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Seahawks minicamp shows there will be an interesting camp battle in secondary

By Bob Condotta Seattle Times

RENTON, Wash. – If the Seahawks have accomplished anything this week at minicamp, they have reinforced how intriguing it will be to watch how the secondary comes together during training camp.

During Wednesday’s practice, the second of three minicamp workouts this week, cornerback Tre Brown sat out after being a regular participant in the offseason program until now.

With Tariq Woolen also out after having arthroscopic knee surgery last month and Coby Bryant also not taking part, that left the Seahawks using Michael Jackson and Artie Burns as the starting boundary corners and giving rookie Devon Witherspoon ample snaps as the nickel corner.

That was something Witherspoon, the fifth overall pick out of Illinois, did often Tuesday. That he was there again Wednesday indicates the team wants to get a good idea at how he’d look in the slot before training camp.

The sight of Jamal Adams on the sidelines as he continues to recover from a torn quadriceps injury – with the hope he can return in time for the regular season – also spotlights that the team’s safety position and roles are far from set.

Quandre Diggs has been at his usual free safety spot throughout, with free-agent signee Julian Love at strong safety. But if/when Adams returns, the Seahawks are sure to try to find ways to get all three on the field at once.

Love, who started 16 games last year for the Giants and has played safety and corner in his career, said he’s intrigued how it will all come together, as well.

“I think it will work itself out,” Love said after Wednesday’s practice. “I think when you have a team, you try to put the best players on the field for each situation. And that’s kind of my mindset. I have starts at every DB position. So I am a versatile player. So I’m just trying to take advantage. I have a great group around me. I don’t have to do anything outside of myself. I can just lean on the guy next to me to do my job.”

But just as interesting is how the rest of the safety group will develop behind Diggs, Love and Adams.

The only other safety on the roster who was with the team a year ago is Joey Blount, who saw time only on special teams after making the team as an undrafted free agent.

But Blount will have to fight to keep that roster spot as the Seahawks drafted Jerrick Reed II in the sixth round out of New Mexico. Reed has typically worked with the second unit at safety while getting some work in the slot.

They signed four other rookie undrafted free agent safeties.

At least one – Jonathan Sutherland of Penn State – seems to be making an impression. Sutherland has had some snaps with the first-team defense in three-safety sets as well as working with the second unit in the base defense and seems to have the kind of versatile pedigree the Seahawks seem to increasingly favor in their defensive backs, having started games at safety and linebacker at Penn State. He was credited with eight starts for Penn State at linebacker last season when he was voted a team captain, one of just two four-time team captains in school history.

But after a roller coaster 2022 in which injuries meant six players got starts at safety, Seattle will take all the depth it can get – even if it also may mean some tough decisions come cutdown time.

Here is some more of what we learned Wednesday:

A big day for Smith-Njigba

Jaxon Smith-Njigba, the 20th overall pick out of Ohio State, might have had his best day so far with two touchdown catches during seven-on-seven sessions from Geno Smith.

One came on a wheel route out of the slot when lined up against Witherspoon, with Smith-Njigba breaking open down the sideline to catch a deep pass for the score. One caveat is that there is no contact allowed and defensive backs are limited in making plays on the ball. Smith-Njigba appeared to have gotten a step on Witherspoon, and maybe most critically, seemed to make the catch as comfortable as can be.

For a second straight day, Smith-Njigba earned praise from a veteran receiver, with DK Metcalf echoing what Tyler Lockett said the day before:

“He’s come in and he has treated it like he is a vet already,’’ Metcalf said. “He knows how to run routes, his body and how to catch. It’s really just teaching him the playbook. He’s already ahead of the curve of learning the technique that (receivers coach) Sanjay (Lal) is teaching. He’s just fitting right in with the drills and with the plays that what we’re calling.”

Notes, quotes and anecdotes

• Love revealed that his grandmother’s brother, Lorenzo Lorenzo, is the founder of Seattle restaurant Paseo. His sons opened Un Bien. But Love, who signed in March, said he has yet to eat there. “I’ve been grinding, spending time out here,’’ he said. “I haven’t been able to get to the city much, staying on the east side. I’m going to take advantage of getting the opportunity to go there come fall.”

• Along with Brown, Darrell Taylor was another new player sitting out Wednesday. Taylor followed the linebacker group around the field, with no obvious injury. With Taylor out, second-year player Boye Mafe typically worked as a starter at one OLB spot with veteran Uchenna Nwosu at the other. Otherwise, the personnel situation seemed pretty similar to Tuesday. Rookie guard Anthony Bradford was again sidelined with an unknown issue, which has helped result in undrafted free agent Kendall Randolph of Alabama working consistently with the second team at guard.

• The team has remained shy of depth at nose tackle with Bryan Mone still rehabbing a knee injury and free agent Austin Faoliu and rookie undrafted free agent Jonah Tavai not participating. That has meant a lot of work for rookie fourth-round pick Cameron Young, who would appear to be the starter there if the season ended today.

•Backup QB Drew Lock had one of the plays of the day with a scramble out of pressure in a seven-on-seven drill and then a perfect strike of about 30 yards or so to rookie Jake Bobo, an undrafted free agent out of UCLA. Lock also had a TD on a nice fade route to former WSU standout Easop Winston, Jt.

• Jackson had an interception of Smith during a goal line drill for what was the only turnover of the day.

• The Seahawks will hold their last minicamp practice Thursday morning and break for the summer.