NFC West: Christine Michael

RENTON, Wash. – For the Seattle Seahawks fans waiting to see more of rookie running back Christine Michael, you may have to keep waiting.

“He’s working his way in and we think he has great promise for the future,” coach Pete Carroll said of Michael Monday on 710 ESPN Seattle radio. “But he’s still a young guy trying to break in.”

In other words, Carroll is going to stick with veteran Marshawn Lynch, even though some fans are itching to see more of Michael. Lynch has not rushed for more than 100 yards in a game since Nov. 10 at Atlanta.

Lynch rushed for 60 yards in the first half of the 17-10 loss Sunday to Arizona, but had only 11 yards on seven carries in the second half. Lynch also failed to score on two tries when Seattle had first-and-goal at the Arizona 3 in the second quarter.

Lynch has rushed for 1,160 yards this season, but he has gained only 289 yards in the last five games, on an average of 3.3 yards per carry.
The Seattle Seahawks had 11 draft picks in 2013, but only one of them is likely to get much playing time in the season opener at Carolina.

Back-up tight end Luke Willson, a fifth-round selection from Rice, will be on the field in Seattle’s two-tight sets and probably have a few passes thrown his way after his impressive showing in the preseason.

But other than Willson, don’t look for much action from the other draft picks. That’s a big difference from a year ago.

As a rookie, Russell Wilson started every game at quarterback. Middle linebacker Bobby Wagner started 15 of 16 regular season games at middle linebacker. J.R. Sweezy started the season opener at guard.

First-round pick Bruce Irvin played in every game at defensive end and led all NFL rookies with eight sacks. Running back Robert Turbin played in all 16 games as the backup to Marshawn Lynch.

The verdict is out on the 2013 draft choices, but it’s clear they won’t contribute as much as some of the 2012 picks did at the start of the season.

Three seventh-round picks in 2013 -- offensive linemen Ryan Seymour and Jared Smith, along with linebacker Ty Powell, were placed on the practice squad.

Here’s a rundown on the other seven 2013 draft choices:
  • Second-round pick Christine Michael: He showed his talent and had some flashes of explosiveness in the preseason, rushing for 200 yards on 40 carries, including a touchdown on a 43-yard run. But he’s the No. 3 running back for now behind Lynch and Turbin.
  • Third-round pick Jordan Hill: The defensive tackle from Penn State has a sprained shoulder and won’t play this weekend. When he does return, Hill probably will be a back-up and the 3-technique tackle spot.
  • Fourth-round pick Chris Harper: He’s long gone. Harper, a wide receiver from Kansas State, was a big disappointment in camp. However, the Seahawks wanted to place him on the practice squad before the San Francisco 49ers added him to their 53-man roster. The 49ers are considering converting Harper (6-1, 235) to a tight end.
  • Fifth-round pick Jesse William: The defensive tackle from Alabama is out for the season, placed on injured reserve with a knee injury.
  • Fifth-round pick Tharold Simon: The cornerback from LSU still is recovering from a fractured foot in spring practices. He’s on the PUP list and isn’t likely to contribute until midseason, if at all in 2013.
  • Sixth-round pick Spencer Ware: The LSU product looked good enough in the preseason games at fullback and running back for the Seahawks to part way with veteran fullback Michael Robinson. But Ware is the backup fullback to Derrick Coleman for now, and the fullback spot won’t get a ton of plays anyway in the Seahawks offense.
  • Seventh-round pick Michael Bowie: The offensive lineman from Northeastern State in Oklahoma is listed as a third-team tackle for now. He suffered a slight shoulder injury in the final preseason game.

However, the Seahawks are likely to receive meaningful contributions this weekend from two undrafted rookies. Benson Mayowa, a defensive end from Idaho, is expected to see significant playing time Sunday after an impressive preseason when he had 3.5 sacks. And John Lotulelei, an outside linebacker from UNLV, probably will see some action backing up K.J. Wright.

Taking stock of 2013 NFC West picks

September, 3, 2013
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Eighty-six of the first 88 players drafted in 2013 remain on 53-man rosters entering Week 1. The two exceptions play for NFC West teams.

The Arizona Cardinals' Jonathan Cooper, chosen seventh overall, suffered a season-ending leg injury during preseason. He is on injured reserve. The San Francisco 49ers' Tank Carradine, chosen 40th overall, remains on the reserve/non-football injury list while recovering from a knee injury.

Twenty-five of 39 NFC West choices this year remain on their original teams' 53-man rosters. That includes all seven picks for the St. Louis Rams and seven of nine for the Cardinals. The 49ers and Seattle Seahawks had a higher number of picks arranged lower within each round, and fewer open roster spots to accommodate them.

Injuries have left six picks from the division on various injured lists. Three of the Seahawks' top five picks will not help the team anytime soon. That includes Harper, defensive tackle Jesse Williams (injured reserve) and cornerback Tharold Simon (reserve/physically unable to perform). Percy Harvin, who cost Seattle its 2013 first-round choice, is also injured.

Five 2013 draft choices from the division landed on their original teams' practice squads. One of them, fourth-round choice Chris Harper, subsequently left his original team (Seattle Seahawks) to sign with the 49ers' 53-man roster.

Three picks from the St. Louis Rams and one from the 49ers are scheduled to start in Week 1. Cooper would have started for the Cardinals if healthy.

Harper wasn't the only NFC West draft choice to land on another team. The 49ers' Marcus Cooper, a seventh-round choice, wound up with Kansas City after the Chiefs claimed him off waivers.
RENTON, Wash. -- Summer fun for the Seattle Seahawks is almost over, so what stood out?

Training camp has officially ended, cuts are coming and the final preseason game for the Seahawks is Thursday night at home against Oakland.

[+] EnlargePete Carroll
AP Photo/Tom LynnPete Carroll's Seahawks will have to work on cutting down the penalties after a preseason chock full of them.
Here’s a quick look at some of the high, lows and truly unusual moments over the last month.

Best surprise on offense: Receiver Stephen Williams. He’s been nothing short of spectacular. The former Arizona Cardinal leads all NFL receivers in the preseason with 186 yards on six receptions, including three long touchdowns and four catches of 20-plus yards. At 6-5, 210, the lanky Williams has long arms and has shown the ability to out-leap defenders for tough catches down the sidelines.

Best surprise on defense: Defensive end Benson Mayowa. The undrafted rookie from Idaho has stood out at practice and in the games with his quickness and ability to rush the passer. At 6-3, 255, he was a long shot to make the team when training camp started. Now he appears to be a shoo-in. He has 10 tackles in three games and 2.5 sacks. He also has five quarterback pressures and a fumble recovery.

The humble celebrity: Quarterback Russell Wilson, of course. This town is in a Wilson frenzy. Probably not since the heyday of Ken Griffey Jr. has any athlete captured the heart of the city like Wilson. But Wilson’s growing status as an NFL celebrity reaches far beyond the Pacific Northwest. He was the cover for ESPN The Magazine’s NFL preview issue and recently was featured in GQ Magazine. In Russ We Trust is the hottest slogan in Seattle, but Wilson takes it all in stride and handles his popularity with quiet dignity.

Biggest disappointment: Losing receiver Percy Harvin before he got started. The 67 million-dollar man was Seattle's biggest off-season acquisition, the dynamic receiver who could give the Seahawks' offense its one missing piece as a game-breaker and consistent deep threat for Wilson. But a torn labrum required hip surgery that will keep him off the field until at least late November. How can you miss what you never had? The Seahawks will find out soon enough.

Best moves for a big man: Defensive tackle Clinton McDonald, all 6-2, 300 pounds of him, showing off his popping dance moves to the music during a walk-through practice. Maybe he can earn a spot on "Dancing With The Stars."

Fat man in some little shorts: OK, he’s not really fat, just big, but I kept thinking of the old "Tommy Boy" line by Chris Farley every time guard John Moffitt walked on the practice field in the shorts that looked like he was ready to play a 1975 NBA game. I wonder if he is wearing mini-shorts now in Denver, and what Peyton Manning has to say about it if he is?

Cuts all teams will watch: Those will come in the Seattle secondary, a spot where two or three of the back-ups could start for most NFL teams. The Seahawks literally are three-deep at all four spots. The reductions among the defensive backfield will be some difficult decisions for the Seattle coaches, but other teams probably are salivating waiting to see which of these DBs hits the waiver wire.

Most disappointing draft pick: Chris Harper. The fourth-round pick from Kansas State just hasn’t done anything to stand out, other than being big and strong at 6-1, 235.

If at first you don’t succeed: It took two tries over 24 hours, but Moffitt ended up in Denver after first being traded to Cleveland. That deal was voided when the Browns had concerns over a previous knee injury. Apparently, the Broncos were OK with that, shipping defensive tackle Sealver Siliga to Seattle for Moffitt within minutes to the deal falling through with Cleveland.

Yellow Seahawks: Not yellow, as in cowardly lion. Yellow as in penalty flags. It’s been a sea of yellow for the Seahawks in the first three preseason games -- 34 penalties for a whopping 354 yards. But Seattle managed to win all three games and has outscored its opponents 88-30. Coach Pete Carroll isn’t happy about it and knows this trend has to end.

Don’t call me ChrisTEEN: It appears the Seahawks have done it again with an early draft pick that had many experts shaking their heads. Seattle didn’t have a pick until late in the second round. When the pick came, it stunned many observers to see the Seahawks take a running back, not exactly a weak spot for the team. But Texas A&M’s Christine (pronounced KRIS-ton) Michael, has looked sensational. Michael leads the NFL is preseason rushing yards with 186 yards on 27 carries in two games for a 13.5-yard average, including a 43-yard TD run at Green Bay.

Swiss timing: Receiver Sidney Rice flew across one continent and one ocean to get a knee treatment that took 20 minutes. Hey, whatever works. Rice had a platelet-enriched plasma procedure (whatever that is) on his knee, something that isn’t done in the U.S. He returned two days later and has looked fine on the practice field, but hasn’t played yet in the preseason.

Two plays, two TDs and 213 yards: You could watch a thousand NFL games and not see this happen again. The Seahawks have a 107-yard touchdown (Jermaine Kearse’s kickoff return) and a 106-yard TD (Brandon Browner’s fumble recovery in the end zone) in the first half of the Denver game Aug. 17.

People everywhere: It was a training camp festival every day at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center. The Seahawks had 2,500 tickets available for each practice at camp and they sold them all. Heck, they probably could have sold 10,000 each day if they had the space at the V-MAC. The Seahawks' facility is one of the most picturesque settings in the NFL, sitting on the eastern banks of Lake Washington. There’s a hill overlooking the field and the lake where fans sit to watch practice. It was packed every day.

Seattle winning despite penalties

August, 24, 2013
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Penalties, lots of penalties, haven’t kept the Seattle Seahawks from winning in the preseason.

Seattle now has an unimaginable 34 penalties for 354 yards in the first three games, but the Seahawks won each of them. That includes a 17-10 victory Friday night at Green Bay when the Seahawks were flagged 14 times for 182 yards.

[+] EnlargePete Carroll
AP Photo/Tom LynnPete Carroll's Seahawks were penalized 14 times for 182 yards on Friday against Green Bay.
It looks worse when you realize coach Pete Carroll made the penalty problems his main point of emphasis entering the Green Bay game. Instead of getting better, it got worse.

“There were a lot of distractions in the game with 180 yards of penalties,’’ Carroll said. “It’s hard to deal with, and we are focused on cleaning that up. You never want to give your opponent anything, and we gave them 180 yards. That’s makes it difficult to win.”

The Seahawks won anyway. Here are a few observations from the game:

1. The defense does it again: Seattle’s defense has allowed only 30 points in the first three preseason games, and only three touchdowns, one in each game.

Tony McDaniel looked good in his first start at defensive tackle, stuffing the middle and posting two tackles along with one pass defensed.

Sealver Siliga, the defensive tackle Seattle acquired last week when guard John Moffitt was traded to Denver, had a strong first game with the Seahawks. Siliga had two tackles, including a sack.

2. Wow Mayowa: The man on defense who continues to stand out is rookie free agent Benson Mayowa, a defensive end from Idaho. Mayowa’s quickness makes it seem like he’s everywhere on the field. He had four tackles Friday night, including one tackle behind the line. Mayowa had a quarterback hit and a fumble recovery.

Maybe his most impressive play Friday came when Green Bay had a 31-yard gain. Running back Alex Green got around the left end and was off to the races down the sideline, but Mayowa ran him down from behind.

Mayowa (6-3, 255) was a longshot to make the team when training camp started. Now he appears to be a lock. He has 10 tackles in three games and 2.5 sacks. He also has five quarterback pressures.

3. Big-play Williams: Lanky receiver Stephen Williams, another man fighting for a roster spot, now has three long touchdown receptions in the first three games, one in each game.

Williams (6-5, 210) had a 42-yard touchdown catch Friday, pulling the ball away from the defender at the goal line on a pass from Brady Quinn. Williams came close to another long touchdown Friday on a play that could have been called interference on Green Bay defender Brandon Smith.

With Percy Harvin out until at least late November, it seems unimaginable now that Seattle wouldn’t keep Williams as a deep threat with the height to out-leap defenders for the ball.

4. One tough Aggie: Christine Michael, Seattle’s second-round draft choice from Texas A&M, had his best game of the preseason, rushing for 97 yards on 11 carries. Michael (5-10, 220) has shown a knack for breaking tackles and hitting the hole quickly at the line of scrimmage.

Seattle rushed for 166 yards on 27 carries (a 6.1-yard average) against the Packers.

6. The penalty culprits: The running game looked strong despite a bad night for the Seahawks' offensive line. It allowed four sacks and was penalized five times for holding. Starting right J.R. Sweezy was penalized three times in the first half -- two for holding and once for a personal foul.

The bottom line is the Seahawks managed to get the job done despite all the miscues and yellow flags. But that isn’t likely to continue in the regular season unless the team cleans up its act.

NFC West rookie review: Snap leaders

August, 18, 2013
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A few notes on playing time for 2013 NFC West draft choices after each team played its second game of the exhibition season:

Seattle Seahawks: Seventh-round choice Michael Bowie played extensively yet again and remains on course to earn a roster spot as one of the backup tackles. He and undrafted free agent Alvin Bailey are combining to give Seattle much greater depth on the line than the team enjoyed in previous seasons. ... Fifth-round tight end Luke Willson blocked effectively against Denver. ... Tharold Simon remains sidelined by injury, making it impossible for him to compete for relevance at cornerback, the position where Seattle might have its greatest depth.

San Francisco 49ers: I was struck by how many special teams snaps third-round outside linebacker Corey Lemonier and sixth-round inside linebacker Nick Moody played. Both figure to contribute in that regard. ... Quarterback B.J. Daniels inserted himself into the conversation with Colt McCoy and Scott Tolzien in the race to become the No. 2 quarterback. Having both Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick was a luxury last season. Now, the 49ers are like most teams: in big trouble if an injury knocks out their starting quarterback. ... Too bad second-rounder Vance McDonald was hurt. He flashed ability in the preseason opener.

Arizona Cardinals: Second-round inside linebacker Kevin Minter has been overshadowed at times, through no fault of his own. I noticed him right away during camp practices for the hits he was delivering on special teams. The Cardinals are happy with him. ... The starting offense went 10 plays longer than it had in the preseason opener, giving first-round pick Jonathan Cooper welcome reps. Arizona needs Cooper and its offensive line up to speed for quarterback Carson Palmer to connect on the deeper passes coach Bruce Arians favors. ... Running back Andre Ellington had a 24-yard run and a 28-yard kickoff return, a pretty good debut.

St. Louis Rams: I wondered on draft day whether Zac Stacy would factor as the potential starting running back. That obviously isn't going to happen right away. Stacy missed this game to injury and hasn't seriously challenged Daryl Richardson for the starting job. ... The Rams need to develop young offensive line depth, so it was good for Barrett Jones to get 37 snaps. ... Nick Wagoner has the full Rams rookie review for those seeking a deeper look.

Seahawks rookie review: Snap leaders

August, 10, 2013
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A quick look at the Seattle Seahawks' 2013 draft class following the team's exhibition opener against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium:

RB Christine Michael, second round, No. 62 overall. Michael carried 16 times for 89 yards and had a 24-yard run late in the game. His quickness was evident. This performance suggested the rookie could help the Seahawks this season. Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin could make carries scarce for Michael and other backs, however.

DT Jordan Hill, third round, No. 87 overall. Hill seemed close to making plays without finishing consistently. He did apply pressure to the quarterback. Hill finished the game with one tackle. He played more snaps on defense (44) than any of the team's other draft choices. Officials flagged Hill for illegal use of hands.

WR Chris Harper, fourth round, No. 123 overall. Harper gained 8 yards on his lone reception. He was open another time, but the Chargers pressured quarterback Tarvaris Jackson into throwing to fullback Derrick Coleman instead.

DT Jesse Williams, fifth round, No. 137 overall. Williams faced double-team blocking more frequently than I would have anticipated. He played 28 percent of the defensive snaps and did not factor on the stat sheet.

CB Tharold Simon, fifth round, No. 138 overall. A foot injury caused Simon to miss the game. He has not practiced with the team during camp to this point. Seattle's quality depth at corner means Simon faces a tough fight upon his return.

TE Luke Willson, fifth round, No. 158 overall. Willson caught two passes for 16 yards, including a 15-yarder to convert on third down. His inability to catch a pass on another third-down play killed a drive. Willson played 16 snaps on offense and 10 on special teams. Only Jameson Konz (11) and Jeremy Lane (11) played more snaps on special teams.

FB Spencer Ware, sixth round, No. 194 overall. Ware matched Michael in offensive snaps with 27. He carried seven times for 32 yards (4.6 per carry) and a touchdown. He had a 20-yard run to go with his 6-yard scoring run.

G Ryan Seymour, seventh round, No. 220 overall. Seymour played 22 snaps (39 percent). That ranked third among the three offensive linemen Seattle drafted in 2013.

LB Ty Powell, seventh round, No. 231 overall. Powell ranked second on the team with six tackles while playing 31 snaps, or 46 percent. He made a tackle for a 2-yard loss in the second quarter, taking down Chargers running back Fozzy Whittaker, a player San Diego claimed off waivers from Arizona.

G Jared Smith, seventh round, No. 241 overall. Smith played 30 snaps. I wasn't watching him closely enough to take note of his contributions.

T Michael Bowie, seventh round, No. 242 overall. Bowie and undrafted free agent Alvin Bailey give the Seahawks a couple of promising young tackles to develop. Both seemed to play well in this game. Bowie played 44 snaps on offense, matching Hill for the most scrimmage snaps for a 2013 Seattle draft choice.

Three things: Seahawks-Chargers

August, 8, 2013
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Three things to watch for Thursday night in the Seattle Seahawks' 2013 exhibition opener against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium (10 p.m. ET):

1. Return specialists. The Seahawks released dynamic return man Leon Washington before they knew the recently acquired Percy Harvin would undergo season-altering hip surgery. The team is listing Will Blackmon, Jeremy Lane and Bryan Walters as its top three kickoff returners. Golden Tate is listed as the punt returner. Blackmon returned three punts for touchdowns while with Green Bay, but that was way back in 2007 and 2008. How will the Seahawks' return game fare without Washington and Harvin?

2. Backup QBs and a guy taking their handoffs. Tarvaris Jackson and Brady Quinn are competing to serve as the No. 2 quarterback behind Russell Wilson. Jackson has greater experience in the Seahawks' offensive system, having run it with Seattle and Minnesota. Jackson has greater equity in the locker room after playing through a torn pectoral muscle as Seattle's primary starter in 2011. Does that mean Quinn has to win this battle decisively to beat out Jackson? Can Quinn make this decision a difficult one? Don't stop watching after the handoff, either. Rookie running back Christine Michael is a player of interest after Seattle made him a surprise second-round choice.

3. Rookie TE Willson. Luke Willson makes his Seahawks debut as a rookie fifth-round choice and potential complement to starting tight end Zach Miller. A foot injury has prevented Miller from practicing and will keep him out of this game. Another familiar veteran at the position, Anthony McCoy, is not back after suffering a torn Achilles' tendon during offseason workouts. Willson, Sean McGrath and Cooper Helfet are among the lesser-known tight ends with an opportunity to distinguish themselves.
Good morning, NFC West. We've got some news and notes on running backs to sort through as the Thursday night preseason openers approach for every team in the division but Arizona, which opens Friday.

Let's get right to the specifics.

Arizona Cardinals: The team has already been without Rashard Mendenhall and Ryan Williams, the projected top two backs if healthy. Both have had knee-related issues. Rookie Andre Ellington left practice Tuesday, possibly for an injury to his neck area. Mendenhall resumed practicing this week, but he remains limited. Arizona ran extremely low on players at this position last season, so the early personnel shortages are a bit concerning.

St. Louis Rams: Coach Jeff Fisher pointed to Daryl Richardson as the starting running back over Isaiah Pead. Rookie Zac Stacy is another one to watch. Fisher: "Daryl comes back as our starter because he played significantly more last year than anybody, and so Isaiah is working himself up and competing with Daryl. And you’ve got the rest of the guys that are just going to battle it out, and we haven’t ruled anybody out from that matter. But we're going to try to get as many carries as we can."

San Francisco 49ers: Undrafted rookie D.J. Harper is getting high marks for his blocking in particular. That is often an area where rookie running backs struggle. But as Matt Barrows notes, Harper knocked Pro Bowl linebacker NaVorro Bowman to the ground during pass-blocking drills, catching the attention of running backs coach Tom Rathman. This one falls into the file-it-away category. A rookie runner probably isn't going to factor for the 49ers in the regular season.

Seattle Seahawks: Rookie second-round choice Christine Michael has stood out for his explosive running, but he left practice Tuesday and was headed to ice his back. It's not clear whether Michael was injured or simply needing some routine maintenance, but with No. 2 running back Robert Turbin still coming back from a foot injury, depth at the position is a question mark.

Camp Confidential: Seattle Seahawks

July, 30, 2013
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RENTON, Wash. -- This training camp marks the Seattle Seahawks' first since 2009 without some form of a starting quarterback competition. So comfortable, mature and in command is Russell Wilson this summer that you'd swear he's been the starter for a decade.

It's sometimes as though Wilson is 24 years old going on 42.

Wilson naturally took the driver's seat in the van Seattle players used when shuttling to the offseason practices Wilson organized in Los Angeles. While teammates joked around in the back like kids on a field trip, Wilson was their chaperone.

Asked during this camp what he knew of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick from their time together shooting a commercial and appearing at the ESPYS, Wilson, nearly 13 months Kaepernick's junior, described his rival as someone who loves football and is a good person to be around.

"Great kid," Wilson added.

Reporters can forget about prying a colorful quote from the player teammates have nicknamed "the robot" for his methodical approach to the job. Wilson has been known to favor coachspeak even inside Seattle's quarterback meeting room.

"We joke around all the time," backup Brady Quinn said. "There are some times when he'll state the obvious. We try to make sure he realizes that is a given. Like, for example, 'Hey man, guys gotta stay healthy this year.' Well, yeah. They always need to stay healthy. That's a big part of a team doing well, people not getting hurt. Times like that, you've gotta keep him on his toes, make him laugh a little bit, give him a hard time."

One year after Wilson won a three-way competition against Matt Flynn and Tarvaris Jackson, the player receiver Sidney Rice sometimes calls "the president" is running unopposed at this Seahawks camp.

"He's a champion when he steps out there on that field, even in practice," Rice said. "I’ve seen him run, I believe, 80 yards on one play on a scramble to try to get away and get us a first down. He is going to do whatever it takes. You have seen him running down the sideline blocking for Marshawn [Lynch] numerous times. That is the kind of guy you want leading your team."

THREE HOT ISSUES

[+] EnlargePercy Harvin
AP Photo/Ted S. WarrenThe Vikings aren't sure what to expect from their former receiver, Percy Harvin, who is expected to be in Seattle's lineup on Sunday.
1. Percy Harvin's health. The Seahawks were already a good team before they acquired Harvin. They became a popular pick for the Super Bowl once the versatile receiver and return specialist joined their roster in March. Now, with Harvin seeking a second opinion that could lead to season-altering surgery on his sore hip, those projections seem a little more tenuous.

How Harvin will proceed from here is not clear. His sometimes rocky past in Minnesota invites questions and fuels his critics. Is he smartly erring on the side of caution, as coach Pete Carroll seemed to suggest in initial remarks about the injury? Or, is this another one of those tough-to-explain Harvin plot twists like the ones that seemed to pop up regularly during his Minnesota tenure? With Harvin set to seek that second opinion Tuesday, Carroll noted that safety Kam Chancellor played through a similar injury last season. Was he saying Harvin should do the same?

"Guys around here trust [Harvin] and believe in him," Rice said. "It's nothing like coming out here and taking days off and doing his own thing. I don’t think he’s that type of person. You get that perception from people that don’t really know what's going on, and they just hear stuff and they just create their own [impression]."

Harvin is, by all accounts, plenty tough and competitive. If this is an injury Harvin can manage, it appears he'll do so on his terms, not on the Seahawks' terms. That surely wouldn't surprise the Vikings, even though Rice, himself an ex-Viking, said his teammate is misunderstood.

2. Bruce Irvin's position. There has been some confusion, at least on my end, regarding the role Seattle envisions for 2012 first-round draft choice Irvin. The team drafted Irvin with plans to use him initially as a situational pass-rusher, and later as the successor to Chris Clemons in the "Leo" position as a stand-up rusher in Carroll's defense.

Irvin collected eight sacks as a rookie in the situational role, as planned. He'll continue to play that role within the nickel defense while adding responsibilities as an outside linebacker in base packages. It's not so much that Irvin will be playing the strong side or weak side. Rather, he'll be one of two outside linebackers positioned on the line of scrimmage in what will look like a 3-4 scheme. He'll be asked to set the edge in the running game, rush the passer, match up man-to-man or cover the flat.

First, though, Irvin will have to serve a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's policy on anabolic steroids and related substances.

3. Depth on the offensive line. The Seahawks drafted offensive lineman James Carpenter 25th overall in 2011 when they could have taken a quarterback such as Andy Dalton or Kaepernick. Finding Wilson a year later absolved the team from second-guessing on the quarterback front, but the Carpenter selection was still looking like a regrettable one heading into this camp. Injuries were threatening Carpenter's career, and he wasn't exactly dominant even when healthy in his rookie season.

Perceptions are beginning to change after Carpenter reported to camp in good enough shape to participate fully from the beginning. I noticed Carpenter running from one drill to the next when he could have jogged. It seemed like evidence Carpenter was feeling good and was eager to salvage his career. He's been working with the starting unit at left guard between Pro Bowlers Russell Okung and Max Unger. Adding a healthy Carpenter to the mix would upgrade the line's longer-term prospects.

REASON FOR OPTIMISM

Seattle has one of the NFL's best quarterbacks, best running backs and best defenses. That's a winning combination just about every time. Last season, Wilson struggled through his first few games while hamstrung by remedial game plans. He did not start to hit his stride until Week 8 at Detroit. Wilson did not break out all the way until leading 97- and 80-yard touchdown drives to win at Chicago in Week 13. That's the quarterback Seattle will have behind center from the beginning this season. That is why the Seahawks like their chances.

REASON FOR PESSIMISM

Potential depth issues at tight end, offensive tackle, weakside linebacker and defensive end (for now, while Clemons rehabs and Irvin faces a suspension) probably aren't serious enough to send the Seahawks plummeting into mediocrity. However, the margin for error within the NFC West figures to be small. Harvin, at his best, was supposed to put Seattle over the top. Now, the Seahawks can't be sure they'll have him for the regular season.

OBSERVATION DECK
    [+] EnlargeRed Bryant
    Steven Bisig/USA TODAY SportsRed Bryant, who had treatment for sleep apnea this offseason, says he has better stamina in practices.

  • Defensive end Red Bryant appears more comfortable, for good reason. Bryant had treatment for sleep apnea this offseason after former trainer Sam Ramsden, now the Seahawks' director of player health and performance, recommended testing for larger players. Bryant, who wears a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) mask when he sleeps, says he's feeling refreshed and has better stamina later in practices. This is a pivotal season for Bryant, who struggled with a foot injury last season after signing a $35 million extension. At Carroll's suggestion, Bryant has recommitted to his identity as a dominant run-stuffer after feeling pressure to improve as a pass-rusher upon signing his new contract.
  • Rookie fourth-round receiver Chris Harper didn't seem to be a factor in the first couple days of camp. The first time I really noticed him was when he caught a touchdown pass on the third day of practice. Perhaps not coincidentally, that was also the first day this summer that the Seahawks practiced in pads. Harper, oddly proportioned for a receiver at 6-foot-1 and 234 pounds, relishes the physical part of the game. Some young receivers flourish in shorts and struggle in pads. Harper might have it the other way around.
  • The Seahawks claimed off waivers former Arizona Cardinals outside linebacker O'Brien Schofield despite a $1.3 million salary and a history of injuries. Seattle had a middle-rounds grade on Schofield entering the 2010 draft even though Schofield was rehabbing from a torn ACL suffered in Senior Bowl practices. The Cardinals used a fourth-round pick on Schofield just ahead of the range where Seattle was considering taking him. The Seahawks are continually looking for "Leo" defensive ends in the 6-3 and 245-pound mold. Schofield, 26, fits the profile and has a chance to earn playing time in a rotational capacity while Clemons recovers from knee surgery and Irvin serves a suspension.
  • Irvin's speed showed up in practice when he chased down rookie running back Christine Michael to force a fumble some 40 yards past the line of scrimmage. Michael ran the 40-yard dash in 4.43 seconds at the combine. He has appeared to be one of the more explosive players in camp. Irvin caught him despite outweighing Michael by about 25 pounds, 245 to 220. Raw speed isn't the question for Irvin. He has plenty. The question is whether he can handle some of the coverage and run-stopping responsibilities associated with his evolving role.
  • Remember those offseason stories about Lynch skipping chunks of the voluntary offseason conditioning program? They're pretty much irrelevant now, as anticipated.
  • Nothing has changed the perception that Jackson will beat out Quinn for the No. 2 job behind Wilson. Trading Jackson a year ago was tough in some respects because Jackson was so popular among teammates. I see no reason for the Seahawks to make the same decision again unless Quinn vastly outplays Jackson.
  • Between the practice field and the locker room sits a cart with a laptop connected to a sensor atop a stand. The setup from GPSports allows teams to monitor player performance in real time. Team owner Paul Allen's other professional Seattle sports team, Sounders FC, has used the technology. The GPSports website says systems include a GPS, accelerometer, magnetometer, heart rate sensor and a wireless transmitter. The company says its product can "accurately measure distance, speed, acceleration, heart rate, bodyload and impacts all in real time."
  • Former Cardinals receiver Stephen Williams is doing what he sometimes did while with Arizona: impressing during camp by making spectacular leaping catches. Williams has the talent, but he has been unable to make it transfer to the regular season. Working with a top NFL quarterback cannot hurt. Williams arrived in Arizona the year after Kurt Warner retired.
  • Linebacker K.J. Wright has stood out in past camps, but not so much in this one, except for the big hit he delivered on rookie fullback Spencer Ware.
  • Speaking of Ware, he has some work to do before making veteran fullback Michael Robinson expendable, at least from early indications. The offense didn't look the same or as good with Robinson and tight end Zach Miller sitting out. Robinson and Lynch have a special feel for one another. Ware, more of a halfback type for most of his college career, has dropped a few passes and is still adjusting to the physical nature of the position.
  • The offseason buzz about rookie Jesse Williams possibly starting at defensive tackle seems to have subsided for the time being. Veteran Tony McDaniel and 2012 fourth-rounder Jaye Howard have stood out more.
  • Is that really assistant head coach/offensive line Tom Cable? He has dropped a significant amount of weight since having back surgery, and he said after one practice, "You can’t imagine how nothing hurts on me. It’s awesome."
  • Richard Sherman, although sometimes combative when facing receivers, projects unfiltered joy other times. He is the player most likely to groove along to the music Carroll plays at practice. Sherman thrilled the crowd during one practice when he picked off a pass and lateraled to Earl Thomas during the return. Football is fun to Sherman, and it shows.
  • There aren't many open passing lanes in practice against the Seattle defense. This team is stacked at cornerback. If this keeps up in preseason, and there's enough depth that it should, Seattle could be in position to trade one of its backups.
Running back situations in the NFC West come into clearer focus when we consider the 2012 stats for backs currently on division teams' rosters.

Check out the stats in the chart. They show current backs for the St. Louis Rams and Arizona Cardinals with a combined one rushing touchdown last season, compared to 27 combined rushing scores for backs with the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers.

We already knew the Cardinals and Rams were counting on players new to the league, returning from injuries or trying to reestablish themselves. Taking a look at those numbers drives home the contrast.

Think of it this way: Running backs currently with the 49ers and Seahawks combined for 3,799 yards last season, compared to 1,092 yards for their counterparts on the Rams and Seahawks. The difference between those figures is 2,707 yards, or 1.54 miles.

The Rams have become more pass-oriented in their personnel and mindset. They'll be looking for Daryl Richardson, Isaiah Pead and rookie Zac Stacy to combine for healthy production overall. The Cardinals are hoping free-agent addition Rashard Mendenhall and incumbent Ryan Williams can get healthy and stay that way.

The Seahawks and 49ers, meanwhile, have the best starting backs in the division, Marshawn Lynch and Frank Gore. They also have the best backups, led by Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James in San Francisco, and Robert Turbin and Christine Michael in Seattle. They have allocated more financial resources and draft capital toward the position over the past couple years. They also have quarterbacks with rushing ability, but their stats don't show up in the chart.

Seattle's Russell Wilson had 498 yards rushing last season. The 49ers' Colin Kaepernick had 415 yards. Those figures nearly match the totals for running backs in Arizona (563) and St. Louis (529).

In some cases, teams pass the ball effectively to win games, then run the ball to control games. Seattle and San Francisco have been more run-oriented by design. I wouldn't expect significant shifts in philosophy even though both teams' quarterbacks have proven they can throw the ball to great effect.
An NFL-high five of the Seattle Seahawks' 11 draft choices from 2013 played in the Southeastern Conference.

Christine Michael, Jesse Williams, Tharold Simon, Spencer Ware and Ryan Seymour joined K.J. Wright, Pep Levingston, Kris Durham, James Carpenter, Winston Guy and Jaye Howard as Seattle draft choices since 2010 from college programs currently aligned with the SEC.

The unusually large SEC haul left Seattle with a league-high 11 players selected from the conference since 2010. But in an indication that the results could be largely random, the Seahawks selected zero SEC players in 2010. New England led the way with six that year, but the Patriots selected none in 2013.

The chart shows current conference affiliations for NFC West teams' draft choices over the past four years. The four-year window appealed because 2010 was the year the Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers' current general managers took control of their teams' drafts.

The leaguewide totals since 2010: SEC 203, Big Ten 136, ACC 128, Pac-12 127, Big 12 100, Big East 68, Mountain West 42, C-USA 32 and Sun Belt 22, followed by 27 other conferences with between one and 19 selections.

NFC West teams have selected eight players from LSU over the time period in question, including first-rounders Patrick Peterson (Arizona Cardinals), Michael Brockers (St. Louis Rams) and Eric Reid (49ers).

Eight in the Box: RB status check

May, 24, 2013
5/24/13
12:00
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NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

How does each NFC West team look at running back, and what still needs to be done?

Arizona Cardinals: This is a transitional year at the position for Arizona. Free-agent addition Rashard Mendenhall gets a shot to revive his career following a disappointing finish with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He's familiar with Bruce Arians' offense, giving him a head start over the competition. Ryan Williams has a shot at the job, too, but he's been injured and recently admitted to playing scared last season while trying to protect his surgically repaired knee. General manager Steve Keim was a huge fan of the speed and cutting ability Williams offered coming out of college, but knee and shoulder injuries have taken a significant toll. Can Williams bounce back? Arians wants his backs versatile enough to play on third down as well. The team used a 2013 fifth-round choice for Stanford career rushing leader Stepfan Taylor with that in mind.

St. Louis Rams: Youth will be served in the Rams' offensive backfield now that Steven Jackson has left in free agency. The Rams could have kept Jackson, but they let him out of his contract with an eye toward building a younger roster. Rookie fifth-round pick Zac Stacy will get every chance to earn a prominent role on early downs. Isaiah Pead, a second-round choice in 2012, projects as more of a change-of-pace back. Daryl Richardson, a seventh-rounder last year, should also figure into the mix. The Rams anticipated moving forward from Jackson with a committee setup. It's an upset if one of the backs on the roster commands a huge majority of the carries. The Rams have assumed more of a fast-break look at the skill positions without Jackson as an offensive centerpiece.

San Francisco 49ers: Frank Gore remains the primary back at age 30 after holding up physically through a 19-game season in 2012. The 49ers have set up themselves for life after Gore by drafting Kendall Hunter, LaMichael James and Marcus Lattimore in recent seasons. The position has obviously been a priority for San Francisco. The 49ers know what the numbers say about running backs declining in their late 20s. Gore has resisted the trend to this point and doesn't seem to be declining. Meanwhile, the dynamics behind Gore are fluid. Hunter could remain the No. 2 back if he can bounce back from ACL surgery, but James demonstrated during the playoffs why he should factor as well. Lattimore, a fourth-round pick this year, will get the full 2013 season to recover from a career-threatening knee injury suffered in college. This amounts to a redshirt year for him.

Seattle Seahawks: Marshawn Lynch blows off postgame interviews, shows up for the Seahawks' offseason program at his leisure and has a DUI case pending in the courts. He is even tougher to tackle on the field. The Seahawks know they have a great thing going with the hard-charging Lynch -- for as long as it lasts. They've been hedging their bets for two years running. Robert Turbin, a fourth-round choice in 2012, fits the power mold and has a promising future. The same goes for 2013 second-rounder Christine Michael. And if those picks weren't enough, Seattle used a 2013 sixth-rounder for Spencer Ware, who projects as a combination halfback/fullback. Lynch is arguably the best back in the division. Michael's addition gives the Seahawks outstanding young depth, too.
NFC West teams have been stockpiling running backs. They selected six of them in the NFL draft last month. The Arizona Cardinals also added Rashard Mendenhall in free agency.

Jacob from Gig Harbor, Wash., hit the NFC West mailbag with a question about the Seattle Seahawks' approach to the position under Pete Carroll. He wondered whether Christine Michael's arrival as a second-round draft choice signaled a shift to the multi-back approach Carroll used at USC.

There's no question Carroll is implementing much of his USC vision with the Seahawks. Stockpiling running backs is part of that vision. I just don't see a rookie affecting the rotation significantly right away unless he blows away expectations during training camp and the exhibition season. Lynch is arguably one of the five best backs in the NFL. Robert Turbin enters training camp ahead of Michael on the depth chart.

There is only one football to go around.

Carroll has said he wants no drop-off at the position when backups go into the game. He has also said the team needed another running back after releasing Leon Washington. Adding Michael seems more like a move made with the longer term in mind.

Lynch played 66 percent of the offensive snaps in 16 games last season. That was up about 10 percentage points from his total in the 15 games he played a season earlier. I could see that figure regressing some naturally and not necessarily as part of a planned shift. Turbin should be better prepared to help the team in his second NFL season. I would expect Lynch to continue playing more than half the offensive snaps if healthy. The plan for Michael would be to develop his pass-blocking skills and all-around game this season.

"First off, we ran the ball more than anybody in the NFL last year, so we want this position loaded up," Carroll said in explaining Michael's selection. "I think the chance to get another good, strong, tough guy like we did just adds to the theme of what we're trying to present as a team."

Of Michael specifically, Carroll said, "He has not done as much pass protection work as we'd like. When we looked at Robert last year, we felt the same way, but Robert came on really strong as a pass-blocker, so we hope to do the same thing with Christine."

One question I have is whether Seattle will become more of a three-receiver team with Percy Harvin joining the offense. That would make sense, in theory, because Harvin, Sidney Rice and Golden Tate figure to rank among the best candidates for the five spots available to receivers, running backs and tight ends on any given play.

Using three receivers at a time more frequently would lead to more one-back sets, putting a premium on the back's ability to hold up in pass protection.
RENTON, Wash. -- A few notes after watching the Seattle Seahawks' rookies practice on a clear, 75-degree day at team headquarters along the Lake Washington shoreline:

  • Veteran presence: Veterans were not allowed on the field, but Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman showed up about 20 yards offshore -- on a personal watercraft. For a few minutes, photographers had their backs to practice while they snapped away, their cameras trained on the Seahawks' brashest player. Not that Sherman likes attracting attention. "Was that Sherm?" head coach Pete Carroll quipped, adding in jest that he thought he'd seen workaholic quarterback Russell Wilson peeking over the hill on the other side of the field, away from the water.
  • [+] EnlargeRichard Sherman
    AP Photo/Ted S. WarrenBarred from attending, veteran corner Richard Sherman watched Seahawks rookies from the water.
    Lots of faces: Seattle had 67 rookies in camp, including 38 players attending on a tryout basis. There were 12 draft choices and 17 players signed as undrafted free agents. Printed rosters have seldom been so helpful.
  • Wilson's legacy: Carroll opened a morning staff meeting by showing video of Wilson struggling with some of the basics, including center exchanges, during the rookie camp last year. Wilson finished the season with a playoff victory and an appearance in the Pro Bowl. Carroll wanted to put into perspective the first day of rookie minicamp so his coaches wouldn't get down on a young player for struggling early.
  • Tight end stands out: The recently released tight end Darren Fells was among those trying out. He caught passes consistently, but fifth-round choice Luke Willson was the tight end standing out most demonstrably. He beat safeties in coverage to make catches on the run and separated from defenders. Carroll singled out Willson as impressing him. Carroll: "Luke stood out today. He has really good speed and it showed. Caught the ball really well. That was probably the brightest spot that you could really see a guy jump out on. That was a really good first impression."
  • Inside job: Third-round choice Jordan Hill and fifth-rounder Jesse Williams worked together at defensive tackle, sometimes with seventh-rounder Ty Powell lining up in what appeared to be the "Leo" position. Hill and Williams are roommates. Hill played at Penn State, Williams at Alabama. Both played in tradition-rich programs led by old-school coaches, at least until Bill O'Brien succeeded Joe Paterno at Penn State. Carroll's new-school approach comes through loud and clear in the music playing over speakers during practice. Hill said that "wasn't going on in my first three years" at Penn State. "I just enjoy, you get to be yourself," he said.
  • Scruggs update: Second-year defensive end Greg Scruggs underwent reconstructive knee surgery Thursday after suffering a non-contact injury while planting awkwardly during a training drill. It's too early to know whether Scruggs could factor at all during the 2013 season.
  • Not much to go on: Players wore helmets, jerseys and shorts for practice. No tackling or hitting was allowed. Coaches encouraged defenders to make a quick attempt at stripping the ball from runners before letting them proceed upfield. This was not football, in other words. However, coaches were able to see players move. Second-round running back Christine Michael stood out for his quickness, balance and for the primal scream he let out after running to the end zone on one play. Michael also stood out for his biceps. He practiced in a No. 33 jersey with no sleeves.
  • No vets around: Years ago, before the current labor agreement went into place, teams held mandatory camps for veterans and rookies at this time of year. Only rookies are allowed under the current agreement. That made it impossible to compare rookies to the players they'll challenge for roster spots and playing time.
  • Smith at center: Seventh-round pick Jared Smith worked at center. He could project at guard, too. The Seahawks are converting him from defensive tackle, a transition J.R. Sweezy made last year. Carroll singled out Smith's quickness. He also praised seventh-round guard Ryan Seymour for having good feet.
  • Harper's hands: Carroll liked what he saw from fourth-round receiver Chris Harper. Carroll: "He caught the ball beautifully. He really has great hands."

That's it from here. Every team in the NFC West is holding its rookie camp Friday through Sunday. I would expect each team's coaches to come away excited about new players. That's a good thing. Draft choices come as-is, without receipts. There are no refunds.

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