By Danny O’Neil
Coach Pete Carroll said that Friday’s simulated game will be a test of sorts for his team, a chance to measure how much his players are retaining.
Consider this a progress report, then, after the Seahawks’ first seven practices of training camp.
Three things we’ve learned:
I. You spell worry with two letters in Seattle: TE
It’s the only notably bare spot on the Seahawks’ roster as only two tight ends on the team have ever caught a regular-season pass in the NFL, and both of those guys are currently watching practice. Zach Miller remains on the physically unable to perform list with a sore foot while Michael Palmer – who was signed last week – has a sore groin.
Seattle is sufficiently thin at tight end that a hamstring injury to a guy who is playing football for the first time in 10 years is considered worrisome. That would be Darren Fells, who played pro hoops in Argentina last year. Rookie Luke Willson got first-team repetitions, but even he’s wearing a red jersey to protect against contact.
If Miller stays healthy once he returns in a week or two, this won’t be a problem. If he goes down again, sound the alarm because it will be an emergency.
II. Don’t expect Jesse Williams to be a rookie starter
Count me as one of the people who thought the defensive tackle that Seattle chose in the fifth round out of Alabama had the best chance of any rookie to start.
Well, he missed practice Saturday and Sunday after tweaking a problematic knee, returned to the field on Tuesday and Wednesday only to be pushed around. He was watching practice again Thursday, which makes you wonder just what the prognosis is going to be for his rookie season.
The health of his knee was a concern entering the draft and cited as a reason he was still on the board in the fifth round. It might already be a problem.
III. James Carpenter could be a real difference maker
He weighs 340 pounds but is in the absolute best shape he has been in since arriving in the NFL as Seattle’s first-round pick in 2011. He was out of shape as a rookie and was coming back from knee surgery last year, unable to practice a down in August.
Carpenter is uniquely strong even by the standards of an NFL locker room, and he has been practicing since training camp opened. While he’s still spending time on the second-unit offensive line, he’s a strong bet to become the starting left guard by the time the season begins. A 340-pound strong bet.
Three things we’re still trying to figure out:
I. Who’s going to gain from the loss of Percy Harvin?
Somebody’s going to get a job out of this and while Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin are certain to get more opportunities, they were already locks to make the roster. Jermaine Kearse was already a pretty good bet to make the team, too, given his improvement at receiver and value on special teams.
Two guys who now have an opening: Bryan Walters and Stephen Williams. Walters has looked like Wes Welker in the slot, and he’s going to get a chance to return kickoffs with Harvin out. Williams is 6 feet 5 with a huge catch radius who’ll have to prove valuable enough at receiver to make up for a lack of an obvious special-teams role.
II. Will O’Brien Schofield turn out to be found money?
Interested in a fourth-year linebacker who had four sacks through nine games last season? Arizona wasn’t. The Cardinals let their fourth-round pick from 2010 go after changing defensive coordinators in the offseason.
Now, Seattle adds an outside pass rusher who can play linebacker, which was already a position where depth was a concern. Schofield’s presence also helps ease the worry about what Seattle will be missing while Bruce Irvin serves that four-game suspension to start the year.
III. Is Red Bryant’s recovery all it takes to improve the run defense?
He looks like he is in better shape. He has hired a chef, he has gotten treatment for sleep apnea and the hope is that he will be back to being the run stuffer that he was in 2011. The deterioration of Seattle’s run defense after the first six and a half games was perhaps the most troubling thing about the Seahawks’ 2012 season. They went from being one of the league’s best run defenses to downright below average.
If Seattle is going to have the success it hopes for, it needs to get back to taking away the run. If Bryant is back and better than ever after recovering from last year’s foot injury, will it be enough to restore Seattle’s stout run defense?