Capping off the first week of training camp, the Seahawks returned to the practice field in what coach Pete Carroll deemed a perfect "players day" amid cooler weather with overcast skies.
With the first padded practices and a mock scrimmage quickly approaching next week, who stood out in Seattle's fourth practice of camp? Here's five observations from an exciting Saturday session at the VMAC.
1. The Russell Wilson to DK Metcalf highlight show made its 2021 debut.
Surprisingly, the Wilson to Metcalf connection didn't seem to have much bandwidth during the first couple of practices this week. Wilson uncorked a few passes into the turf on sideline passes, while Metcalf dropped several throws and also had two passes knocked out of his hands by defenders. The two didn't seem to be on the same page most of the time, which is understandable in a new offense.
But it's safe to say Wilson and Metcalf shook off the rust and found their 2020 form on Saturday. Early in the first 11-on-11 session, the All-Pro receiver came open on a post route and left cornerback D.J. Reed in the dust. Even with Wilson's pass being underthrown by about five yards, Metcalf was able to corral it for a 70-yard touchdown to draw loud cheers from the 2,000 plus fans in attendance. Moments later, Wilson threaded a strike to him in triple coverage on a crossing route and the duo capped off a spectacular day by hooking up for another touchdown in the red zone period.
2. Just a handful of practices in, Wilson already has developed quite a rapport with Gerald Everett.
Arriving in Seattle as part of a package with new coordinator Shane Waldron, expectations for Everett couldn't be higher. Coach Pete Carroll has raved about his athleticism, route running skills, and after-the-catch capabilities, while fantasy experts are salivating about the possibility of a seam-stretching tight end catching passes in an offense already featuring Metcalf and Tyler Lockett.
It remains to be seen how Everett will fit into Seattle's arsenal once the pads come on next week, but he's been fantastic during the first week of camp. After hauling in a touchdown catch with linebacker Ben Burr-Kirven all over him on Thursday, he hauled in four passes from Wilson on Saturday, including a crossing route where he turned up field for an additional 15 yards. He's flashed the athleticism Carroll raved about and Wilson has been looking for him frequently, a positive sign in the early stages of learning a new offensive scheme.
Carroll noted earlier in the week that the tight end pecking order has yet to be determined. But while they may be true to an extent, it would be a major upset if Everett doesn't open the season atop the depth chart with Will Dissly and Colby Parkinson, who caught a touchdown during the red zone period on Saturday, also playing significant roles in an offense that should feature heavy usage of 12 personnel with two tight ends on the field at the same time.
3. As Pete Carroll hinted all offseason, Brandon Shell and Cedric Ogbuehi are entrenched in a wide-open right tackle battle.
By all accounts, Shell played far better than anticipated in his first year with the Seahawks after signing a two-year deal. He allowed three sacks against Russell Wilson in 11 starts and earned a top-20 pass blocking grade from Pro Football Focus manning the right tackle spot.
However, in retrospect, Carroll believes he "messed up" by not giving Ogbuehi a legitimate shot to compete against Shell at right tackle a year ago. The former first-round pick spent most of training camp last year playing left tackle, the position Carroll felt was the best fit for him, preventing him from truly having a chance at earning snaps with Duane Brown locked into the starting lineup.
In the final month of the regular season, Ogbuehi turned in the best football of his career against top-notch competition, giving up zero sacks replacing an injured Shell against the 49ers, Rams, and Washington Football Team as the Seahawks closed the year with four consecutive wins. After re-signing on a one-year deal, Carroll promised the veteran that he would "get that shot" to wrangle the starting job away from Shell and that's exactly what is happening in camp thus far.
Though the pads have yet to come on, Ogbuehi saw all of the first-team snaps in Saturday's practice, while Shell worked with the second team. Line coach Mike Solari will continue to rotate both players with the first team moving forward and Carroll's unprompted mentions of a pure competition at right tackle throughout the offseason will come to fruition throughout the month of August.
4. With several newcomers flashing, the cornerback competition is just getting started.
Out of all the competitions for playing time on Seattle's roster, none offer the intrigue and uncertainty of the cornerback spot. Four of the five corners on Seattle's opening week roster from a year ago have departed, including starters Shaquill Griffin and Quinton Dunbar, with Tre Flowers being the lone player from that group returning for the 2021 season in the final year of his contract.
As Carroll reiterated several times on Saturday, until the pads come on next week, the Seahawks won't be able to evaluate the position. But thus far, he's been pleased with what he's seen from several players, including Ahkello Witherspoon and Pierre Desir. The two lengthy, athletic veterans turned in the best two defensive plays of the day despite having limitations on how aggressively they can play the football during Phase 3 practices.
In the first team session, Parkinson ran a fade from the slot and looked to have a step on the eighth-year defender, but Desir recovered and swatted the ball to the ground. Moments later, Witherspoon generated his second end zone pass deflection in the past three days, this time staying glued to Everett on a corner route and extending his 33-inch arm to get a piece of the football. Later, Witherspoon had another pass defensed in the red zone period, capping off another stellar practice.
Meanwhile, though he didn't make any notable plays on Saturday, Carroll indicated Damarious Randall has gotten off to a fast start and like Witherspoon and Desir, the former first-round pick out of Arizona State should be right in the thick of things in the competition for both outside corner spots. Rookie Tre Brown also hasn't done anything to deter the Seahawks from believing he can vie for playing time right away either.
5. Quietly off to a quick start, Jordyn Brooks has exhibited improved coverage skills.
Few Seahawks have been hyped up heading into the 2021 season more than Brooks, who will be stepping into the starting lineup replacing a franchise icon in K.J. Wright. The former first-round pick out of Texas Tech ended his rookie season on a strong note, recording 30 tackles in the final five games while seeing action primarily in 4-3 base defensive looks. He subbed out in nickel and dime packages in favor of Wright.
But with Wright still remaining unsigned, that won't be the case this season as Brooks will now be an every down linebacker playing alongside Bobby Wagner. Thus far, the pressure of filling such big shoes doesn't seem to be impacting him at all. Displaying his elite speed and instincts for the position, he's been flying all over the field, consistently positioning himself to make plays against the run.
What has been most impressive for Brooks through four practices has been his improved play defending the pass. He seems to be processing routes faster and playing more decisively, allowing him to get quality jumps on the football thus far in camp. On Saturday, he nearly reeled in a diving interception when Wilson's pass was batted at the line of scrimmage and later got his hands on the football on two other pass plays. Already renowned for his tackling skills, if Brooks continues to make strides in coverage, the sky could be limit for him, especially under the tutelage of Wagner.
Injury Notes: Ethan Pocic (hamstring) returned to practice as a limited participant and took a few snaps in team sessions. D'Wayne Eskridge (toe) ran well on Friday, per Carroll, but no updates were provided on a potential timeline for the rookie receiver's return. He remains on the PUP list. Defensive back Marquise Blair had his heel kicked during Friday's practice and the team gave him a day off on Saturday, but the injury doesn't look to be serious and he should be back on Monday.