RENTON, Wash. — Seattle had its most competitive training camp practice thus far, each side of the ball exchanging highlight plays until the defense got the last word on the final rep of the session Sunday afternoon at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center.
Geno Smith attempted a pass to DK Metcalf up the seam and the two must not have been on the same page because the ball sailed behind the receiver and into the stomach of safety Quandre Diggs, who ran the other way with the ball hoisted in the air just as he did after picking off Baker Mayfield in Week 18 to help send Seattle to the playoffs.
Seattle is expected to have its first padded practice Monday afternoon, which will allow for a better evaluation of the trench play on both sides of the ball. Until then, here are additional observations from Sunday at training camp:
1. Tight end Noah Fant passed his physical and returned to practice Sunday after missing the first three days of camp with a knee issue. He was a limited participant, and didn’t do any of the seven-on-seven sessions or team work toward the end of practice.
“We’re going to be very, very careful with that,” coach Pete Carroll said, noting that it was mostly important for Fant to participate in the 40-snap walk-through Sunday morning. “That’s a big step up. When you’re on PUP, you can’t participate in that. We all felt — and I know he did, too — it was great to be back with the team working. We’ll just progress him as the trainers feel is the right way to do it. I’m not going to be in a hurry on it.”
Left guard Damien Lewis missed practice due to illness, Carroll said.
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2. Ken Walker III (groin) missed his third straight practice and rookie Zach Charbonnet (shoulder) missed his second consecutive session. Walker was on the field watching practice Sunday. I didn’t see Charbonnet.
Carroll said they’re just “keeping (Walker) quiet for a bit” as he nurses that groin issue. As for Charbonnet, “he’s got a little shoulder thing we’re checking out right now,” Carroll said. Asked if Charbonnet is out of town seeing a specialist, Carroll said: “No, he’s getting all the workups done right now. Today he’ll be back in there with the docs getting some stuff looked at.” Carroll then admitted to being intentionally vague on Charbonnet’s situation because he didn’t have a great deal of information.
Running backs DeeJay Dallas and Kenny McIntosh have been taking most of the first-team reps the last couple of days. Carroll said he learned Sunday that Dallas is up to 230 pounds (he’s listed 214). “I like him running with the power and being physical, as a different kind of guy for us,” Carroll said.
McIntosh, a seventh-round pick out of Georgia, has catlike quickness and it’s been showing up in camp. He’s listed at 204 pounds (his weight at the scouting combine) but Carroll said McIntosh is down 10 pounds and has looked great in practice.
“Kenny Mac, he has probably been one of the highlights,” Carroll said. “When everybody was here he was one of the highlighted players. … He’s in great shape and he’s just razor sharp and he’s been explosive and innovative with his running and his cuts. Caught the ball well. He’s done really well.”
3. Smith and the starting secondary really battled Sunday. He threw three interceptions: the one to Diggs to end practice, another to inside linebacker Devin Bush in the end zone and one more to cornerback Tre Brown while looking for tight end Will Dissly in a scramble situation.
Smith and Metcalf must have had their wires crossed on the Diggs interception. The Bush play, on the other hand, was just an ill-advised throw to receiver Tyler Lockett in the end zone while Smith scrambled to his right. Ditto for the throw to Dissly. Smith scrambled right and tried to loft a 50-50 ball to his 6-foot-4 tight end against a 5-10 cornerback, but Brown deflected the ball then corralled it during a seven-on-seven period.
Smith also threw several touchdowns. In the opening team period, he rolled out and hit tight end Colby Parkinson in stride for what probably would have been a long touchdown up the sideline in a real game. After Brown’s interception, Smith threw a laser from about 30 yards out to Metcalf for a touchdown against rookie slot corner Jonathan Sutherland. On the next snap, Smith threw a dart to Parkinson for a touchdown on a goal-line rep, then scrambled and hit Lockett for a short touchdown against cornerback Devon Witherspoon. The rookie had good coverage but the ball was low and away in a place only Lockett could catch it.
Prior to Bush’s interception, Smith scrambled right and snuck a ball by nickelback Coby Bryant in the back of the end zone into the hands of rookie receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba, who finished the play tapping both toes in bounds before falling to the ground. Smith-Njigba has good spatial awareness in scramble situations, making him tough to cover when plays break down.
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4. Brown, currently starting at left cornerback, made three big stops. During the opening team period, he trailed Lockett on a deep post pattern and swatted away a potential touchdown. In seven-on-seven, after giving up a curl route for a first down against Metcalf, Brown had another pass breakup in the end zone on a near-perfect ball in seven-on-seven. The 6-foot-4 Metcalf reached and caught the ball at its highest point but Brown was still able to jump and poke it away.
Brown and Michael Jackson, two guys directly impacted by Seattle taking Witherspoon with the No. 5 pick, have been making really strong cases to stay on the field when everyone is healthy.
“(Brown) had a beautiful day today,” Carroll said. “Both he and Mike are really competing hard and they’re not looking over their shoulder; they’re just going to take these jobs and they’re going to try to hold on to them and fight to keep them. And they’re doing the kind of stuff guys do when they make that happen.”
5. Because of all the depth in the cornerback room — remember, Pro Bowl right cornerback Riq Woolen is still on PUP with a knee injury — Seattle is still tinkering with its depth chart. For now, Brown and Jackson are starters on the left and right, respectively. On Sunday, Bryant was the starting nickel, with Witherspoon coming on the field for dime packages (six defensive backs). Bryant also played some backup safety.
Witherspoon nearly had a PBU against Smith-Njigba on a slant in the red zone, so it’s not as if he’s sitting back and letting the veterans have all the fun. This position group will remain fluid throughout camp so I wouldn’t read too much into the lineups. The only certainty at the moment is that Seattle has a bunch of starting-caliber players in that room.
“We’re just trying to find the right combination and see what’s most competitive,” Carroll said, adding that nothing will be settled until Woolen returns to the field. Carroll said Woolen should be back in a couple weeks.
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6. Bobby Wagner saved what would have been a long touchdown in man coverage against Dallas down the sideline by trailing the running back and swatting the ball away at the last second (Smith threw the pass). Seattle probably won’t have the veteran linebacker in those downfield situations very often but that play demonstrated that, even at 33 years old, Wagner can still make plays in coverage.
“He’s moving really, really well,” Carroll said. “He looks like the guy that we’ve always known.”
7. Backup quarterback Drew Lock had a few really good throws but the best one was probably a corner route to receiver Dee Eskridge for a long touchdown in seven-on-seven. As soon as Eskridge came out of his break and got a step on Sutherland, the ball was perfectly placed toward the pylon, in front of the safety flying from over the top. Eskridge has been mostly running with the second-string receivers but is seemingly making at least one big play every day.
(Photo of Quandre Diggs: Steven Bisig / USA Today)
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