Seahawks rookies were on the field for the first time Friday as they kicked off a three-day rookie minicamp, and while there's an inevitable learning curve for Seattle's 11 draft picks, eight undrafted rookie free agents and the rest of the players who made up the 68-man roster, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll came away very pleased with what he saw on Day 1.
"This was really fun for us to see our guys get out here," Carroll said. "You could tell how excited the players were to be here. If you looked close enough, you could see how excited the coaches were too. This is a big day to get this thing started. We know we have a nice football team coming back and now we want to see, what can these guys do to help us? And boy, there's a lot of fun bright spots to see on the first day. I don't think anybody had a problem today. Everybody did good stuff across the board. It was really fun to get back at it, and I thought it was a really good first day of work."
Here are six observations from the first day of rookie minicamp, as well as comments from Carroll:
1. The defensive backs "all looked the part."
While they've only been in town for two days, Seattle's four defensive back draft picks, Shaquill Griffin, Delano Hill, Tedric Thompson and Mike Tyson all looked comfortable together, both on the field when they were all playing together, with Tyson and Griffin at corner and Thompson and Hill at safety, and also off the field when the four stood shoulder-to-shoulder on the sideline.
As an added bonus, Griffin looked like a Seahawks defensive back between plays, dancing along to the music that played during practice, something you see regularly from the likes of Richard Sherman and other defensive veterans.
"Defensive backs all looked the part," Carroll said. "They all moved very well. They all caught the ball really well. They looked fast. They just looked the part and felt very comfortable. There's a lot of playtime behind these two safeties in particular and you can just tell. They're very savvy, very comfortable, communicated really well right off the bat, made a really good first impression. We saw Shaq take off a couple times. He's really fast. He can fly. We'll see how it goes, but those were good impressions there."
Tyson, who is transitioning to corner after playing safety at the University of Cincinnati, reminded Carroll of another cornerback who did some very good things in Seattle.
"He gave me a little reminder about what Maxie (Byron Maxwell) looked like the first couple of impressions we got from him," Carroll said.
2. Malik McDowell "got off to a really nice start."
Michigan State defensive lineman Malik McDowell was Seattle's first pick in the 2017 draft, so it's no surprise that he was able to make a good first impression on his coaches.
"Instantly almost, you could see how comfortable he is with his movements, his body control and stuff," Carroll said. "He's got an awareness already on how to use his hands that I'm surprised to see that much background, technically. They did a real nice job with him at Michigan State. So he got off to a really nice start. He looks great. He's taller than a lot of guys we've had at this position. I'm excited to see how we can move forward with that."
McDowell's 6-foot-6 height and long arms stick out immediately at a position where, as Carroll notes, the Seahawks haven't had that kind of size in the past. McDowell also looks lean despite weighing 299 pounds, and while they won't push him to gain weight, Carroll said he could see McDowell naturally adding 10 to 15 pounds over time.
"We're not going to rush that," Carroll said. "We don't want him to gain weight. We just want him to get stronger whatever that weight settles at, because he's big enough right now. But I think we will see a change in the next 18 months or so."
McDowell played both defensive end and tackle during Friday's practice, and Carroll said the plan is to continue working him at both spots.
"We'll play him at five-technique (end) and three-technique (tackle) and see how that goes," Carroll said. "Really would like to see how he works as an inside rusher in nickel and see if he can add something special for us there. But we'll see. He's really built like a five-technique and I think he looks like a pass-rushing three-technique. So that's really early gauges, but that's kind of how we came out of the draft with everything, but kind of reinforced today, first time out."
And McDowell wasn't the only rookie defensive linemen to catch Carroll's eye Friday. Third-round pick Nazair Jones "did a nice job inside too and showed some good movement," Carroll said. "He's huge also. The fact that we get two big guys for the defensive line in this draft could be a real accent for us and we'll see how that works out but good first day."
3. Ethan Pocic is a tackle… for now.
One of the things the Seahawks liked most about LSU offensive lineman Ethan Pocic is his ability to play anywhere on the offensive line. Pocic spent most of his time at center in college, but he was at right tackle on Friday. That's where the Seahawks want to look at Pocic for now, but they're open to trying him at other positions as the offseason progresses.
"We want him to play tackle right now and see how that works out, knowing that he can play all three spots," Carroll said. "Tackle is the one we've seen him the least at, so the first few days we want to get a gauge for that and see how that's going to work out. He's already studied his tail off to get here. You can tell. He's a bright football player, really tuned in, just all of the right signals in the first day and a half that he's been here as far as being ready to apply himself. He had a great experience at LSU. He's played a ton of football and it shows.
"He's big enough, strong enough (to play tackle). I just want to get a feel—we've seen so much of him playing center and I don't think right now that's where he needs to focus. I know he can back-up just based on what we've seen. We're going to work him there so that we fortify that but we want to see him at the other spots as we go through it. Tackle in this camp and we'll see what happens after that."
4. A few receivers made good first impressions.
The Seahawks used two draft picks on receivers, selecting Michigan's Amara Darboh in the third round and East Central's David Moore in the seventh, and both of those players made some plays Friday.
"The receivers all caught the ball nice," Carroll said. "David Moore had a big play down the field, caught the ball underneath, showed a good shake-and-bake that he's been kind of noted for. So we saw a lot of the things that we hoped to see."
At 6-foot, 219 pounds, Moore showed an impressive combination of size and speed, especially considering he came from a Division II school. And Seattle's draft picks weren't the only receivers who impressed Carroll. Undrafted rookie Darreus Rogers, who played at USC, also had a nice day.
"He's a fantastic player," Carroll said. "He's a Trojan, you know? He was a great player in college. We just liked his playmaking, his run-after-catch, his ability to make tough catches with guys hanging all over him. So we'll see what happens, but he's another guy we were really excited to get in here."
5. All three quarterbacks "had a great day."
The Seahawks had three quarterbacks on the field Friday, two of whom are on their roster, Jake Heaps and rookie Skyler Howard, as well as a tryout players, Tennessee Tech's Michael Birdsong. It would be easy for quarterbacks and receivers to not be on the same page in this type of setting, but things actually went fairly smoothly. Most notably, Heap's experience with the Seahawks—he spent last offseason in Seattle and part of the year on the practice squad—showed in the way he was able to run the offense.
"They had a great day today," Carroll said. "Birdsong was on fire today. I thought Skyler looked good, he was running around, looked very resourceful. Jake is really sharp in our system. He knows our stuff. It's awesome to have him in this camp. He can set the tempo and show how things are supposed to look. He looked very good again today. So we're just going to wait and see. Just take a long time and try to figure it out. Hopefully these guys get a long time and they can come back and get some more time with us. That's what they're trying to prove in this minicamp."
6. The rookies are eager to prove themselves.
Rookies coming in to battle for jobs can bring a new sense of energy to the team, and while that's for the most part a good thing, Carroll had to remind them not to go overboard, not just on the field but in how they're handling their weekend.
"They're just so bright-eyed," Carroll said. "We had a 6 a.m. shuttle, I had to tell them, 'Don't everybody get on the 6 a.m. shuttle today, we're not starting until 8:30.' And we came out to practice today and everybody was on the field about 20 minutes before we were ready to start. That's a little unusual. They're just raring to go, they're filling up the meeting room early too, so they obviously understand rule No. 3 in the program."
Rule No. 3, by the way, is "Be early."
When it comes to giving information to those eager rookies, the key this weekend, Carroll said, is to keep things simple enough so that players' athletic abilities can shine.
"We try not to overdo it," Carroll said. "We want to keep them in basic stuff so that we can see them play and show that they have some understanding of stuff more than, 'how much can we unload on them?' I'm not really worried about the learning part of it right now. I'd like to get them in position so they can show us the variety of things that we like to see our guys do. That's really the goal, it's not to download a bunch of stuff and make them have to struggle with the learning. That's not what we want to get done right here. We want to see them physically run around and show what they've got."
Photos from Day 1 of the Seahawks' three-day rookie minicamp at Renton's Virginia Mason Athletic Center.