A recap of Bing Training Camp, and some camp honors, as the team breaks camp.
Matt Hasselbeck. This was almost too obvious after the way the veteran quarterback first took to the new offense during the offseason and then took control of the offense during camp.
In discussing these selections with assistant coaches, players and scouts, other names were offered. Everyone, however, mentioned Hasselbeck and it often came with, “Oh, No. 8. That’s been obvious almost every day.”
As defensive coordinator Gus Bradley put it, “A guy who really has been impressive is Matt. All offseason and then all through camp, he has really accepted the challenge.”
Hasselbeck is coming off two injury-interrupted seasons and he turns 35 next month. But he has shown why coach Pete Carroll was so pleased about having a QB with his experience and savvy to help with the transition to the team’s third offensive system in as many seasons.
“Matt’s looking terrific,” Carroll said. “He’s played great throughout and he’s as physically well as he’s been in some time. He had a great offseason of hard conditioning. He’s leaner, stronger, faster than he’s been in the last few years. And he feels that way about it, too.
“Now, let’s take care of him and let’s see how far he can take it.”
BEST OFFENSIVE PLAYER
Hasselbeck, of course. But Carroll is the first to point out that Hasselbeck will be as good as those around him allow. The offense needs to run the ball better and more consistently than last year. The line needs to do a better job of not only protecting Hasselbeck, but giving him time to run through his progressions in the passing game. The receivers need to get in sync with Hasselbeck, and catch the ball when he puts it on them.
“We’ve got to give the offense the ball, and then Matt has to be protected,” Bradley said. “Because if he has time, he’s so sharp.”
BEST DEFENSIVE PLAYER
Chris Clemons. No one was really sure how the trade with the Philadelphia Eagles to acquire the end needed to play the “Leo” spot in Carroll’s offense would work out. Clemons has been solid, and shown flashes of being the player who had eight sacks for the Oakland Raiders in 2007. In Saturday night’s preseason opener against Tennessee, he used a nice move to beat Titans Pro Bowl left tackle Michael Roos for a sack.
“Clem has really progressed and done a nice job,” Bradley said. “That’s what we expected and he’s coming through with it. He’s had a good camp. That position is so valuable for us. It’s been good to see.”
Even better, Clemons is playing with more than just pads on his shoulders. There’s also the chip that comes from being underutilized the past two seasons in Philly.
“Chris has really been sharp every day – day in and day out,” Carroll said. “It’s such a needed position to beef up the pass rush. He’s been a big factor for us.”
BEST FREE AGENT ADDITION
Mike Williams. There’s plenty of competition here, considering that Carroll and general manager John Schneider have made 125 roster moves since arriving in January – and 42 involved bringing in veteran players. But only Williams is a former first-round draft choice who has been out of the league the past two years. He brings a dimension the Seahawks’ passing game has never had – a big receiver (6 feet 5, 232 pounds) with speed and quickness.
Just check out his long run after taking a short pass from Charlie Whitehurst that turned into a 51-yard touchdown against the Titans.
“He’s a big, thick target,” Whitehurst said. “I just gave him that little short route there and he made a great play.”
Earl Thomas. In a needed draft class that has been as good, or better, than advertised, the first-round draft choice who’s stepped in as the starting free safety has displayed the range and playmaking ability that prompted the team to take him with the 14th pick overall.
Left tackle Russell Okung, who was drafted with the sixth pick in the first round, also has been impressive. But he missed the first six days of camp before reporting. Wide receiver Golden Tate (second round), cornerback Walter Thurmond (fourth round) and strong safety Kam Chancellor (fifth round) also have had their moments.
But Thomas is allowing the other defensive backs to play more aggressively because of his skills.
“The kid can play,” veteran strong safety Lawyer Milloy said. “He fits in well with what we’re trying to do and will only get better the more he plays.”
Offense: Williams. It’s worth repeating: He was out of the league in 2008 and 2009 after getting as heavy as 270 pounds while with the Tennessee Titans in 2007. It’s also worth repeating: The Seahawks signed him off the street. It’s been a what-have-we-got-to-lose decision that is turning out to be a win-win situation for the team and the player.
“He’s done a very good job throughout camp,” said Carroll, who also coached Williams at USC.
Defense: Red Bryant. The idea of moving the little-used 332-pound tackle to the end opposite Clemons is starting to look like a stroke of genius by line coach Dan Quinn. Bryant still has the bulk that allowed him to play inside, but the most impressive part of his new game has been the speed and quickness Bryant is displaying in making tackles on plays that are going away from him.
“Red Bryant certainly has come through as we had the indications in the offseason that he might,” Carroll said. “He’s done really well.”
Or, the Chris Gray Award – for those players who participated in every practice. There were 35 this camp, in a camp where there were only 20 practices and just four two-a-day sessions.
Linebackers David Hawthorne and Will Herring deserve special recognition. They not only made every practice, they took plenty of extra snaps because of injuries that sidelined Lofa Tatupu, Aaron Curry, Leroy Hill, Matt McCoy and rookie Joe Pawelek. There were days when Hawthorne was the weak-side ’backer with the No. 1 unit and middle linebacker in the No. 2 defense; and other days when he was in the middle with the No. 1 unit and on the weak side with the second group. Herring? He lined up at all three spots during camp – never at the same time, of course, even if it did seem that way.
Wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh was back this afternoon after missing three days to tend to a family matter.
“It was a little minor situation,” he said. “Nothing big. It was so minor there’s really nothing to say about it, really.”
Also back after missing time with minor injuries were defensive linemen Brandon Mebane, Nick Reed, Kevin Vickerson and Ricky Foley.
Still sidelined: linebacker Leroy Hill (sprained knee), offensive tackle Ray Willis (knee cartilage), kicker Olindo Mare (sore calf), defensive tackle Craig Terrill (sore left leg) and tight end Chris Baker (undisclosed injury).
Also in attendance was owner Paul Allen, who watched practice from the sideline with general manager John Schneider.
The players will have a morning practice Friday, their final tune-up for Saturday’s preseason game against the Green Bay Packers at Qwest Field.
The players and coaches will be off Sunday, and the players also have Monday off before returning for a Tuesday afternoon practice to begin preparing for the Aug. 28 preseason game against the Vikings in Minnesota.
YOU DON’T SAY
“John and I both think that we needed to really work it and not just sit here and wait. Let’s be very proactive in all of our thoughts about helping to make this the most competitive team we can make it. And that meant changes were coming. It didn’t have to, but we thought in each move that we’ve made that we’ve helped ourselves or given ourselves a chance to get better.” – Carroll on the reason behind all the roster moves