By John Boyle
After watching his newest players—plus a lot of tryout guys who will likely never be back—go through a three-day rookie minicamp, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said he liked what he saw.
No, this wasn’t as “flashy,” as Carroll described it, as last year’s minicamp when all eyes were on first-round pick Bruce Irvin and quarterback Russell Wilson, but there were plenty of positives in Carroll’s eyes nonetheless.
“We knocked out three good days here,” he said. “These guys worked really hard, we made a lot of progress. It was cool to see these guys really able to run the offense and defense after three days time. Today was kind of the test day for us to see how they learn, and we watch the film and evaluate, we’ll get some information off of that.”
“We’re really pleased with the guys that we brought in, the draft guys. Everybody looked like they fit into the role that we had hoped for, with a million miles to go. The tackles up front looked good, the defensive tackles, they looked nice, fit in right, they’re both different players.”
Carroll went on to say he also liked the play of TE Luke Willson and receiver Chris Harper, as well as the two running backs, Christine Michael and Spencer Ware: “I was really happy with Spencer Ware playing fullback and tailback, that worked out well for us, and all the way down the line.”
On Willson, one of the bright spots of the three days, Carroll said, “We really did give him a chance in this camp to show stuff. What we wanted to see was if his speed would show up down field, and it certainly did. He’s very fast. He’ll be our fastest tight end at camp, so we’ll continue to develop him. We don’t’ know anything about his blocking ability at this point—we won’t know that until we get to camp—but as far as calling on him to fit a role to be a downfield type of guy, he looked good.”
Asked if any of the tryout players stood out, Carroll singled out defensive end Benson Moyowa from Idaho:
“The kid from Idaho did a nice job, Benson… He was a guy who really jumped out, number 70, when he was rushing the passer. He looked pretty fast on the edge.”
Carroll spent plenty of time talking about defensive tackles Jordan Hill and Jesse Williams, two players who figure to have fairly significant roles right off the bat. Both helped themselves by showing up in good shape this weekend, and both showed enough to Carroll to believe that they will be factors in the defense. Carroll explained that Hill will work mostly as a nose tackle early on, and likely more in passing situations, while Williams will play the three-technique tackle spot (think Alan Branch last year). And Carroll made it sound like Williams has a real shot to win that vacated starting job in the base defense.
“Just off of three days work, you’ll see Jordan more at nose tackle, he looks very comfortable there, early in camp,” Carroll said. “… We’ll probably wind up keeping Jesse at three-technique for a while, then we’ll move him to five-technique to see how he does there, then we’ll bring him back to nose tackle in time. He’s played all those spots, I just don’t want to do that, because we’d like to fit him in as the three-technique and see if he can play first and second down for us.”
On 6-2 cornerback Tharold Simon, Carroll said, “He did a good job. He fits the profile of the big guys that we like. He’s long, he’s an aggressive kid, has good savvy, can anticipate routes and things. I don’t know what kind of condition he’s in yet, but we’ll get him stronger and get him right. By the time we get to camp, I would think he could compete with our guys. He looked kind of in the fashion of guys we like.”
And if you’re wondering, yes Carroll saying “I don’t know what kind of condition he’s in yet” is coach speak for “that guy needs to show up in better shape for the next round of OTAs.
One point Carroll made about rookies, and something we’ve seen from the Seahawks in the past, is that the focus is not on making sure the rookies are ready to do everything right away, but rather on focusing on what they do well early and building their confidence.
“We’re already picturing how they can fit in,” he said. “The way to do it really is we’re going to try to champion the strengths that they have and put them in situations where they can be successful early, not ask them to do a lot of things that are unfamiliar to them, with the thought of trying to build their confidence and kind of a sense that they belong and can fit in, and then we’ll expand… Every guy has kind of a plan like that, and we won’t ask them to do too many things early until they show us that they can handle that. That’s really been a successful way to introduce guys to our play and get something out of them and build their confidence so that they can grow faster. We can totally blow them out—if we expect that Jared Smith is going to be able to get up there and line up against (Brandon) Mebane and carry out his assignments, he’s going to really have a hard time—so the idea is to bring him along slowly, other guys a little quicker because of their background and all. There’s really a plan for every guy.
In addition to his draft picks, Carroll was also pleased with quarterback Jerrod Johnson, who had a pretty strong three days. Johnson, who went undrafted in 2011 out of Texas A&M, signed with Seattle before the draft. Johnson, whose senior year was derailed by a shoulder injury, said it took nearly two years to get his arm strength back and refine his throwing mechanics. His new delivery is different enough that Carroll said Johnson couldn’t revert back to his old ways.
“I asked him to throw his old way and he couldn’t do it, so that’s a good thing,” Carroll said. “I wanted to see his old style. He’s got a very good arm, he can really gun the football down the field, he’s got a great presence in that he’s such a big guy in the pocket. He’s totally different than our guys, so if he can hang with us, you’ll see us utilize him doing the things that he can do well. He’s bright and has handled things very well, so we’re excited about him.”
Carroll said having a quarterback with some experience—he spent time in the preseason with Philadelphia and Pittsburgh over the last two years, “really makes a difference, just the continuity of the call from Bev to the huddle, and getting things done in the checks at the line of scrimmage, calling out protections and all of that, it makes a big difference. He stood out, obviously.”
Carroll on WR Chris Harper: “I think he can really catch it. He runs good routes, he’s a big, solid dude like we thought. He really has great hands, he has really classy hands. I don’t think there’s any ball that he’s out of—if he can get his hand on it, he’s got a chance to catch it. We’ll really work to make him a physical receiver and make space for himself and work with our big corners, there are going to be some great battles for those guys. He did very well, learned very well too. We moved him around, did a lot of things with him, and he had no problem with it at all, so he’ll be competing. He’ll be right in there. We will not hesitate to throw him in. there’s a case of a guy who early on will go right in with the first group, he’ll get reps with those guys early on so we can see what he can do. He’ll have no problem doing that. We’ll do the same thing with Luke, those guys will get tossed in with the first group in the first dozen plays, that’s the thought.”