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June 12, 2014 at 3:13 PM

Thursday OTAs: Five impressions from Jenks, Condotta

As is our custom following OTAs, here are five impressions of the day from Seahawks beat writers Jayson Jenks and Bob Condotta.

First, Jenks:

1, Richard Sherman didn’t practice, and Earl Thomas didn’t participate in team drills. That allowed younger corners and safeties to get more reps against the first-team offense, but it also cracked a window into why Sherman and Thomas are so good. They both spent the entire practice calling out formations and what a receiver was going to do. At one point, Thomas yelled, “flat, flat!” And sure enough the ball was thrown to a receiver in the flat. At another point, Sherman called out a route. And sure enough the receiver ran that exact route. Their understanding of the game was impressive to see up close.

2, Tharold Simon had, in my opinion, the best day of any player. A fifth-round draft pick last year who missed the entire season with two different foot injuries, Simon is still raw, and he made some mistakes. But he also picked off two passes and went high in the air — he’s 6-3 —in front of a receiver to pick off both passes. He also forced an outside running play back inside, which prompted Sherman to yell,” That’s good technique.” With Sherman out, Simon came in as the team’s third cornerback during nickel situations, although he lined up outside and Jeremy Lane slid inside to play nickel (It’s the same scenario as last year when Walter Thurmond started at outside corner but moved inside on third down to allow Byron Maxwell to play outside).

3, Tony McDaniel spent some time at defensive end in the same role that Red Bryant had. That’s the first time I’d noticed McDaniel in that spot (and I should point out that doesn’t mean he hasn’t done it before). McDaniel played some run-stopping defensive end for the Dolphins, and he and Greg Scruggs appear to be the most likely candidates to take over Bryant’s role along the defensive line if Pete Carroll and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn choose to go that route again.

4, Interesting teaching moment between Marquand Manuel, the Seahawks assistant defensive backs coach, and rookie defensive back Eric Pinkins. The offense ran a running play outside, and Pinkins came from the middle of the field to get involved on the play (remember, no tackling or pads during OTAs). Manuel came running over and reminded Pinkins, “If you’re going to run to it, take a shot at the ball.” He then motioned for Pinkins to try stripping the ball from the running back. The Seahawks forced the most turnovers in the NFL last season, and it was a small illustration of how important takeaways are to their defense.

5, Play of the day: Russell Wilson was picked off three times, but he also had the play of the day. Wilson floated a 14-yard touchdown pass to Jermaine Kearse down the middle of the field, and the tricky part was that Wilson lofted it perfectly between a linebacker in front of Kearse and a defensive back behind him.

And from Condotta:

1, Simon was unquestionably the most eye-catching player of the day. This was the first day you could really see how he might fit into things this season. And as Jayson mentioned, with Sherman out he was running with the ones in the nickel package, and with the backups in base. His first interception, of a Wilson pass intended for Taylor Price, came with Sherman running down the sidelines and yelling “got to make that play” as the ball flew through the air. Simon leapt and caught it in the end zone, and later had a similar leaping pick of a Tarvaris Jackson pass intended for Kearse.

2, Sherman was similarly fired up when Akeem Auguste picked off a Wilson pass also intended for Kearse, yelling “get your money, get your money” as the pass neared Auguste’s hands. Seattle might have had the highest-paid assistant coaching staff in NFL history today with Thomas and Sherman so involved.

3, One receiver who had a nice day was Ricardo Lockette, who had a deep scoring pass from Jackson and then a minute or so later a leaping grab over the middle of a pass from Wilson. Kearse also had a couple nice catches at the end of the day and Kevin Norwood had a couple early, each again illustrating the depth of Seattle’s receiving corps this year. Percy Harvin also had a couple catches and has looked healthy throughout OTAs, which suddenly seems an afterthought but is obviously a huge positive for this team right now. One new receiver who so far hasn’t gotten much of a chance to show anything, though, is Chris Matthews, the 6-5 free agent from the CFL who was again limited today due to injury.

4, I also noticed what Jayson did about McDaniel playing the five-technique defensive end spot last year manned by Bryant. And with the Seahawks signing Kevin Williams, it maybe makes more sense now. In the alignment I saw, the Seahawks had Cliff Avril at LEO, Jesse Williams at three-technique, Brandon Mebane at nose, and McDaniel at end. Kevin Williams could be a nice replacement for what Seattle lost when Clinton McDonald signed with Tampa Bay, and also provide some veteran insurance as guys like Jordan Hill and Jesse Williams continue to develop.

5, Another guy who got a lot of work today is Spencer Ware. He’s been limited a few times in the OTAs we’ve seen, apparently due to an unspecified injury. Ware is listed as a fullback but can also play tailback. I saw him lined up wide a time or two today, as well. Given whatever may happen down the road with Marshawn Lynch, a spot could open for Ware to contribute this year and in the future.

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