Postcard from camp: Seahawks
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll has a bigger, stronger roster to work with this year
Seattle likely will benefit from several former Raiders on its new team roster
Tarvaris Jackson and Sidney Rice could play major roles in the Seahawks' success
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In Renton, Wa., where on Thursday the Seahawks conducted their final workout before breaking training camp. As with any Pete Carroll team, there was great enthusiasm and tempo during the practice. The only thing louder than the thud of bodies and pads crashing together was linebackers coach Ken Norton Jr. barking at the offense. The man's voice was as loud as the seaplane that lifted off beautiful Lake Washington, which borders the western edge of the Seahawks' training complex.
This is Carroll's second training camp and the team he oversees now looks virtually nothing like the one he inherited. In what might be the most remarkable stat of the preseason, the Seahawks have just 17 players who were on the roster when Carroll arrived last year. Seventeen. Remarkable.
1. Seahawks players are noticeably bigger than during Year 1 of the Carroll Era. General manager John Schneider and Carroll said late last season they wanted the team to get bigger and stronger, and you can see it in the personnel moves that have been made. For instance, three of the top five wideouts last year were 5-foot-10 or shorter and only one was taller than 6-1. This season four of the top five projected receivers are 6-1 or taller. The shortest is Golden Tate at 5-10.
Also, only one starting offensive linemen is listed under 6-5: right guard John Moffitt, who is listed at 6-4. Starting tackles Russell Okung and James Carpenter are 6-5, left guard Robert Gallery is 6-7 and center Max Unger is 6-5. The only thing this group is missing is experience. Carpenter and Moffitt are rookies, Okung is in his second season and Unger should be considered a redshirt sophomore after missing all but the first half of last year's season opener because of a toe injury.
2. The defense appears to be ahead of the offense. Seattle is expected to have a minimum of seven new starters on offense, including four on the line and one each at wide receiver, quarterback and tight end. On Wednesday the defensive line reportedly "set the tempo" in practice, and Thursday the secondary made its presence felt with at least three interceptions. Tarvaris Jackson did capitalize for one long touchdown, but overall the afternoon belonged to the D, most notably rookie linebacker Malcolm Smith demolishing fullback Dorson Boyce before stopping running back Justin Forsett behind the line of scrimmage.
Speaking of defense, tackle Brandon Mebane was unblockable during one-on-one drills. At 6-1, 311 he has the quickness and burst to beat blockers with spin moves and/or his ability to get low and turn the corner. But the fifth-year pro also has the strength to bull-rush blockers. On Thursday he displayed both skills, first as a tackle, then as an end. In a word, Mebane was beastly.
3. The Raiders connection could be key. Everyone has talked about the Minnesota migration to the Pacific Northwest, with former Vikings Darrell Bevell (offensive coordinator), Sidney Rice (wideout) and Jackson (QB) all joining the Seahawks this year. But three former Raiders could play an equally important role this season: Tom Cable (offensive line coach), Robert Gallery (left guard), Zach Miller (tight end) and Paul McQuistan (backup offensive tackle).
Last year in only his second full season as head coach, Cable guided the Raiders to their first non-losing season since 2002. His reward was a pink slip. The move raised a lot of eyebrows around the league, but Seattle eagerly jumped in to hire Cable, who is a respected line coach. Gallery thinks so highly of Cable after playing under him when Cable was a position coach and head coach in Oakland that he put the Seahawks at the top of his wish list. Gallery is not a dominant interior lineman, but he was the Raiders' most dependable and consistent blocker when healthy. His presence could be key on a line that features two rookies, a second-year pro and a second-year starter. And Miller gives the Seahawks a receiving option who can work the seams of the defense.
Tarvaris Jackson, quarterback
He was thought to be the quarterback of the future in Minnesota, after the Vikings selected him in the second round of the 2006 draft. But Jackson was forced onto the field late in his rookie season and early in his second year. His inconsistencies through his first three seasons led the team to go after Brett Favre; however, the Seahawks believe that Jackson's physical abilities, time on the sideline learning under Favre and familiarity with Bevell's offense will produce a breakthrough season this year.
Jackson is 10-10 with 18 touchdowns and 18 interceptions in his career as a starter. He spent the offseason working out with Cardinals wideout Larry Fitzgerald and former NFL offensive coordinator Jerry Sullivan, and should benefit from having worked with both Bevell and Rice in Minnesota. If the Seahawks can mount an effective run game and keep Jackson from trying to win games by himself, a breakthrough season is definitely possible.
Sidney Rice, wide receiver
The Seahawks created a splash when they were able to land the No. 1 wideout on the free-agent market. The Vikings badly wanted to re-sign Rice, who had a breakout season two years ago with 83 catches for 1,312 yards and eight touchdowns but was limited by a hip injury to two scores and 280 yards on 17 receptions last season.
The transition should be fairly smooth considering Rice is familiar with Bevell, Jackson and the offense from his years in Minnesota. Thus far the fifth-year pro has been impressive in camp. He stretches the field and has the size (6-4, 202) to go up and win jumpballs. His presence also should create more opportunities for Mike Williams, who is more of a complementary receiver despite leading the team with 65 catches for 751 yards and two scores.
The Seahawks won't have time to get their legs. Two of their first three games are within the division; they open at San Francisco, then host the Cardinals a week after playing at Pittsburgh. As if that weren't daunting enough, their next three games are versus Atlanta and at both the Giants and Browns.
The good news is that the schedule is favorable late in the year, when four of their final six are at home, including divisional matchups with St. Louis and San Francisco. That could work in the Seahawks' favor because they've won five of their last six home games against NFC West foes.