Entering their first game week of the season gearing up for an exhibition road trip to Pittsburgh coming up on Saturday, the Seahawks returned to action for another physical padded practice on Monday.
Who stood out in Monday's session? Here are five quick takeaways from the VMAC:
1. Still atop the depth chart, Geno Smith bounced back with arguably his best practice of training camp.
On the day where coach Pete Carroll officially announced Smith would earn the start in Seattle's first preseason game, the veteran signal caller rebounded from a tough finish to Saturday's mock scrimmage and then some. Dialed in from the outset, he tossed a bubble screen to Marquise Goodwin on the first play of the red zone period and the speedy receiver rocketed through the defense for six points. Two plays later, he fired a perfect strike to DK Metcalf on a slant for his second touchdown pass and he nearly had a third score until Tyler Lockett bobbled a well-thrown fade route.
Smith's outstanding afternoon continued into the next phase of the team period, as he connected with Metcalf on a 23-yard corner route from the slot and a 20-yard sit route. While Metcalf had a quality deep ball from Smith bounce off his chest, the two hooked up for five completions on seven targets in the practice, showing off the rapport they exhibited in four games last year. Capping off a fantastic effort completing 11 out of 14 passes, he threw a dime splitting a two-safety look to hit Goodwin in stride on a skinny post for a 35-yard score, helping him strengthen his grip on the quarterback competition against Drew Lock, who finished 9 for 14 with no touchdown passes.
2. DeeJay Dallas and Travis Homer continue to run - and block - like Hurricanes storming a beach in padded practice.
With Rashaad Penny returning and Ken Walker III joining the team as a second-round pick, Dallas and Homer haven't garnered much attention, but the veteran runners have each enjoyed stellar training camps and continued to play at a high level in Tuesday's session. Echoing comments made by Carroll after practice, all of Seattle's backs have seemingly been running harder and with ramped up physicality in practice this month and the two former Miami standouts have been no exception.
Immediately making an impact, Homer took a handoff on the second play of the Seahawks team run session and perfectly timed a cutback on a mid zone run to explode through the crease for a 15-yard gain. He ripped off two other runs of 15 or more yards on power concepts, displaying excellent field vision and patience setting up his blocks while running with his pads at the point of contact. Dallas may have had the most impressive run of the day, however, weaving his way through the teeth of the defense before exploding past a pair of safeties for a 40-yard gain. Both backs also performed well in pass protection drills, putting their best foot forward battling for third down duties.
3. Jake Curhan returns to the first unit, but momentum continues to build for Seattle to start two rookie tackles in Week 1.
While Smith continues to receive the majority of the first team reps at quarterback, the Seahawks shifted back to Curhan at right tackle after giving Abraham Lucas three days of work with the first-team and the competition remains up for grabs. With that said, Lucas has only helped himself over the past week by continuing to hold up well both as a pass protector and run blocker and he had another good day on Monday. On two separate occasions, he laid key blocks to open up creases for Darwin Thompson, who busted loose for a 25-yard gain late the session.
Lucas wasn't perfect in pass protection, as he gave up a pair of pressures to Alton Robinson during the team session. But he shook off those rough reps and exhibited short memory, winning plenty of battles against Seattle's best pass rushers, including mirroring well to wash Uchenna Nwosu upfield on a few speed rush attempts against him. As long as the rookie continues to pass such tests, his odds of being able to surpass Curhan to win the job out of the gate will keep climbing.
4. Out of the shadows of several newcomers, Robinson has reinvented himself and may have a bigger role than anticipated.
Thanks to the arrival of Nwosu as well as rookies Boye Mafe and Tyreke Smith, Robinson returned for his third training camp as a bit of a forgotten man. Coming off a disappointing sophomore season in which he produced only a single sack, questions remained about his ability to transition to playing outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. But those questions have quickly been silenced by the former Syracuse standout, who has re-emerged over the past week as a viable threat to battle for snaps as a three-down defender.
Playing at 15 pounds lighter to aid his transition to a new position, Robinson looks faster and stronger rushing the passer and defending the run. During the Seahawks' team rush period, he blew up consecutive run plays by showcasing his athleticism and block shedding ability, devouring Homer for a two-yard loss after splitting the C-gap and meeting Dallas on the very next play at the line of scrimmage after discarding guard Greg Eiland's block attempt. Later in the practice, he bull rushed Lucas into pocket, forcing a rushed incompletion by Lock, and added a second pressure shooting upfield and being around the corner on the rookie tackle. While he still will have to prove himself in coverage, he's pushed himself back into the discussion for a significant role in Seattle's edge rotation with a strong start to camp.
5. Injuries further open the door for Seattle's pair of rookie corners to push for a starting job right away.
Over the first two weeks of camp, the Seahawks were able to dodge the injury bug, but the cornerback group suddenly looks pretty thin. Sidney Jones has been out with a concussion since last Friday and things became more dire when Artie Burns came up lame while running in coverage during 1-on-1 drills in Monday's practice, forcing him to exit with what Carroll called a groin strain. Still without Tre Brown, who has yet to start full speed running in his return from a patellar tendon injury, three of the team's top corners are now shelved for the time being.
Those depth limitations are concerning with the first preseason game only five days away, but the absence of Jones and Burns will further benefit Tariq Woolen and Coby Bryant, who continue to impress in their first training camp. Of the two, Woolen may be the greatest beneficiary, as he already saw extensive first-team reps at right cornerback in Seattle's mock scrimmage on Saturday and continues to turn heads with his rare speed, length, and size at the position. While Metcalf burned him on a vertical route in team drills, he made a sensational play extending his 33 1/2-inch arms to break up what would have been a 20-yard completion from Lock to Will Dissly. Both he and Bryant will have to prove themselves in real game action starting on Saturday, but thanks to the injuries around them, they each have a realistic shot now to force the coaching staff's hand and vie for immediate playing time on defense.
Additional Injury Notes
According to Carroll, safety Ryan Neal could be out for a while with a significant high ankle sprain and was in a walking boot on Monday. Linebacker Jordyn Brooks also remains sidelined with a hamstring injury and has been limited to participating in walkthroughs. In more positive news, defensive end L.J. Collier could be back in time for Saturday's preseason game after spraining his elbow in the mock scrimmage, while receiver Dee Eskridge is drawing closer to his return from a pulled hamstring and may be able to practice later this week.