NFC West: Spencer Ware

RENTON, Wash. -- Seattle Seahawks middle linebacker Bobby Wagner was walking on crutches Wednesday and wearing a protective boot over his sprained left ankle.

“Bobby will see if he can make it back by game day,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Wednesday. “But it will go all the way to Sunday.”

If Wagner doesn’t play, K.J. Wright will move from his outside linebacker spot to Wagner’s middle linebacker spot. Malcolm Smith and Bruce Irvin would start at the outside spots.

Carroll is confident that Pro Bowl center Max Unger will return this weekend after missing the last two games with a triceps injury. Unger was a full participant at practice Wednesday,

“We’re counting on him coming back this week,” Carroll said. “We’re really hoping Max will secure the calls.”

The Seahawks were missing four starters up front in the 34-28 loss to Indianapolisn on Sunday: Unger, tackles Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini and tight end Zach Miller.

Okung and Giacomini still are out, and Miller (strained hamstring) will be a game-day decision, Carroll said. But Carroll believes Unger’s return is a big key to the backup players performing at a higher level.

“Max is one if your team leaders,” Carroll said. “He is the guy who has the greatest command of what we’re doing up front. He will help other guys play well and make the right choices. And he’ll help the quarterback [Russell Wilson], too, in identification.

“We missed that the last couple of weeks and it’s made a difference in our pass protection. There are some spacing issues that we don’t want. Max can get everybody on the right guys. The biggest issue has been the inconsistency on communication. We’ve had to suffer through that and it’s why Russell has had to run more.”

Carroll also was asked how wide receiver Percy Harvin looks since returning to the Seahawks facility after rehabbing in New York following his hip surgery Aug. 1.

“Percy has been working hard,” Carroll said. “He’s excited and he’s running and we’re hoping there are no setbacks along the way. We’ll keep progressing with it.”

Harvin is eligible to come off the physically-unable-to-perform list for the game against the Arizona Cardinals next week, but Carroll does not see that happening.

“I don’t think that is realistic,” Carroll said. “I think that’s too soon, but it’ll happen when he’s ready to go and we get a chance to prepare him so he’s physically capable of being safe.

“He’s a full-on, full-speed football player. He’s got to be ready to go. When he comes back, we want him to be able to endure the rigors of the end of the season. It’s not important to rush him back. It’s important to wait it out and be patient and get him out there when he’s ready to go and withstand the load of the game.”

Defensive tackle Michael Bennett (quad) and cornerback Walter Thurmond (knee) did not practice Wednesday. Running back Marshawn Lynch also did not practice, but he is not injured.

Carroll also said that cornerback Jeremy Lane (hamstring) and running back Spencer Ware (ankle) will be game-day decisions this week.

Seahawks may start two backup tackles

September, 25, 2013
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RENTON, Wash. -- The Seattle Seahawks may be without both starting offensive tackles this weekend, a scary thought going against star defensive linemen J.J. Watt and the Houston Texans' defense.

Right tackle Breno Giacomini did not practice Wednesday because of a knee problem. His status for Sunday’s game at Houston is unknown.

"His knee is sore,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Wednesday of Giacomini. “We have some more information to get to see where he is. He got nicked a little bit in the [Jacksonville] game.”

Pro Bowl left tackle Russell Okung is out for at least eight weeks with a torn ligament in a big toe. Paul McQuistan moved from guard to Okung’s tackle spot.

[+] EnlargeAlvin Bailey
Otto Greule Jr/Getty ImagesRookie tackle Alvin Bailey saw action in Week 3, and could see even more this Sunday for Seattle.
If Giacomini doesn’t play, the Seahawks probably will start a rookie at right tackle -- either Michael Bowie or Alvin Bailey. Bowie (6-foot-4, 330 and a seventh-round draft choice from Northeastern State in Oklahoma) likely would be the starter.

Both Bowie and Bailey (6-foot-3, 320 and undrafted out of Arkansas) played extensively in the second half last weekend after the Seahawks built a big lead against Jacksonville.

“They’ve made great progress,” Carroll said of his rookie tackles. “I went back [Tuesday] night and watched the [Jacksonville] game over again just to watch those guys and see how they’re doing. They came off the ball really well and did fine in pass protection. They did a very nice job and they’re coming along quickly.”

Seahawks offensive line coach Tom Cable also was pleased with what he saw from his young tackles in the Jacksonville game.

“I saw some really cool stuff," Cable said. “I’m really excited about their future. I thought both those kids went in there and knocked people off the ball.

“It was a huge moment of growth for them to know they’re OK and can handle an NFL game. It’s like gold. If they have to do it, they’ll be comfortable to do what they’re capable of doing.”

But can either handle Watt?

“We don’t really focus on him,” Cable said. “We focus on doing things right.”

The backup tackles will need to do a lot of things right to stop Watt and the attacking Houston defense, which ranks No. 2 in the NFL behind the Seahawks.

"They will pressure us more than any team we play this season,” Carroll said of the Texans defense.

Carroll also was asked how he felt McQuistan was doing in Okung’s spot.

“Paul survived the first game [when Okung got hurt against the San Francisco 49ers] and played better in the second game,” Carroll said. “He was sharper on stuff and the communication was better. But that’s a big jump for Paul. He has played tackle in his history, but to play up to Russell Okung’s level is a lot to ask. He’s performed well so far.”

Seattle made a roster move Wednesday to add veteran offensive linemen in Jason Spitz, who was released by Jacksonville in August. Spitz, (6-foot-3, 300) played five seasons at Green Bay before spending the past two years with the Jaguars, but he was on injured reserve all last season.

Even if Seattle had both its starting tackles, it would be a big task to stop Watt, the NFL defensive player of the year last season with 20.5 sacks.

“He’s a fantastic talent,” Carroll said of Watt. “I don’t think anybody knew he would be this dominant, and I’ve heard Houston say they didn’t know that either. But he’s an extraordinary player. He’s faster than more guys his size, running a 4.6. That’s one thing that separates him. And the guys Houston has around him makes him even better.”

One of those guys is inside linebacker Brian Cushing, a player Carroll knows well. Cushing played for Carroll at USC.

“Cush was an outside guy for us,” Carroll said. “He’s one of the best guys we ever recruited as far as all-around ability. He’s a great, great player. It’s not a surprise to me that he ended up playing inside. He’s so instinctive and aggressive and wants to come at you. He lines up right behind Watt, so he’s a big issue for us, also.”

Injury updates: Defensive tackle Red Bryant (back spasms) did not practice Wednesday, but Carroll expects him back on the field Thursday.

Wide receiver Jermaine Kearse (sprained ankle) did not practice, but Carroll is hopeful he can play at Houston.

“He’s going to try to go tomorrow,” Carroll said of Kearse. “He’s making a very quick recovery. We have our fingers crossed that he has a chance to play.”

Carroll said rookie fullback Spencer Ware is still out with a high-ankle sprain.

Outside linebacker Malcolm Smith returned to practice after being inactive against Jacksonville with a hamstring issue. Rookie defensive tackle Jordan Hill returned to practice on a limited basis.
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. – Seattle Seahawks starting defensive end Chris Clemons will practice Wednesday for the first time since offseason surgery on his anterior cruciate ligament, but coach Pete Carroll said Clemons will not play Sunday in the opener against the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte.

Clemons
“He’s had a great preparation to get back,” Carroll said after Monday’s practice. “It’ll be light on Wednesday, but he’s been really busting it [in rehab drills]. We’ll bring him along and take our time and make sure he’s ready to go. But he’s not in consideration for this weekend. We’re just excited he’s back out there.”

Clemons, who led the Seahawks with 11.5 sacks last season, suffered a torn ACL in the playoff victory over the Washington Redskins. The Seahawks placed him on the active roster Saturday, which indicated they expect he’ll be ready to play before the sixth game of the season.

Overall, the Seahawks' injury situation appears much improved from how things looked at the end of last week. Some key players are set to return:
  • Carroll said wide receiver Stephen Williams, who suffered a concussion in the preseason finale Thursday against the Oakland Raiders, will practice Wednesday. Williams still must pass a series of tests before he’s cleared to play at Carolina.
  • Also returning to practice Wednesday are defensive tackles Brandon Mebane and Tony McDaniel, the projected starters. “We’ll see how they handle the work,” Carroll said.
  • Starting wide receiver Sidney Rice will practice Wednesday and is expected to start the opener.
  • Defensive end Cliff Avril's status remains uncertain because of a strained hamstring. “But he ran pretty well [Monday], so we'll see what happens later in the week,” Carroll said.
  • Rookie offensive linemen Michael Bowie, who suffered a shoulder injury in the final preseason game, is expected to return to practice Wednesday. Defensive tackle Michael Bennett also will return after undergoing a minor procedure on one of his toes.
  • Carroll said rookie defensive tackle Jordan Hill, who has a strained shoulder, is improving faster than expected. “He’s feeling way better and getting closer. I don’t know when he’ll be back, but it’s not going to be a long time.”

In other news Monday:
  • Carroll said second-year player Derrick Coleman, who spent the end of the 2012 season on Seattle’s practice squad, earned the job as the team’s starting fullback.

“He outlasted the competition to go into the opener as the starter,” Carroll said of Coleman, who is legally deaf. “That’s a big accomplishment. He came through in a beautiful way and also sent a big message about special teams. We know he can carry the ball if we need him to and he catches the ball really well.”

Carroll said the Seahawks were willing to part ways with veteran fullback Michael Robinson because of how well Coleman and rookie Spencer Ware played in the preseason.

“We had a real high opinion of Spencer coming in and he didn’t disappoint us at all,” Carroll said. “He was aggressive, he was tough and he can catch the football. He was physical on every snap he had. Plus, he can play fullback and tailback. He’s a good learner and he demonstrated he’s the real deal.”
“We wanted to get him on the practice squad,” Carroll said of Harper, the team’s fourth-round draft choice. “We hoped to develop him and bring him along, but that’s the gamble that you take, and they picked up a good football player.”

Robinson tweets goodbye to Seahawks

August, 30, 2013
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It appears Michael Robinson’s tenure as the starting fullback for the Seattle Seahawks has ended.

The Seahawks didn’t made any roster cut announcements Friday, but Robinson sent a tweet at around 5:30 p.m. PT:

 

Robinson is in his eighth NFL season, having spent four years in San Francisco before coming to Seattle in 2010. He is viewed as an excellent blocker who helped Marshawn Lynch to back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, including a career-best 1,590 yards in 2012.

But the Seahawks have two young fullbacks they like: rookie Spencer Ware and second-year player Derrick Coleman. Robinson was scheduled to make $2.5 million this season.

Robinson did not play in the final two preseason games because he was suffering from a virus. He was extremely popular with the Seahawks players and grew to become one of the leaders for a young and blossoming group of players that includes quarterback Russell Wilson and middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, who reacted on Twitter:

 

 

Robinson likely would be picked up by another organization, which could also be true of several cuts the Seahawks make.

What to watch for: Seahawks-Raiders

August, 29, 2013
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SEATTLE -- With one last warm-up before the regular season, here are four things to watch -- and one you won’t get to watch -- Thursday night in the Seattle Seahawks game against Oakland.

The Seahawks pass rush: Hopefully, there is one to watch. Oakland has one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL. If Seattle can’t get to the quarterback in this game, it’s time to worry. And they’ll have to do with backups. Defensive ends Chris Clemons and Cliff Avril won’t play. Neither will defensive tackles Brandon Mebane, Tony McDaniel and Michael Bennett.

Clemons and Avril probably won’t play next weekend in the season opener at Carolina. So it is increasingly important to watch Benson Mayowa and O'Brien Schofield to see if they can continue to shine as pass-rushers. Ty Powell, a hybrid linebacker/defensive end, also will see some time as a down rusher.

Penalty flags: Just keeping the yellow flags under double figures and less than 100 yards would look decent at this point. The Seahawks haf 14 penalties for 182 yards last week in the 17-10 victory at Green Bay. Seattle has 354 yards on 34 penalties in the three preseason games.

“We just want to be really disciplined with our offense and make sure we’re not getting any penalties,’’ quarterback Russell Wilson said Tuesday. “That’s our No. 1 focus.”

Coach Pete Carroll has harped on this for the past two weeks.

“We have to show progress before we head into the opener in terms of getting out of our own way,” Carroll said. “We have to comply and we’re a little out of compliance. The guys know. They don’t want to play like that. They just have to make better decisions.”

Pass blocking: The Seahawks offensive line struggled to stop the blitzing Packers last week. That has to improve, along with cutting down on holding calls and false starts. James Carpenter finally will get back on the field at guard, which could help. This is a good line overall, especially in run blocking. But a better showing on pass plays needs to happen tonight.

Bubble boys: No team in the NFL has tougher roster cuts to make than the Seahawks. The depth on this team is extraordinary and the coaches have difficult decisions to make after this game.

Some players need to shine to earn a spot. Receiver Stephen Williams probably already has done so, but one more good game wouldn’t hurt. Rookie receiver Chris Harper needs to step up. Will the Seahawks keep three fullbacks -- Michael Robinson (who won’t play tonight) rookie Spencer Ware and Derrick Coleman?

The toughest cuts will come in the secondary, where some of the backups could start for many NFL teams. Cornerback Ron Parker needs a good game. So does Winston Guy and DeShawn Shead. The coaches really like rookie linebacker John Lotulelei, but is there room for him?

No Matt Flynn: Some Seattle fans probably were looking forward to seeing quarterback Matt Flynn play against his former Seahawks teammates, but Flynn will watch from the sideline because of a sore arm.

He's probably got a few other sore places considering he’s been sacked seven times in the preseason. Flynn hasn’t played well, so it’s possible he could lose out on the starting-job competition for the second consecutive year. Terrelle Pryor will start against Seattle. He’s much better at running and avoiding the rush than Flynn, which is important with the Raiders porous offensive line.

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.
Good morning, NFC West. We've got initial 2013 depth charts to consider now that teams have produced them prior to exhibition openers this week.

Let's dive right in with a few thoughts.

Arizona Cardinals: The team lists two starting tight ends, reflecting coach Bruce Arians' belief that a second tight end affords greater flexibility than a fullback. ... Michael Floyd is the No. 2 receiver opposite Larry Fitzgerald, with Andre Roberts in the No. 3 role. ... Three of the players listed as starting offensive linemen -- left tackle Levi Brown, left guard Jonathan Cooper and right tackle Eric Winston -- did not start a game for the team last season. ... John Abraham is not listed as a starter, but he will obviously "start" in the nickel defense, at least. ... Jerraud Powers is listed as the starting corner opposite Patrick Peterson, with Antoine Cason behind Powers.

St. Louis Rams: Chris Givens and Austin Pettis are listed as the starting wide receivers. Tavon Austin is obviously going to play a lot. Brian Quick enjoyed a strong showing in practice Monday. ... Shelley Smith is listed as the starting left guard ahead of Chris Williams. That job remains up for grabs. ... Daryl Richardson and Isaiah Pead are the top two running backs, in that order, but we need to see them play. ... The Rams list Eric Stevens as the starting fullback, but this probably isn't going to be much of a two-back team. I'd expect Lance Kendricks to play extensively as the second tight end, and in lieu of a fullback. Kendricks has to get healthy first. ... Rookie linebacker Alec Ogletree is in the lineup and looking like a three-down player already. ... Darian Stewart and rookie third-round choice T.J. McDonald are the starting safeties. There hasn't been much drama at those spots, but let's see how McDonald fares in the preseason.

San Francisco 49ers: The offensive lineup comes with no surprises. Kyle Williams is listed as the receiver opposite Anquan Boldin. Let's see whether A.J. Jenkins can factor there. ... The defense is also pretty well set. Note that Ian Williams is listed as the starting nose tackle over Glenn Dorsey. I don't think that means much. Both are going to play extensively in an expanded rotation. ... C.J. Spillman is listed as the starting free safety, with rookie first-round pick Eric Reid second. That competition remains open. Craig Dahl is listed as the backup strong safety. ... The depth chart still has Chris Culliver as the backup to left corner Carlos Rogers, but Culliver is out with a torn ACL. Tramaine Brock is the early favorite to become the third corner. ... Colt McCoy is the second quarterback, no surprise.

Seattle Seahawks: Paul McQuistan (left) and J.R. Sweezy (right) are listed as the starting guards over early 2011 draft choices James Carpenter and John Moffitt. Carpenter left practice with an apparent injury Monday. ... Rookie Spencer Ware, considered a potential threat to Michael Robinson at fullback, is listed third on the depth chart behind Robinson and Derrick Coleman. ... The team lists two outside linebackers without reference to strong or weak sides. Cliff Avril is listed as the starting right defensive end while Chris Clemons is unavailable. Bruce Irvin, who plays the nickel snaps and has worked at linebacker as well, is listed behind Malcolm Smith at outside linebacker. ... Brandon Browner is listed ahead of Walter Thurmond at right corner. Thurmond got some first-team reps Monday. The Seahawks won't hesitate to start Thurmond if he outplays Browner this summer.

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.
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).
Sometimes it takes a few years to fully assess an NFL draft class' impact. Imperiled veterans can't afford to wait that long.

Among the NFC West veterans on alert as 2013 rookies arrive for minicamps Friday:
NFC West teams loaded up on halfbacks (as opposed to pure fullbacks) during the recently completed 2013 NFL draft.

The division selected six of them, two more than any other division selected.



A quick look at how the six could figure into their teams' plans:
  • Second round, 62nd overall: Christine Michael, Texas A&M. Michael heads to the Seattle Seahawks as the third back behind Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin, with a chance to challenge Turbin for the No. 2 role initially. Michael provides longer-term insurance for the position, but he could be talented enough to get carries as a rookie.
  • Fourth round, 131st overall: Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina. The San Francisco 49ers plan to give Lattimore as much as one full season to complete his rehabilitation from a career-threatening knee injury. Lattimore factors into the 49ers' longer-term plans at the position, possibly as a replacement for Frank Gore down the line. There will be no rush to get him on the field in 2013.
  • Fifth round, 140th overall: Stepfan Taylor, Stanford. The Arizona Cardinals already have Rashard Mendenhall and Ryan Williams, but both have had injury problems. Taylor, the career rushing leader at Stanford, provides immediate insurance at the position. His credentials as a power runner could make him a candidate to handle short-yardage duties. Durability has been a strength for Taylor, differentiating him from Mendenhall and Williams. Coach Bruce Arians values three-down backs. He considers Taylor one of them.
  • Fifth round, 160th overall: Zac Stacy, Vanderbilt. The St. Louis Rams plan to use Stacy in committee with Isaiah Pead and Daryl Richardson. Stacy is heavier and stouter than the others. He appears better suited for handling a workload on early downs and in short-yardage situations. Stacy could wind up getting more carries than any of the other rookie backs in the division.
  • Sixth round, 187th overall: Andre Ellington, Clemson. The Cardinals expect to keep four running backs on the roster, giving Ellington a very good chance to stick as a change-of-pace back with big-play potential and value in the return game. The Cardinals said they weren't planning on drafting another back, but they thought the value was strong and that Ellington provided a style the other backs on the roster did not provide.
  • Sixth round, 194th overall: Spencer Ware, LSU. Ware was a halfback for the Tigers, but he has also played fullback. The Seahawks expect the 230-pound Ware to push veteran fullback Michael Robinson. They value Robinson as a lead blocker and for his contributions on special teams. Ware would be the better runner of the two.
Matt Williamson, NFL scout for ESPN.com, is back with post-draft thoughts regarding the recently published NFC West positional rankings.

We won't cover every position. Some haven't changed enough. But with the four NFC West teams combining to draft six running backs, Matt and I will begin the discussion there.

Sando: We figured the St. Louis Rams would draft a running back. They ranked fourth at the position in your pre-draft rankings. I was not expecting the Seattle Seahawks to pad their top-ranked backfield with second-round choice Christine Michael and sixth-rounder Spencer Ware. No one can say they reached for need.

Williamson: I really like Michael. He and [San Francisco 49ers fourth-round pick] Marcus Lattimore were the best backs in the draft, I thought. They just have massive red flags.

Sando: To review, Michael was suspended for violating team rules, supposedly overslept at the NFL scouting combine and fell out of favor with the new coaching staff at Texas A&M. Lattimore remains perhaps a year away from playing after suffering a gruesome knee injury while at South Carolina.

Williamson: I thought it was odd for Seattle to draft a back that early. My first thought was that they must think Marshawn Lynch is starting to break down. But he certainly isn't showing it. Look at the Seahawks at this point. It's like my dad. What do you buy him for Christmas? He has everything. Just take what is available.

Sando: And then Seattle followed that up with another back. The Seahawks are saying Ware can project as a fullback and special-teams contributor. Perhaps he replaces Michael Robinson some day.

Williamson: Ware is a very good runner, though. Those LSU backs are hard to gauge because nobody gets enough carries. Stevan Ridley was a third-round pick and everyone was like, "Who?" Ware is a banger. He reminds me a lot of Chris Ivory moreso than a fullback.

Sando: So, I take it the rankings aren't changing for running backs, at least at the top.

Williamson: The Seahawks are still No. 1 and the 49ers are No. 2. Arizona stays third and St. Louis fourth. San Francisco is the perfect team for Lattimore. Nobody is shocked he went there. They've got three guys ahead of him. There is no rush. But Frank Gore is not long for the league. They don't have a lot of other needs.

Sando: We haven't covered Zac Stacy yet. He could wind up playing more than Michael and certainly more than Lattimore this coming season. The Rams needed a power back.

Williamson: I liked Stacy too. Everyone thinks of him as a little guy because he's 5-foot-8, but he is powerful, he gets downhill, he doesn't screw around. It wouldn't blow me away if he led the team in carries. He looks every bit of 215 pounds.

Sando: In Arizona, I'm not taking anything for granted as to how the team plans to play its backs. Mendenhall and Williams have to show they can stay healthy. The Cardinals drafted Stepfan Taylor at No. 140, 20 spots before the Rams took Stacy. But I'm not sure how much they'll ask him to play as a rookie. Arizona also added Andre Ellington in the sixth round. The overall depth appears much improved, at least.

Williamson: It's interesting that Arizona added two backs. They lost two and added three this offseason. With Mendenhall and Williams, you are happy if one of these two is always healthy. The Cardinals are going to be a lot better on their offensive line, which should help all the backs.

Sando: We'll revisit the lines and other positions as the week progresses.

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