Training-camp takeaways: Jeremy Lane leading Seahawks’ CB battle
Video from yesterday of Pete Carroll talking about Jeremy Lane's growth and the competition at strong-side linebacker. pic.twitter.com/71MAjjll5d— Brady Henderson (@BradyHenderson) August 3, 2017
RENTON – With the Seahawks off on Wednesday, here are some takeaways from their first three practices of training camp:
Jeremy Lane is the favorite at right CB. Before camp, Lane’s experience would have made him the favorite over Neiko Thorpe and rookie Shaquill Griffin to win the starting job at right cornerback, where Seattle has a vacancy with DeShawn Shead coming off knee surgery. Lane has solidified the favorite status with a strong start to camp. He’s had some nice pass-breakups, he’s looked fast and he has seemed to consistently be where he’s supposed to be in coverage. That includes staying on top of receivers deep down the field, which is paramount for Seahawks cornerbacks. Lane figures to be Seattle’s slot corner in nickel situations again this season; the question has been whether he’ll also be the starter on the outside opposite Richard Sherman in the team’s base packages. Thorpe and Griffin have looked impressive as well, and it’s only been three days. Plenty can change, especially now that the shoulder pads are on and the intensity is increased, but Lane has taken a step towards claiming that starting job. His play was underwhelming in 2016 after he signed an extension the previous offseason, but coach Pete Carroll has raved on separate occasions about how much better he looks now. “Jeremy Lane had a fantastic offseason,” Carroll said. “He made a big shift in his mentality and his approach. He is so serious. He studied so much. He has applied himself in his conditioning work, his strength work, his focus on the field. He has been fantastic. You ask anyone in the program and they will tell you Jeremy Lane is on fire right now. I think he sees the opportunity and he wants to go for it and he wants to own it and we couldn’t ask for more. He is off to a great start and he looks fantastic.”
Alex Collins looks like a different RB. The first three practices have affirmed another pre-camp assumption, which was that Seattle will have an intriguing battle for roster spots at running back, at least at the bottom of the depth chart. Collins is one reason why. When he came on late last year after a slow start to his rookie season, Carroll mentioned how he had worked to transform his body and get into better condition. It looks like that improvement continued over the offseason. He’s noticeably slimmer and is running with a burst he didn’t have last summer or even later in the year. Collins talked about his weight loss in an interview with “Brock and Salk” that you can listen to here. With Eddie Lacy, Thomas Rawls and C.J. Prosise locks for the top three spots, Collins is fighting for what could be the last one with Chris Carson and Mike Davis. Carson, a rookie seventh-round pick, is something of a personal favorite of Carroll, who said he fell in love with his rushing style leading up to the draft like he had two years earlier with Rawls. Carson certainly looks the part of a physical runner with his muscular frame. He got plenty of work on Tuesday and ended practice with a long touchdown run, showing good speed in the open field. Davis, claimed off waivers from San Francisco, looks like an NFL-caliber running back as well. Seattle will have some tough decisions as it sorts out its backfield, but after constant turnover led to nine different tailbacks carrying the ball for the Seahawks last season, that’s a problem they’re glad to have.
Seattle is loaded with LB options. Before last week, it looked like a two-man battle for the starting job at strong-side linebacker between Michael Wilhoite and Terence Garvin, two players Seattle added in free agency this offseason. Mike Morgan’s return makes it three players vying for that job. Morgan filled that role for nine games last season (he missed seven while on Injured Reserve) and was unsigned until the Seahawks brought him back this week. He has spent his entire career in Seattle and also played for Carroll at USC, so his familiarity with the Seahawks’ defense is an obvious advantage. Wilhoite has the most starting experience of the three with 36 starts over five seasons in San Francisco. Garvin has only made one career start. He was also a defensive back in college and played a different linebacker spot with his last team, the Redskins. But Carroll seems pleased with what he’s seen from him and noted that his secondary background is a plus in pass-coverage. The Seahawks have to feel much better about their options for this spot than they did last year, when Cassius Marsh (a defensive end) and Eric Pinkins (a converted DB) were their alternatives to Morgan as they tried to replace Bruce Irvin. “The competition at the SAM spot is the best it’s ever been,” Carroll said. “We are really fired about our guys that are there. … Terence Garvin had a great offseason with us. He has never really played the spot but he has looked fantastic so far so with Mike (Wilhoite) in there. That is a great three guys battling it out and see how it works out.” Carroll said newcomer Marcus Smith could also factor into that mix even though he’s listed as a defensive end. He’s been practicing with the linebackers.
• Safety Delano Hill has been one of the better looking rookies. The third-round pick had an interception of Trevone Boykin on Monday and another nice pass-breakup.
• Germain Ifedi has had some rough moments at right tackle, where he’s moved after starting at right guard as a rookie last season. Cliff Avril blew by him a few times during team drills on Monday, for instance. Ifedi’s best attribute is his physicality, which he wasn’t able to use during the first two practices while contact was not allowed. Let’s see how he looks now that the pads are on.
• Speaking of the pads coming on, this is when things start to get testy in camp. It happened twice on Tuesday and it’s bound to happen again, especially now that the team has started doing the on-on-one pass-rush drill in practice (which wasn’t allowed the first two days). That has been the setting for some of the more spirited altercations in camp over the last few seasons, including Michael Bennett vs. Bradley Sowell and Ifdedi last summer. Oh yeah, the forecast in the Seattle area calls for temperatures in the mid-90s on Thursday and Friday. Things could get heated.