The Seahawks held their third session of organized team activities Thursday, and even though the 2016 season is still more than three months away, the energy was noticeable to players and coaches as they go through the early stages of preparation for the upcoming season.
"It's been really good," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said of offseason workouts thus far. "… The attitude of this team is really obvious. They like working and they're enjoying it and we're making good progress."
Quarterback Russell Wilson agreed with his coach's assessment, noting, "The energy out there is unbelievable. It feels like we're in midseason, just how we're practicing. All the receivers, the tight ends making plays. And the running back group, even though they're young, they're really catching on quickly and the offensive line too. And then the defense, they just bring so much energy too, so it's really competitive out there in a good way and that's what we're loving about it."
Here are six things that stood out from Thursday's practice and what was said afterward:
1. The new-look offensive line is "off to a good start."
The Seahawks weren't at full strength on their offensive line Thursday—tackles Garry Gilliam and tackle J'Marcus Webb, both possible starters—were sidelined, but Carroll is encouraged by what he has seen so far out of his line, both from returning players like Justin Britt and Mark Glowinski, and also from their rookie class of Germain Ifedi, Rees Odhiambo and Joey Hunt.
"It's off to a good start," Carroll said. "You guys got your first look at Germain Ifedi. He's been really impressive and really sharp. Thrilled to see he's picking stuff up so well and it makes sense to him and he communicates well, and he's a monster of a guy at the right guard spot. So he's off to a good start. Justin has looked very solid at center. We played him at tackle too some, just to make sure we're using all the flexibility that he does generate for us. So he's making a good statement that he understands how to play in that area. Communication is going to be really important and we're just starting to learn how to talk, and we're still a long ways away there. Mark Glowinski is playing at left guard and he's real comfortable. Mark's one of the real tough guys on our team and we're anxious to add him in."
2. Don't forget about Tharold Simon.
Tharold Simon has been with the Seahawks since they selected him in the fifth-round of the 2013 draft, but the cornerback has missed the better part of two seasons with toe injuries. Simon is healthy now, however, and looking to prove he can still make big contributions to Seattle's defense. It's still only May, but the early indications are very positive for Simon, who is healthy and making plays, including an interception and another pass breakup in Thursday's practice.
"He's doing great," Carroll said "He's doing everything. He's out here for all of the snaps, he hasn't missed anything yet. This is a really good look at him. This is the best we've seen him, he's the most experienced, he seems to be the most settled, he understands what we're asking of him. He's going to have a great competitive opportunity, because he has put together a great offseason. He looks the best he has for us, so it's good."
3. Kasen Williams "made some unbelievable catches today."
The Seahawks receiving trio of Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse and Tyler Lockett figures to get the most playing time and targets in 2016, but the battle behind them for roster spots and playing time should be intense with Paul Richardson back from injury and with seventh-round pick Kenny Lawler looking impressive so far. Two other names to remember, however, are Kevin Smith and Kasen Williams, who are both entering their second season with the Seahawks and benefiting from the year they spent in the system.
"They came in not knowing much about what it's going to be like to play for us, and now they have that sense," Carroll said. "They're advanced in our system, they know what's going on, they're flexible in that they can play different spots. We're really comfortable with those guys… Both of those guys have put together great offseasons."
In particular, Williams had a standout day, making a couple of nice catches on contested deep balls, as well as a touchdown in the red zone right after one of those long receptions. Both benefited not just from their year in Seattle's offense, but also from the time they and other players spent in Los Angeles working out together this offseason.
"Those two guys in particular, they really were catching on midway through the season last year, getting some playing time and all that, and then this offseason, I was able to throw with them a bunch down in California," Wilson said. "Just to be able to work with those guys and really get that timing with those guys. I mean Kasen made some unbelievable catches today, Kevin Smith is always on time making plays. So those two guys are big players for us. And I think also, Paul Richardson coming back, seeing him is exciting and all his speed and his great hands and his timing and what he's been able to do. We were able to throw a lot this offseason, which I think is really showing up on the field right now."
4. Who looks different?
Every season some players inevitably return to the team looking different than they did when the previous season ended—hopefully for the better—and when asked about who came in looking improved from a physical standpoint, Carroll said: "Tye Smith looks different. He looks like he's really strengthened up. Just everything about him—he's stronger, faster, quicker, he looks good. Justin Britt had a terrific offseason, he and Mark Glowinski, both of those guys really took advantage of a great, competitive offseason, you can tell. Luke (Willson) has come back stronger than he has ever been for us, he looks great… (Kam Chancellor) is in great shape, he's in phenomenal shape."
Later, Carroll added second-year defensive end Frank Clark to that list: "He's a guy who came back to us with a little bit different makeup. He's stronger, he looks faster than ever. He lost a few pounds. He came in a little bit leaner than he came in a year ago. He just feels great, he feels like he's physically on it. We talked today about how much farther down the road he is now in understanding what's expected of him and all of that. He's having a blast playing with these guys."
5. The Seahawks have "a nice variety of guys" at fullback.
Neither of the fullbacks from last year's roster, Derrick Coleman and Will Tukuafu, are back with the team, but Carroll likes what he has to work with on the current roster. Only two players are currently listed as fullbacks—former college defensive linemen Taniela Tupou and Brandin Bryant, a pair of undrafted rookie signings—but they aren't the only options at that position. Tre Madden, an undrafted running back out of USC, and Brandon Cottom, a member of the practice squad last year who is listed at tight end, are also in the mix at fullback, giving the Seahawks a lot of different styles of player to choose from.
"Brandon Cottom is an unusual player," Carroll said. "He was a tailback in college, so he has good instincts about running the football. He's got excellent hands, he has played some tight end for us too, and he's 270 pounds. It's an unusual package, and he's learning the spot, just like we've taught other guys over the year. Tre Madden has done a really nice job. He's a very versatile football player. He's tough, he's a good special teams guy—he's done all the kinds of things that you like out of that spot. He's not quite as big, but he looks well equipped. He's going to be right in there battling. It's a nice variety of guys at this point."
6. It's early in the backup QB competition, but Trevone Boykin is making a good first impression.
Trevone Boykin still has a long way to go to win the backup quarterback job behind Wilson—he's currently competing with Jake Heaps, and the Seahawks could always sign a veteran with some NFL experience, perhaps even Tarvaris Jackson, between now and training camp—but so far Boykin is showing the Seahawks a lot of what they saw from him when he was making big plays at TCU.
"What was so attractive about him is that he's such a versatile quarterback," Carroll said. "He can do so many things and he had so many playmaking opportunities at TCU. He showed you he can make the big plays in the pocket, he can make the plays out of the pocket, he can run the football, he can make those crazy things happen sometimes when he's scrambling and moving around. All of that, plus he's got a great arm. He has come out here and kind of shown he has all of that working for him. He hasn't had any problem with the learning. Of course he's behind where Russell is, but that's just natural—I don't see any reason to think he's not going to pick things up. So when we get all the way to the preseason games and he gets a chance to show us what he can do, we'll try to figure it out and see how far along he has come. I do like that he has the makeup that we can keep the offense the same and really emphasize the same run game and perimeter attack we like. That's a positive for him, but we have a long way to go."
The Seahawks held the third of nine Organized Team Activities (OTAs) on Thursday, May 26 at Renton's Virginia Mason Athletic Center.