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Six Observations From Day 11 of Seahawks Training Camp

Notes, quotes, and observations from the Seahawks' 11th practice of training camp.

Look through the best photos from the 11th day of Seahawks Training camp held at Virginia Mason Athletic Center.

The Seahawks continued to prepare for their preseason opener at Kansas City with their 11th practice of training camp Thursday, the last practice of the week open to fans before the team leaves town Friday following a lighter practice session.

Here are six observations from Day 11 of Seahawks camp, with the first three coming from team reporter John Boyle, and the final three (plus a bonus) coming from digital media content manager Tony Drovetto.

1. Cliff Avril Continues To Impress

These practice observations have often focused more on young players fighting for jobs or on battles for starting spots than they have on the team's established stars, if only because those roster battles and competitions for starting jobs tend to be the most interesting part of training camp. But we'd be remiss if the play of defensive end Cliff Avril isn't mentioned at some point during camp.

Coming off one of the best seasons of his career, Avril looks to be picking up where he left off in 2015 when he had 9.0 sacks, and career highs with 47 tackles and seven passes defensed. Avril had three sacks in last weekend's mock game, and continued to be a nuisance to the offense throughout this week of practice, including a couple more sacks in practice Thursday.

Early in camp, Avril was asked about matching up with rookie linemen, and joked that he tries to avoid it because, "It's a confidence thing for both of us. I don't want to build mine and I don't want to tear theirs down."

Based off what he has done in camp over the past two weeks against rookies and veterans alike, however, Avril has plenty of reason to be confident in his play.

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2. Receiver Depth Continues To Shine

While a handful of receivers competing for jobs remain sidelined by hamstring injuries, the players who have been on the field in recent days are making the most of their opportunities. Of the memorable plays that stood out Thursday, three were made by receivers who are battling for jobs.

First, rookie Kenny Lawler showed off both his hands and leaping ability to snag a pass from Trevone Boykin in the end zone despite solid coverage from safety Steven Terrell.

Next up in the spectacular play rotation was newcomer E.Z. Nwachukwu, who hauled in a one-handed grab in traffic down the sideline. Nwachukwu needed to make a one-handed grab because of either really good or marginally illegal pass coverage, depending on your point of view, by rookie cornerback DeAndre Elliott, who had Nwachukwu's left arm pinned down before, or right as—again, depending on your point of view—the pass arrived.

Not to be outdone, Douglas McNeil III continued a strong week of practice with a few nice plays, none better than the deep pass he caught from Russell Wilson after getting off of press coverage from none other than All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman. Wilson deserved a lot of credit for that big play not just for making the accurate throw, but for helping free McNeil up by causing Sherman to momentarily bite on a pump fake.

"They've made the best of their opportunities, and that's all you can ask for," Doug Baldwin said of the young receivers like Nwachukwu, McNeil and Lawler who are making big plays while battling for roster spots. "We always talk about effort, and they've been giving a lot of effort out there, maintaining it at a high level, taking care of their bodies so they can stay out there on the field and do what they need to do for their (job) interview. They've done an excellent job."

3. Jarran Reed Looked Just Fine After Wednesday's Scare

Jarran Reed was carted off the field Wednesday, but not long after practice, the rookie defensive tackle reported via Twitter that he was doing just fine.

And sure enough, Reed was not only back on the field Thursday, but the second-round pick was also running with the first-team defense while continuing to make big plays. Among Reed's highlights was a play when he was able to shed a block just as Wilson released a throw, freeing him up to reach up and bat the pass down at the line of scrimmage. That play earned Reed a quick celebration with Michael Bennett, who appeared to be impressed with the rookie's athletic play. It's too soon to know whether or not Reed will win a starting job in Seattle's base defense, but what has been clear during camp is that he should be a big factor in the defensive line rotation one way or another. 

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4. Bradley Sowell "Right In The Middle Of The Competition"

J'Marcus Webb, who has been running with the first unit at right tackle for most of camp, was held out on Thursday with an undisclosed injury that assistant head coach/offensive line coach Tom Cable said the team should know more about this afternoon. Webb's absence meant more reps for Bradley Sowell, who as we wrote earlier this week has caught the eye of head coach Pete Carroll. Sowell ran with the ones at left tackle while Garry Gilliam moved to right tackle, the spot where he started 16 games for Seattle last season. The interior of the first-string line looked the same for most of the day, with Mark Glowinski at left guard, Justin Britt at center, and Germain Ifedi at right guard. Sowell, though, was seen holding his ground in a one-on-one drill with Bennett, but to the Pro Bowl defensive end's credit, Bennett did beat Sowell to the quarterback with an inside move later in the same drill. Still, as Cable said, Sowell has played his way into the competition at both tackle spots. 

"I think we brought him here because we saw a skill set that was pretty cool and you have some experience that you're bringing to the group, which is really important right now," Cable said of Sowell, a fifth-year pro who spent the past three seasons with the division rival Arizona Cardinals. "A guy when he's gone in games has played pretty well. So what we want to do is see if he can fit into our system, our way of playing, kind of our culture here as a team and all that. So far I think he's doing fine.

"He'll get a lot of work as we go through this. I think he's right in the middle of the competition."

Veteran guard Jahri Evans, meanwhile, the six-time Pro Bowler who was signed this past weekend, continued to work at both guard spots, getting reps with the No. 2 line.

"He's wonderful in the room," Cable said of Evans, who's spent the past 10 seasons with the New Orleans Saints. "He does a tremendous job in talking with those young guys, and so for him it's getting him back into football. He hasn't done it. Obviously, he wasn't with the team in the spring. So getting him back into football, getting his legs underneath him, and then seeing what he can do going froward."

Cable said the plan for Evans this weekend against the Chiefs in Kansas City "is to get him in the game and go for it."

"He's learning our system," Cable said. "It's totally different than from where he comes from. The scheme, run, the whole thing, so some learning going on. But again, he's played a lot. He's adapting quickly."

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5. Doug Baldwin, Other Vets Back To Full Duty

Baldwin was nursing an Achilles injury earlier this week after having the back of his leg stepped on. He was on the field for individual drills Wednesday, including a few with the defensive line, but Thursday saw last year's leading receiver return to full duty. Baldwin closed the team's final 11-on-11 workout by hauling in an impressive touchdown catch from Wilson, with the Seattle quarterback running over to congratulate his receiver after the play.

"Woo!" Wilson exclaimed. "I see you, boy!"

Middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, Avril, and Bennett also worked out in full on Thursday after sitting out Wednesday's practice. 

6. George Fant Adjusting To "A Whole New World"

George Fant, a four-year college basketball standout who Seattle signed as a free agent following the 2016 draft, played one year at tight end for Western Kentucky after his hoops eligibility ran out. He's been working at left tackle for the Seahawks during training camp, and on Thursday, saw limited reps at the spot with the first unit as Cable continues to rotate through and try different combinations to "figure out who plays well together and why."

"He's figuring out how to be a football player," Cable said of Fant. "In truth, being a four-year starter in basketball is great. He's matured more than I think some other young guys. But this is a whole new world to him, so I think he's picking up little by little, so we'll just keep pushing until we get it."

Fant has never played offensive line in a game, but he could get that opportunity come Saturday, when Seattle plays its first exhibition of 2016.

"The technique is where I'm lacking," said Fant. "So that's just what I'm trying to get to, just being more technical with my sets and with my hands, physical with my hands, hard hands, heavy hands. So those are the things I'm lacking, and that I need to fix.

"I just expect myself to go out and play," he added. "I feel like these are games every day. You're going against some of the best defensive linemen in the League. So I'm just treating this like it's a game."

Look through the best photos of Michael Bennett's "Seahawks Summer Olympics" following training camp practice. 

Bonus: Michael Bennett Hosts 'Seahawks Summer Olympics'

In what has become a reoccurring scene after practice, Bennett hosted a small group of kids on the field for a series of athletic events that Bennett dubbed the "Seahawks Summer Olympics." At times joined by his fellow pass-rushing partner Avril, Bennett shouted words of encouragement at the aspiring athletes as they competed in different foot races, something Bennett commented on earlier in camp. 

"I like to have kids doing fun things and even with my kids I like to have them doing competitions," said Bennett, a father of three. "Having these kids out here having a good time, that's just fun for me. I used to be a kid and wanted a NFL player to come up to me and have fun with me and that's what I'm trying to do. I just want to spread that passion and have some fun with the kids and have them feel what it's like to be in front of a crowd and have fun doing it."

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