We’ll continue the countdown with a look at a few players who enter camp a little under-the-radar.
The caveat here is that the intense coverage given the NFL these days makes it hard for anyone to really be a huge surprise. We’ve written about all of these guys on here before, and ardent Seahawks fans know who they are. But I’ve tried to define this as players who enter camp far from being locks to make the roster, but players who look like they have a chance to be on the final 53.
Also, this list does not include undrafted rookie free agents, who were addressed in a Countdown blog post a few days ago. Instead, these are all veterans, either players who have spent time with other teams, or have been with the Seahawks for a few years.
LB Korey Toomer — Toomer, recall, was heralded by coach Pete Carroll as one of the fastest-rising players during the spring. Actually, to quote Carroll correctly, he called him “the hottest guy in camp right now.” A fifth-round pick out of Idaho in 2012, Toomer battled injuries his first two seasons, but is healthy now. As is the case for everyone on this list, though, he’s at a position where there are already a lot of quality guys. Toomer spent the spring playing primarily strongside linebacker, where Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith and Bruce Irvin are slated to compete for the starting job. Irvin, though, had off-season hip surgery and it remains unclear how ready he will be for the season. That could open the door for Toomer. As always, special teams will be key for Toomer, who was on the No. 1 kickoff unit as the spring ended.
DB Terrance Parks — Parks was listed by the Seahawks as a cornerback on the roster in the spring but played more at free safety, making an impression throughout OTAs and mini-camp.
Here’s what I wrote on Parks in June:
Parks, signed as a free agent in the off-season after spending last season in the CFL and the year before that with the Chiefs, though never appearing in any games, is listed as a cornerback on the roster, but of late has been spending a lot of time at free safety, a spot where the team needs a backup to Earl Thomas with the departure of Chris Maragos. Parks and undrafted free agent Dion Bailey have each been playing a lot there with the backup units, and each have caught the eye of the team’s coaching staff. The 6-2, 218-pound Parks has size that makes him especially intriguing.
“He is someone who is really playing fast and with speed,” defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said after Monday’s practice.
Asked if the team signed Parks with an eye toward corner or safety, Quinn said: “We thought corner and safety. He’s played corner some in the CFL and then played safety in college (at Florida State) and coming up. So he’s another one of those guys that we tried to say ‘well, does he have more than one position he can play’ and we’ve tried him at both. And what a bright football guy to be able to play two positions and learn the defense in that way. Sometimes you can just tell when a guy, how hard they are trying to work and the hunger they have. He’s one of those guys that have jumped out to me.”
WR Chris Matthews —-The 6-5 Matthews was signed out of the CFL, where he was the offensive rookie of the year in 2012. The Seahawks didn’t get a great look at him in the spring due to a couple of nagging injuries, and you get the sense he’ll need to be healthy at the start and hit the ground running quickly or potentially get lost in the shuffle of what is a really deep group of receivers. But his size along makes him a player the Seahawks will want to examine well.
Said Carroll of Matthews at the end of spring: “He’s done a really good job. He is totally different than our other guys. Unfortunately he hurt his shoulder a little bit. Banged it and didn’t get all of the work. But he has shown really good stuff and styles as a big guy. Always appreciated big receivers and he has that stuff and I like the variety that he offers us and in camp will be a great competition. We would like to spread the varity of style guys if we can, so he will be in the mix of it.”
WR Bryan Walters — Walters has been with the Seahawks since Dec. 2012, mostly on the practice squad, though he was on the active roster for two stints last season, including through the playoffs, seeing action in four regular season games and in the NFC title game — he was on the field for the final victory formation snaps as the game ended.
Despite that experience, he’s not a player those who try to figure out who will make up Seattle’s 53-man opening day roster this year typically include with the receiving position having been bolstered the way it was in the off-season with the drafting of Paul Richardson and Kevin Norwood, the signing of guys like Matthews, and the possible return to health of Sidney Rice.
Walters, though, has obviously hung around for a reason, and the one thing that could make him stick this year if his punt return ability. Carroll several times mentioned Walters as a candidate for that job, which is open after the departure of Golden Tate, noting that he is one of the most consistent when it comes to catching the ball, which is the important requirement of that job. Walters had a good spring until a shoulder injury during mini-camp. That injury isn’t considered serious and indications are he should be ready for the start of fall camp.
CB A.J. Jefferson — Jefferson, signed as a free agent after being released by Minnesota last November, intrigues the Seahawks with his size (6-1, 190) and could make a run at one of the backup cornerback spots. Recall that Carroll cited Jefferson for his play as mini-camp ended when he addressed the cornerback spot saying: “Going to be a great group to watch in camp. Tharold Simon has been a real good return to us and A.J. Jefferson has looked really good, too.” Jefferson, who was a standout kickoff returner at Fresno State and also got 14 returns for the Cardinals in 2011, could also make an impression as a returner — he was among the large group getting a look at handling punt returns in the spring.