Postcard from camp: Seahawks
SI.com has dispatched 10 writers to report on the 32 NFL training camps across the country. For the complete schedule of postcards, click here.
Setting the Scene
The Seahawks' training facility sits on a clearing behind Northwest University in Kirkland, Wash. When the sun is out, as it was Monday on a 70-degree afternoon, the word spectacular quickly comes to mind. The three practice fields -- two grass, one artificial -- are framed by colorful foliage and towering trees. You'd be hard-pressed to paint a more tranquil setting. Then you hear the thud of colliding pads and the bark of energetic assistant coaches. So much for Shangri-La.
Practices are closed to the public because of a scarcity of parking, but that won't be a problem next year when the team is in its new training facility just down the road in Renton. The complex -- which the club actually moves into Aug. 18 -- is a stunning blend of nature and architecture. It is more than three times the size of the current facility and it sits on the shores of Lake Washington.
1. Mike Holmgren isn't letting up in his final season as coach. Holmgren announced in the offseason that he'll step down at the end of the year, after 10 seasons. But if his players thought he might display a kinder, gentler side on the way out, they were mistaken. If anything, Holmgren has been more intense.
During a morning practice Sunday, he waved tight end Jeb Putzier off the field after Putzier dropped his third pass of the morning. In the afternoon workout, he stopped an offensive drill and chided the players when several balls landed on the turf. "He's back to being the Big Show," wide receiver Bobby Engram says affectionately.
Holmgren is determined not to lose his focus. He has talked with himself about not looking ahead or consciously enjoying the ride, adding there will be time for that later. In the meantime, he wants to win a sixth consecutive division title and earn a return trip to the Super Bowl, where the Seahawks narrowly lost to the Steelers three seasons ago.
2. The run game will bear no resemblance to last year, which is a positive. Percentage-wise in 2007, the unit ranked first in negative rushes (15.8) and last in third-and-1 conversions (45.8). The league average in the latter was 71.6. It's little wonder the club made massive changes in the offseason, releasing career rushing leader Shaun Alexander, the offensive line coach and running backs coach.
New line coach Mike Solari is one of the game's more respected teachers, and he has been preaching the need for improvements in technique and fundamentals, not to mention a more aggressive attitude. Free-agent guard Mike Wahle should help provide the latter, with running back holdover Maurice Morris combining with free-agent signees Julius Jones and T.J. Duckett to split carries in the backfield.
Holmgren is refusing to name a starter, saying Jones and Morris will both get plenty of work. He says he likes what he sees from Duckett and still is trying to figure out his role, which could include some time at fullback. The players say they're comfortable with the committee approach, although Holmgren is likely to stay with the hot hand if one of them gets rolling.
3. Offensive line lacks cohesiveness. One of the keys to improved play on the offensive line is cohesion, and the Seahawks could be slow to develop that because their projected starters have yet to work together. In offseason minicamps, left tackle Walter Jones, center Chris Spencer and right guard Rob Sims missed all or part of the workouts because of injuries.
In training camp Spencer has been sidelined while recovering from shoulder surgery and backup Chris Gray has been sidelined since Saturday, when he tweaked his back. Solari is glass-half-full guy who views the injuries as opportunities for other guys to step up. But the reality is that the projected starters are going to need time together to build cohesion if they want to hit the season opener running.