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Thursday in Hawkville: Maxwell making progress

With Clare Farnsworth in Canton, Ohio covering Cortez Kennedy’s induction to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, I’ll be taking over the blog through the weekend. Getting to it, here’s a recap of the activities surrounding the Seahawks’ Bing Training Camp for August 2.

FOCUS ON

Byron Maxwell. The 6-1, 207-pound cornerback is working back into practice after returning from an ankle injury that sidelined him for seven games during his rookie season. Maxwell, drafted with the eighth pick in the sixth round of the 2011 NFL Draft out of Clemson, impressed in training camp as a rookie last season and has the prototypical size and make-up of a Pete Carroll corner. He saw action in nine games a year ago, with most of that action coming on special teams, and prior to the NFL he was dubbed one of the hardest hitting defensive backs in the ACC.

Maxwell shined in the ‘gunner’ special teams drill to start Thursday’s practice. Lining up in punt formation against second-year receiver Doug Baldwin and rookie cornerback Jeremy Lane, Maxwell broke the jam put on him by Baldwin and Lane and out-ran the wide receiver-cornerback duo up the right sideline before cutting back inside down field to meet punt returner Leon Washington as he was fielding the football.

“Special teams is about going hard,” Maxwell said of the play. “That’s all I do is go hard. It’s all about who wants it the most. I pride myself in my special teams play. That’s just the purest form of football. If you go out there and you can play special teams, you can play football.”

Maxwell clearly wanted it the most on that play.

Later in Thursday’s practice, the Clemson product wanted more, breaking up a ball in the end zone from quarterback Matt Flynn that was intended for wide receiver Golden Tate.

“We’re very satisfied with his progress,” said Seahawks secondary coach Kris Richard. “Of course, his issue is going to be conditioning now. He hasn’t had a full offseason. We are well aware of it, but we’re very satisfied with his effort. He’s a ball player. He’s always had a knack to get around the ball.”

With Seattle’s secondary featuring the likes of Pro Bowlers Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, and Brandon Browner, as well as impressive second-year player Richard Sherman, Maxwell knows that special teams play is an area where he must have an impact in order to stand out, but he’s not stopping there.

“Right now, special teams are a place where I feel I need to make an impact, but obviously that’s not all I want in this League,” Maxwell said. “I’m always looking to get better, get to the top, and be the best. Special teams is a role that I’ve got to do right now and one that I’ve got to do well for the team.”

And Richard knows that Maxwell is capable of more than stand out special teams play, and the NFL is a League where you’re always one play away from potentially making an impact.

“A healthy Byron at corner, in the nickel, and on special teams – a healthy Byron is a very effective Byron,” said Richard. “He’s a really good football player. We’re praying that he’s able to maintain his health, and if he is, really, the sky is the limit for him.”

UNIT WATCH

Defensive backs, and specifically the unit’s red zone defense. What can be said about this unit that hasn’t been said already? Quarterbacks Matt Flynn, Tarvaris Jackson, and Russell Wilson could not buy a bucket – or in this case, a touchdown pass – during the team’s red zone passing drill. The long, rangy defense dominated the drill, with cornerback Brandon Browner standing out in particular. On one play that saw Wilson under center Browner had coverage of wide receiver Charly Martin down the left sideline. Wilson fired a ball at Martin who cut toward the inside, but instead of extending his hands to receive the football, Martin was forced to bat the ball to the ground because Browner had beat him to the spot. Earlier in the drill Browner intercepted a ball from Flynn that was intended for Martin.

During the same drill, Maxwell made a nice read on a ball in the flat for wide receiver Kris Durham, exploding toward the football upon the quarterback’s release and pushing Durham to the sideline for no gain.

The only offensive conversions during the red zone passing drill that saw each of the three quarterbacks take multiple reps came on a pass from Flynn to rookie wide receiver Lavasier Tuinei, and on a toss from Jackson to rookie wide receiver Phil Bates, who made a nice grab on his back shoulder while falling to the ground.

PLAYS DU JOUR

Offense: A couple of offensive plays stood out in what was mainly a defense-dominated day. Ricardo Lockette made a nice stick on a ball from Wilson, elevating above safety Chris Maragos and cornerback Phillip Adams and tapping his toes down in the corner of the end zone for a score. During the team’s 11-on-11 session, Leon Washington had a nifty cut-back move to break free down the right sideline for a large gain. In the same session, rookie running back Robert Turbin had a similar move, as he slashed away from the scrum and scampered down the left sideline for a big gain.

Defense: In the team’s 9-on-7 drill, Earl Thomas penetrated the offensive line and found himself in the offensive backfield before running back Leon Washington, who had received the handoff, could even take a step. The speedy Thomas made the stop on Washington with an assist from defensive tackle Clinton McDonald, who had won his battle along the line and cleared a lane for Thomas to dart through. Also in the 9-on-7 drill, defensive tackle Brandon Mebane let out a Street Fighter-esque ‘Hadoken!’ battle cry prior to the snap, empowering Alan Branch through the line to make a crunching stop of Washington in the backfield.

IN ‘N OUT

Rookie wide receiver Jermaine Kearse, the former University of Washington standout and Lakewood, Wash. native, practiced for the first time today. Kearse had been on the physically unable to perform list since the start of camp.

Defensive tackle Jason Jones returned to practice after sitting out Monday and Tuesday. Tight end Kellen Winslow and linebacker Barrett Ruud also returned to practice after missing Tuesday because of knee situations.

Six players did not practice, as cornerback Ron Parker, tight end Anthony McCoy, linebacker Matt McCoy and linebacker Jameson Konz joined the two remaining players on the physically unable to perform list – offensive lineman James Carpenter and cornerback Walter Thurmond.

UP NEXT

The players have a walkthrough this afternoon and will practice at 10:15 a.m. tomorrow. Saturday’s practice will be the team’s final practice slotted for 10:15 a.m. Sunday’s practice, scheduled for 1:15 p.m., is set to feature a “mock game” between the squads.

JOIN THE CROWD

Today’s practice attracted 1,098 fans, as well as the Navy’s Blue Angels, who are in town for Seattle’s Sea Fair weekend. Fans along the berm at VMAC got an up-close-and-personal look at the Navy’s show group, whose impressive aerial acrobatics could be seen and heard – loudly – over the Seahawks three practice fields along the shores of Lake Washington.

Eight practices remain open to the public, including this weekend’s practices on Saturday and Sunday, which are the final weekend practices of camp. You can register to attend a practice session here.

YOU DON’T SAY

“Awesome. That was sick. They came in [to the VMAC] and visited us yesterday. Lieutenant David Tickle was in here yesterday and he visited with the coaching staff and I asked him, ‘Can you give us a little something-something at practice tomorrow?’ And he said, ‘OK, I’ll show you.’ So he gave us a little buzz and a little extra smoke and wiggle when he left here, so that was great.” – Head Coach Pete Carroll on the show the Blue Angels put on today over VMAC during practice.