Seahawks rookies hit the field Friday for the first day of rookie minicamp, with 11 draft picks, 12 undrafted free agents, 44 tryout players and one returning player from last year's practice squad making up a minicamp roster that was out to make a good first impression upon Seattle's coaching staff.
"How about coaching a little football in the month of May?" Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "Great fun to today to see these guys come out. The turnaround in this draft where we wind up with all the opportunity to draft all of these guys, really it was a surprise to all of us that we had the (opportunities)—John (Schneider) could tell you he had in the bag the whole way—but it created an excitement about the draft weekend, and also coming into this day where we finally get on the field. We had 11 guys out here—a couple guys were banged up—joining the team, plus a bunch of free agent kids that have a chance too. It just makes it exciting and fun. It was a blast out there today."
Practices aren't always incredibly polished with so many players coming together for the first time, and players aren't in pads, limiting what can be shown from a physical standpoint, but there is still plenty for coaches to learn this weekend.
"We're just looking for everything," Carroll said. "We're just wide open to see what they show us. We want to see (guard) Phil Haynes move his feet, see him get in a stance for the first time—the whole season (in college) he's in a two-point stance—so just to see him make that transition and see what it looks like, can he get in and out of it? Then it's just kind of like, let the games begin. It's just a constant gathering of information for all the guys. There's just so many cool things to watch, it's just everything. We're just taking in a lot of information."
Here are six things we learned on the first day of rookie minicamp:
1. First-round pick L.J. Collier has special characteristics.
It can be tough for an offensive or defensive lineman to show what he can do in a no-pads practice, but defensive end L.J. Collier, Seattle's first-round pick, was still able to make a good early impression with the work he did on Day 1.
"He has a style of his play that I was attracted to right off the bat," Carroll said. "He plays with really good leverage and long arms, and he uses his hands really well. You could see it in the walkthrough even, in just his position. He has a sense for that. That's a special characteristic that he already has. Technique-wise he has been coached very well also. There's stuff we can do with him. I think he's going to be a really exciting guy to fit into the scheme. He'll play the spot where Michael Bennett played and we'll ask him to do a lot of similar things, and in time we'll see what that means, but that's where we're starting him."
2. DK Metcalf is more than just a deep threat.
During a seven-on-seven drill, Metcalf showed the speed that helped make him a big-play threat at Mississippi and a second-round pick in this year's draft, quickly separating from a defensive back to get open for a deep reception.
But Metcalf showed later in the practice that his game has more to it than the ability to stretch the field, turning in two of the more impressive plays of the day. During the 11-on-11 portion of practice, Metcalf slipped coming out of his break on one play, but still tracked the ball and caught it from the ground just past the first-down marker. A few minutes later, he turned in the play of the day, showing off his 40.5-inch vertical to go way up and grab a ball that appeared to be overthrown.
Asked what excited him the most about Metcalf, Carroll said, "Well, it's almost like, what doesn't, you know? I mean, he's big and he's fast. He's got really good feet, and his catching range was exhibited today for a start. We've got to figure it out, figure out where it is. He's maybe even more unique than we thought coming in. So we just develop it as we go. But big and really fast and the catching range was really obvious today."
Unfortunately Metcalf was the only one of Seattle's three drafted receivers able to participate Friday, as fourth-round pick Gary Jennings and seventh-rounder John Ursua were both sidelined by hamstring injuries.
Carroll said Jennings strained his hamstring in his pro day workout and is going to be a couple of weeks until he can get on the field, while Ursua is close to being ready to go.
3. Linebackers Ben Burr-Kirven and Cody Barton "were really impressive" in their command of the defense.
While some players like Metcalf stood out for their physical feats, the two linebackers in Seattle's draft class, third-round pick Cody Barton and fifth-rounder Ben Burr-Kirven, made a good first impression with how well they were able to run the defense on Day 1.
"(Burr-Kirven) and Cody were really impressive throughout the first day to have so much command of what we were doing," Carroll said. "The communications and their awareness and changing the fronts and doing the things they had to do. They were really good at it today. It's hard to imagine with even as simple as the installation is, it's still a lot, and the offense is doing enough formationally that that challenges them. But I kind of tie those guys together, that they're impressive just they're going to be able to learn the whole thing. So that means that both Cody, who has played a bunch of spots, and we've seen BBK play in and out of the box, both of those guys are going to have great versatility in time."
4. The Seahawks are checking out Ugo Amadi's versatility early.
After the Seahawks selected two safeties in last week's draft, Carroll said the plan would be for second-round pick Marquise Blair to start out at strong safety while fourth-rounder Ugo Amadi would play free safety. One of Amadi's best traits at Oregon, however, was the versatility that allowed him to play safety, cornerback and nickel back, so it was not surprising to see the Seahawks also taking an early look at him covering slot receivers from the nickel spot.
"We're going to start Marquise out at strong safety and Ugo's going to play free safety and we'll just start gathering information," Carroll said. "Amadi also played some nickel already today, we're introducing him to that. He has played on the slot a lot in his background, so we want to see how that fits, but we're going to feature him on the background and we're going to just start taking in info."
5. Cornerback Simeon Thomas is trying to take advantage of some extra work.
While almost everyone on the field Friday was a rookie, players who have not accrued a full season of NFL experience are also eligible, and one such player taking part was cornerback Simeon Thomas, a member of Seattle's practice squad last season. Thomas, who was claimed off waivers last year and then spent most of the season on the practice squad, will try to take advantage of this extra work.
"This is an important camp for him," Carroll said. "He was kind of in the shadows of everybody during the latter part of the season. I'm really anxious to see what how he kind of takes to this opportunity. He'll be the most experienced guy, understand the scheme and the principles and technique-wise and all of that. I just want to see if he can take the next step forward and go for us like freshman to sophomore and he can make a little jump right there. So that's what we're looking for."
6. Despite declining his fifth-year option, the Seahawks hope Germain Ifedi "will be with us for a long time."
Friday marked the deadline for NFL teams to exercise the fifth-year option on 2016 first-round draft picks, and the Seahawks elected not to do so with tackle Germain Ifedi, meaning 2019 is the final year of his contract. Not exercising the option does not mean the Seahawks and Ifedi couldn't still work out an extension at some point between now and when he hits free agency, and Carroll made it clear they still would like to see Ifedi be part of the team's future.
"There are a lot of factors," Carroll said of Seattle not picking up the option. "We're in the midst of trying to continue to fit the roster together and all of that, and the big demands sometimes we can jump on, and sometimes we can't. We love Germain, he has grown with us, he has become a solid football player and done a great job. He has started a ton of games for us, hanging in there and being tough about it. We'd love to have him. This is not an indication of anything. We like the guy and we hope he'll be with us for a long time."
Photos from Day 1 of 2019 Seattle Seahawks rookie minicamp at Renton's Virginia Mason Athletic Center.