The Seahawks wrapped up a three-day minicamp on Thursday, which also marked the end of an offseason workout program that kicked off in April. Players and coaches now will get some well-deserved time off, and while Seahawks coach Pete Carroll wants his players to enjoy some down time, an important message to the team was that they come back ready to go when training camp kicks off in six weeks.
"We've had a very successful offseason to this point and that there's a big challenge coming up in the six weeks—it's a six-week challenge for us—for the guys to stay on course with their conditioning and the things that they've learned so that when we come back to camp, we can take off and keep flying ahead," Carroll said. "I think this is a big challenge for these guys. The break is well-deserved of course, but they've got to really stay at it if we're going to come out of here and have won the six weeks. Everything was really good and really positive and upbeat and it was just like we like it."
With summer break, so to speak, kicking off for the Seahawks and the rest of the NFL, here are seven things we learned from Carroll about his team on the final day of offseason workouts:
1. Jimmy Graham's healthy offseason has been a bright spot.
At this time last year, Jimmy Graham was recovering from a serious knee injury, and while he made it back for the start of the regular season, Graham was not the same player, physically, as he is right now. The thought of a faster, stronger Graham having a full offseason with Russell Wilson and the rest of the offense is an exciting one for Carroll.
"Jimmy's offseason is a big highlight for us," Carrol said. "You know, last year at this time we didn't know what he was going to be like and we were positive but didn't know. He had a phenomenal offseason and great work with us. His preparation to get here was just terrific.
Asked about how Graham has fit into the offense during his first two seasons, Carroll said, "Gosh, I think it has been awesome. I think he's become such a complete football player. Wait until you see him block again this year, because he had a very, very good year in advancing his blocking skills and the demands we placed on him, he accepted and took to heart. You can just tell his confidence level is in the clouds. He knows he can block big guys and backers and DBs. He has no hesitation. He's totally grown in that area. He's so much more of a complete player than maybe we thought he would even become really. So, he surprised us. He and Russell are really tuned in. They spend a lot of time together, they communicate beautifully. I think it will hopefully show up as we get closer to the end zone—(we were) not quite as productive as we thought we could be. But that's a big area of focus for us now. Not because he hasn't made the effort. He didn't even have an offseason. He wasn't thinking about 'I'm going to go make plays.' He was just trying to get to camp and get healthy. That's not what his focus has been on. But he's had a beautiful offseason so I think we should expect to get even more out of that moving forward."
Carroll added a few other players who are making good progress in their comebacks from injuries to his list of offseason bright spots.
"I think Earl (Thomas) in similar fashion," Carroll said. "To be this far along has been a little bit of a surprise and to know that he's ready to go and will be ready for camp and all. So there's a couple of those guys. If you watched Tyler (Lockett) today too, he's made some jumps and will be really close to going at camp as well. So I kind of look at those guys in their rehab. Eddie (Lacy) has made it, Luke (Joeckel) has made it through it. Both guys we weren't sure where they'd be and were hopeful and they're way ahead of where we thought they would be. So those are all real positive individual issues."
2. The offensive line is ready to take "a big jump" this year.
The Seahawks had two rookies starting on their offensive line last season, George Fant and Germain Ifedi, a second-year player who started only one game the year before, Mark Glowinski, and a center, Justin Britt, who had played guard and tackle in his first two seasons. With so many players gaining valuable experience last year, and yes, going through some struggles along the way, the Seahawks are counting on big improvements from that position group this year, and so far Carroll likes what he has seen.
"I think probably the biggest area that we're going to see us grow is in offensive line play," Carroll said. "I think you're going to see a change in the group and an elevation of their awareness based on that one year of experience and coming back for a sophomore year and things just jump. George will tell you that, Britt will tell you that, Glow will tell you that, Ifedi—they'll all tell you how much different it looks to them after a year in the bag. So we're expecting a big jump there and a really competitive camp coming up."
Asked if Fant, a surprise starter last year after joining the team as an undrafted rookie who barely played college football, looks like he has a chance to keep that starting job, Carroll said, "There's no question. There's no question he has because he's improved. His awareness, his communication, as it should, as we talked about that one-year to year two jump has already happened but more than that, he had a phenomenal offseason in terms of getting stronger and he maintained his quickness and his mobility. But this is the first offseason he's ever had as a football player, and it shows. He made great advancements and he worked really hard at it and he's really fired up to come on back with what he knows now, how he sees things, and with his body, it might be a 25-pound swing on body right now. And he looks great."
3. Jeremy Lane has "really applied himself" this offseason.
With DeShawn Shead sidelined by the knee injury he suffered in Seattle's playoff loss in Atlanta, the Seahawks likely will open the season with a new starting right cornerback—though Carroll hasn't completely ruled out the chance of Shead being back for the start of the season. There are a number of candidates for that job, ranging from rookie Shaquill Griffin to returning players like Neiko Thorpe, Pierre Desir and DeAndre Elliott, but as of now, it sounds like veteran Jeremy Lane is the leader in that competition heading into camp. Lane, who has starting experience and saw significant playing time last year as Seattle's nickel corner, "has really applied himself" this offseason, Carroll said.
"He sees the opportunity," Carroll said. "He's really going for it. Across the board, everybody's evaluation of Jeremy across the entire program is that he's really focused, he's really tuned in, he's really ready to go for it. He's physically as fit as he's been in a long time. Remember, he had a really difficult offseason a couple years back and it's taken him almost a couple years to overcome all of that, and he's back to full form. But more than that, his focus is really on it to seize this opportunity. We feel really good about that and then there's guys nipping at his heels but that's probably the obvious statement there."
4. The Seahawks made the most of limited work.
Every team is limited in what they can do in offseason workouts, but the Seahawks also missed time due to the league taking away some of their organized team activities due to a violation that occurred last year. Carroll joked that the team "had our most compliant OTA season" this year, but also explained how the Seahawks maximized their opportunities on the field.
"We found a way to maximize our reps," Carroll said. "I think we had our most compliant OTA season and really proud of that, finally. Old dog, new tricks, man. It was hard. But we finally figured it out and in doing so, we were able to up the reps that we got on guys and I think we're the smartest we've been coming out of this camp in any of the past years. We've had the most situation work. We've had the chance to put guys in all variety of spots that they have to think and make decisions and choose how they play and fit in with us. So we just feel like we've made a lot of movement forward. We have a lot of stuff to get done in camp that does not fit this time of year. This is OTA football. Not real football. That will come.
"We caught up in our reps. We found a way to get more reps this way than we had in our past systems so we adjusted and that was part of trying to figure out how to do this the way that they want us to do it and fit in with the rules and all. We did our best job of that. So we think we made up ground that we hadn't in years past. It was a different focus of things that we were trying to accomplish at this time."
5. Running back has "never been this strong" in terms of depth.
The Seahawks added Eddie Lacy in free agency, which is a big part of why Carroll and company are excited about their group of running backs, but there's more to it than just one player. Most notably, this group is a lot healthier this offseason, with Thomas Rawls participating fully after missing offseason workouts last year due to a broken ankle, and C.J. Prosise staying healthy after dealing with numerous injuries last offseason and during the regular season.
"Wow, I think it's an exciting group," Carroll said. "We've never been this strong with this many guys who can compete and do things. We have a variety of different guys that have different strengths that they bring. It was incredibly beneficial for us to see C.J. make it through the whole time. He has a great scope that he fills for us. He can come out of the backfield and he can run routes as a receiver and he looked really good running the ball behind the line of scrimmage. It was like, one day after another, nobody wanted to say anything because he started to add up some days finally. Because he's never had consistent preparation behind him. So he goes into this six weeks hugely ahead of where he's been in years past and we have really high hopes. But he has his way, and Eddie has his way. Eddie's going to run big and thick and tough and so is Thomas. Alex (Collins) had by far his best work done in the last three or four weeks. He has just been so consistent for us. We didn't get to see Chris Carson much. Mike Davis did a nice job too. I don't know if I left anyone out there. But the group is really competitive and it's going to be hard to come up with enough snaps with these guys to figure it out but we'll do the best we can. And I'm really fired up about Chris Carson—I love that we picked him up. So we'll see a lot of him in camp."
6. Recently-signed quarterback Austin Davis is off to a good start.
The Seahawks added veteran quarterback Austin Davis to compete with Trevone Boykin for the No. 2 job, and early on, Davis has shown some good things, particularly in the mental side of the game.
"Austin did really well," Carroll said. "Amazingly bright football player. He blew us away with how fast he could pick stuff up. He brings more playtime experience, just in the meeting room that we treasure. He's been there, he's played games and all that. Trevone hasn't had that and can't have that yet. It's been a good mix so far. So we brought him in and we'll make these evaluations as we get back but I think Austin showed very well for himself. He's got his own style. He's a different style player than Trevone or Russell of course, but I kind of like what he brought us."
7. Richard Sherman has had a good mindset this offseason.
Richard Sherman has been the subject of a lot of media attention this offseason, much of which he addressed in depth Wednesday, and while topics ranging from trade talks to his relationship with Wilson could have been a distraction for the All-Pro cornerback, Carroll has seen very good things from Sherman this offseason.
"I think he spoke very well to the points and he answered your questions and did a really admirable job of making things clear to you guys," Carroll said. "I think you should know where we stand right now. If you didn't, and you were uncertain, I think you should know where we're coming from. Sherm and I in particular have had an incredibly profitable, beneficial offseason getting ready. His mind is ready to go after it in a huge way this season coming up. His focus in these practices was excellent. What he added in all that, I couldn't have been more happy. Him, Kam and Earl coming back, those guys, you could really feel their factor in the locker room and on the field and it's great to have those guys functioning at that level. I'm really proud of Sherm, the way he handled himself. I thought it was really well done."
Check out photos from Day 3 of the Seahawks' mandatory minicamp at Renton's Virginia Mason Athletic Center.