RENTON The most promising part of Seahawks training camp on day nine didn’t include Germain Ifedi’s return directly into the starting right-tackle spot he held until Frank Clark punched him last week in a pass-rush drill. Ifedi remains a work in progress there, battling with rookie Ethan Pocic.
It wasn’t Russell Wilson’s third consecutive sharp practice throwing the ball. The Seahawks expect that from their $87.6 million franchise quarterback.
It was rookie Shaquill Griffin gaining more ground to become the starting right cornerback.
And Tyler Lockett showing he is back -- all the way back -- from his broken leg he got on Christmas Eve.
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Veteran Jeremy Lane had been the first-team right cornerback in base defense, then the nickel back inside with Neiko Thorpe outside right when Seattle went to five defensive backs. That was through minicamp and the start of training camp.
But Lane missed his fifth consecutive practice Wednesday with what coach Pete Carroll has described nebulously as a “soft-tissue injury,” presumably in his legs. While Lane has been watching in a team bucket hat, Griffin, the third-round pick no one had really heard much about out of Central Florida entering this spring’s draft, has moved into his place at right cornerback.
Griffin has absolutely seized his opportunity so far.
Wednesday during team scrimmaging, he jumped on a pass by Russell Wilson on the left sideline, in front of Jermaine Kearse’s out route. Griffin ripped the ball from Kearse and sprinted the other way almost into Lake Washington for a touchdown.
During individual drills, Griffin showed why the Seahawks coaches and scouts love him. He’s got the size (6 feet 1, 198 pounds), the speed, the abilty to change direction quickly, the smarts -- and the hands to make plays on the ball.
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The Seahawks will take more of that, please, once the games get real beginning Sept. 10 at Green Bay.
Monday, Carroll said while talking about Griffin: “I am pretty excited about him. ... There is just nothing but positives.
“And we have never had a guy that runs this fast that is this big.
“So right now it is all about technique and he has no problem with it. But he will get a lot better.”
That same day, three-time All-Pro Richard Sherman, the starter on the opposite corner, talked about his mentoring of Griffin -- especially in Seattle’s tricky “step-kick” technique Carroll demands all cover men master.
“He’s sharp. He’s mentally sharp. That’s really, really unique for a rookie to be that mentally sharp and mentally on it,” Sherman said. “He’s incredibly coachable. He does a great job of just being coachable, and when they correct a mistake then he makes sure he makes the corrections.
“He’s great in the run game. He’s not scared to throw it up in there...that’s what they’re looking for.”
It increasingly looks as though Griffin will start Sunday when the Seahawks play their first exhibition game of this preseason, at the Los Angeles Chargers.
And -- as we discussed here last month -- it increasingly looks as though Griffin will start outside and Lane inside at nickel when the Seahawks face Aaron Rodgers and the Packers at Lambeau Field in week one.
Lockett made one play that told all the Seahawks and witnesses needed to know on how much he’s progressed from his broken tibia and fibula to return to his No.-2 wide-receiver role he took from Kearse late last season, before the injury.
During 11-on-11 team scrimmaging, Lockett ran at Thorpe, now the second-team left cornerback behind Sherman after Griffin’s splash. Lockett ducked his inside shoulder into Thorpe, as if running an in route. That set up Lockett’s smooth fade outside, away from the fooled Thorpe into the clear along the right sideline. Wilson’s perfect pass hit the uncontested Lockett in stride for a long gain.
It was eighth-year technique and guile from the third-year Lockett, something he’s shown since the first minicamp of his rookie year of 2015.
What else I saw on day nine of camp:
▪ CLARK RETURNS: Clark was back to practice for the first time since he punched Ifedi on Thursday, ending Carroll’s ban of him from practice. But he was limited to position drills only, and wore a brace again over his left knee during those. Carroll has said Clark’s knee has been bothering him for a while.
▪ SO DOES IFEDI: Last year’s first-round draft choice went directly back into his starting spot at right tackle in his first full work since Thursday.
▪ ROOKIE DUTIES--AND DUES: Seventh-round draft choice Chris Carson has been a star of early camp with his decisive, bolting running.
But he got zapped on a recent meal.
I asked the rookie from Oklahoma State what’s been the toughest rookie duty he’s had.
“That’s probably the worst thing, the duties that you have to go through. But, everybody’s had to go through it,” Carson said. “You just got to pay your dues...
“See the running backs, they’ve been good to me -- so far. But paying for the offensive linemen at Chick Fil A, the whole offensive line, I paid. About 400 dollars. That was kind of a big thing.”
Paying $400 for lunch is no big deal for an established veteran who makes millions. Carson, as a seventh-round pick, is earning $465,000 this regular season.
“But it’s all worth it,” he said. “Those guys protect us and block for us. I’d do it again if I have to.”
Then Carson added with a chuckle: “But, hopefully, I don’t have to.”
▪ OFFENSIVE LINE DU JOUR: Another day, another different offensive-line combination from coach Tom Cable.
Wednesday had undrafted rookie Jordan Roos at right guard with the starting offense for the first time. Carroll said the blocker from Purdue would be impressing him even if he had been a middle-round draft choice. Seattle got him instead for a $20,000 signing bonus, high coin for rookie free agents. Carroll made it sound like Roos has a good chance to make the team, which of course needs all the quality offensive lineman available and able to breathe.
The left tackle Wednesday was George Fant again, with Rees Odhiambo also getting a series there with the starters. Luke Joeckel and Odhiambo got first-team time at left guard. Justin Britt was the starting center. Rookie second-round pick Ethan Pocic, the right tackle while Ifedi was out, got his first team scrimmaging of camp at center, with quarterback Austin Davis and the third unit. Oday Aboushi started at right guard, then Mark Glowinski got some first-team reps there. Ifedi went pretty much the entire time at right tackle.
▪ DARKHORSE WHO SHINED: Free-agent free safety Marcus Cromartie made two eye-catching plays. The first one, he did what no one else has done this camp: He denied Jimmy Graham one on one on a deep, jump ball. Wilson threw down the left sideline. While the ball was in the air, the 6-foot Cromartie engaged the 6-7 Graham in hand fighting. The NFL officials briefing the media had Sunday emphasized officials will not call pass interference for hand fighting that does not result in separation for one combatant or the other. This one did not. What it did was keep Cromartie tight to Graham and allow him to force the big tight end into and then beyond the sideline boundary. By the time Wilson’s pass arrived, Graham was out of bounds. Cromartie turned and broke up the pass anyway.
On the final play of the day, the Seahawks had holder Jon Ryan pass out of field-goal formation. Cromartie sniffed out the play immediately, and was right there for what would have been a drive-ending hit on reserve tight end Marcus Lucas behind the line of scrimmage.
Cromartie, 26, has played in 21 games over the last three seasons with San Francisco. He has four season of NFL experience, counting 2013 when he was with San Diego but did not appear in a game.
“He’s shown that he’s fit in,” Carroll said. “He’s competing to make the club here, in a number of different ways, special teams as well as at safety. He’s got a little bit of cornerback in him, too. So we are happy he is here and happy to see that he is making good progress.”
▪ Former San Francisco 49ers starter Michael Wilhoite was the starting strongside linebacker in base defense. He has also been the No. 2 middle linebacker behind All-Pro Bobby Wagner.
▪ Rookie third-round pick Amara Darboh from Michigan is getting snaps with Boykin and the second-team offense. Seventh-round pick David Moore from Division-II East Central Oklahoma and undrafted rookie college track champion Cyril Grayson have been getting more time than Darboh catching passes from Wilson on the starting offense in recent practices.
Carroll was all positive -- as he usually is on everybody -- when talking about Darboh after practice.
He’s some of what Darboh said -- starting with Pro Bowl defensive end Michael Bennett yelling from a few yards away while signing autographs “Why a rookie up there?” behind the podium for a formal press conference in front of cameras.
▪ The incident that started the fights that led to Clark punching Ifedi last Thursday was defensive tackle Rodney Coe plowing into backup offensive lineman Will Pericak in that fateful pass-rush drill. Wednesday, Coe pushed into Pericak again in the drill. As they kept pushing after the whistle, this time Pericak playfully and carefully bear-hugged the huge Coe to prevent either man from continuing the action. Tensions averted. Coaches pleased.
▪ Quinton Jefferson looks good, quick off the ball in pass rushes and on run downs, in his return from losing his rookie season of 2016 to injured reserve.
▪ Carroll took his play sheet and threw it as if it was a penalty marker at Pocic, who was playing right tackle on the play, after the rookie extended his arm and held onto the jersey of veteran outside linebacker Mike Morgan. The hold allowed running back Eddie Lacy to go past for a big gain. After Carroll chastised -- um, “coached” -- Pocic for not extended his arms so obviously to hold, the coach got on one of the local college and high-school officials the team hires to semi-adjudicate practices.
▪ Also missing practice with injuries: rookie safety Delano Hill, defensive end David Bass, defensive ends Marcus Smith and Dion Jordan, linebacker Ronald Powell, rookie offensive tackle Justin Senior and recently acquired linebacker D.J. Alexander.
▪ Look who was here at practice. Something about big shoes -- in the guy in red on the right’s case, literally really big shoes: