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Day Eight of Seahawks Training Camp: An Inside Look at the Team’s Friday Night Practice

Friday night the University of Washington played host to the Seattle Seahawks. With a few hundred spectators in attendance, the Seahawks ran through a light, two-hour workout.

The following are my thoughts and observations from watching the practice at Husky Stadium:

Old face returning to Seattle with reinforcements?

If Jim Mora Jr. falters this year as the new head coach of the Seahawks, is it to0 farfetched to think that some changes will again be made in Seattle?

Mike Holmgren’s name has been thrown out by numerous people as a possible replacement for Tim Ruskell (Seahawks president and general manager). What if Holmgren comes back, takes over as general manager and fires Mora Jr.? Who would Holmgren hire? What about his good buddy Mike Shanahan? Shanahan runs a version of the West Coast Offense and is very successful with coaching up no-name running backs and turning them into fantasy-type studs. Seattle’s success this year could hinge on its ground game, so if that and the team as a whole falters this could be a very interesting idea…especially if Holmgren takes over and drafts a top-flight running back for Shanahan? Hmmm…

Roll call.

From what I was able to see, these are who sat out of the practice:

D.D. Lewis (reserve LB – #52)
Will Herring (reserve LB – #54)
Walter Jones (starting OT – #71)
Cory Redding (starting DT – #94)
Michael Bennett (reserve DE – #96)
Starting wide receiver Deion Branch, who has been limited thus far in training camp while coming back from knee surgery, participated in the entire practice without any special accommodations or restraints.

Zebra sighting.

The team invited four uniformed officials to attend Friday night’s practice. One penalty was called towards the latter part of practice. It wasn’t specified what it was or who the infraction was on, but it appeared to be on the offense during an 11-on-11 no/limited contact drills.

Whippin’ out the gun.

Seattle quarterbacks spent a lot of the night working from the shotgun. While you might not think this to be particularly noteworthy, keep in mind that under Holmgren, it was exceedingly rare for Matt Hasselbeck to use the formation.

All four of the team’s passers practiced taking snaps from an assistant kneeling down on the field who would then toss a football to the quarterback. The quarterbacks would then go through their progressions and hit a wide receiver.

No defensive players were a part of this drill.

The next thing the quarterbacks worked on out of the shotgun was how to scramble after their pocket collapsed.

The setup was exactly the same as the previous drill in terms of how the quarterback got the simulated snap, but, this time, another assistant would come from a defensive end position. With the quarterback flushed out of the pocket, he scrambled and connected with a receiver. This drill involved both an assistant coming from the quarterbacks’ weak and strong sides.

In 11-on-11 drills, quarterbacks once again found themselves receiving the snap out of the shotgun.

Regular, under-the-center exchanges also were worked on heavily.

How healthy is Hasselbeck, really?

Matt Hasselbeck looked really good. In fact, I found myself thinking Friday night that he looked like he was in mid-season form already.

He got to the line and dropped back in the pocket with ease. Out of the shotgun, Hasselbeck was able to scramble both left and right and make crisp passes to his receivers without any sign of back pain.

Hooooooooousssssshhhhh.

In only a little over a week’s worth of training camp, TJ Houshmandzadeh has become a crowd favorite. With every catch he made Friday night, fans would bellow out the nickname of the team’s prized free agency signing.

In more important news, Hasselbeck has found his new security blanket and go-to receiver in number 84. Be it split out wide, from the slot or especially in the red zone, it seemed like Hasselbeck routinely had an eye on getting Houshmandzadeh the ball.

One particular reception that stood out to me and the rest of those in attendance Friday night had Houshmandzadeh run a perfect short curl route along the left sideline. Houshmandzadeh was near the sideline with his defender on the inside of him. In an instant, he breaks what looks to be a deeper route, and instantly takes one step inside towards the play. By doing this, Houshmandzadeh put the defender on his back, thus getting underneath the coverage and providing Hasselbeck a relatively open target.

The result of the play?

A reception that looked too easy to be true, when, in reality, it was rather difficult technique-wise to pull off for the receiver.

The battle of the De(i)ons.

Deion Branch is coming off major knee surgery and is the incumbent starter opposite Houshmandzadeh, but he could be challenged this year.

Rookie Deon Butler could possibly be the steal of the Seahawks’ 2009 Draft. The 5-foot-10 wideout from Penn State is an inch taller than Branch and is much faster than the former Super Bowl MVP.

Butler ran crisp routes, had sure hands and saw plenty of first-team action Friday night, while getting a lot of passes thrown his way by Hasselbeck. The majority of his first-team reps came in the slot, but he was split out wide a little bit.

Butler demonstrated excellent vision and focus. On one play with the first team during 11-on-11 drills Friday night, Butler went to his knees to catch a low pass from Hasselbeck. The former Nittany Lion watched the pass all the way into his arms and chest until he securely had the ball, all the while being covered by the Seahawk secondary.

Maybe not this year, but in a year or two, Butler could overtake Branch for the starting spot split out wide opposite Houshmandzadeh. I honestly believe that Butler could be used much like Steve Smith is in Carolina. The two are eerily similar, except Butler’s an inch taller.

A second wide receiver roster battle?

Billy McMullen, Ben Obomanu, Jordan Kent and Courtney Taylor are all trying to separate from each other in order to win the fifth wide receiver spot. The team could carry six wideouts this year, but I wouldn’t count on it because of possible needs for another roster spot at other positions.

Both McMullen and Payne got some receptions during 11-on-11 drills and Taylor did make a nice touchdown reception towards the end of practice, but Obomanu looked the best out of the four-man pack Friday night.

What to make of the ground game?

Friday night’s practice was pass heavy, but some running plays were worked on, especially in goal line situations.

On one play up the middle, the ball carrier fumbled. The offender appeared to be Julius Jones.

T.J. Duckett looked good in second-team 11-on-11 drills.

Last week, I wrote about Justin Forsett and Devin Moore. I wrote how I really liked what I was learning about Moore, but, I stand corrected.

Forsett looked good running the ball and had good hands as a receiver out of the backfield. On one play, the diminutive running back out Cal showed his elusiveness by making a reception on a screen pass, getting by defenders and turning up field.

I could now see Forsett keeping his roster spot over Moore and possibly even threatening Duckett for playing time as the team’s second rusher. It might sound crazy, but I think Owen Schmitt and Duckett pretty much play the same kind of position in Seattle. The difference between the two is that Schmitt is a tenacious blocker, is much younger and is a lot more athletic overall.

Free agent signee Justin Griffith has experience in offensive coordinator Greg Knapp’s zone blocking and one-cut style running schemes, but the fullback ran with the second team. Schmitt ran with the first.

Plays of the night.

(OFFENSE:) The play of the night came from Deon Butler. On a deep go route, the rookie beat the man-on-man secondary coverage he faced, but the pass was slightly under thrown by Hasselbeck. The wideout came back to the ball, jumped in front of his defender and somewhat wrestled with the defender over the ball while in the air. Butler pried the ball from the defensive back and held onto it as he fell to the ground mere yards from the goal line.

As I brought up earlier, Butler could become something truly special.

(DEFENSE:) Josh Wilson gets the honors for Friday night. During 11-on-11 drills, Wilson sniffed out a pass and jumped the route, getting in front of his receiver. The cornerback dropped what would have been an interception, but made up for it by dropping to the turf to knock out some push-ups.

Clapping, the fans acknowledged Wilson’s self-imposed punishment for dropping what would have been a sure interception.

Improved play from the team’s secondary will be integral for Seattle if the Seahawks want to regain their defensive edge that they had in the 2005 season when the team won the N.F.C. and made it to the Super Bowl.

If you have any comments, questions about the Seahawks and how they look thus far in training camp or if you have something you want Devon to look at when he goes to watch practice on August 18, sound off in the comments section!


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5 Responses to “Day Eight of Seahawks Training Camp: An Inside Look at the Team’s Friday Night Practice”

  1. […] eventually force Branch out of Seattle…he’s just that good. I wrote about the battle between Branch and Butler last week when I went and watched the two at Seahawks training […]

  2. […] eventually force Branch out of Seattle…he’s just that good. I wrote about the battle between Branch and Butler last week when I went and watched the two at Seahawks training […]

  3. […] eventually force Branch out of Seattle…he’s just that good. I wrote about the battle between Branch and Butler last week when I went and watched the two at Seahawks training […]

  4. […] eventually force Branch out of Seattle…he’s just that good. I wrote about the battle between Branch and Butler last week when I went and watched the two at Seahawks training […]

  5. […] eventually force Branch out of Seattle…he’s just that good. I wrote about the battle between Branch and Butler last week when I went and watched the two at Seahawks training […]

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