these guys are getting a really good look. We're going to see them all, you can't tell a difference. Doug McNeil is a guy that's also in the mix, so we'll see where that works out."
Check out the best photos from Day 3 of Seahawks training camp at Virginia Mason Athletic Center.