RENTON — The Seahawks held the first of what are nine scheduled OTAs (organized team activities) on Monday at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center.
The workouts are the first for Seattle in which the team can work 11-on-11 and represent the first chance to get a look at the team following free agency and the draft.
Here are some observations:
Top picks still a little limited
It’s worth reiterating that OTAs are voluntary and noncontact, and devoted heavily to learning and installing the playbook. So, the team uses caution with anyone’s health in terms of on-field drills since much of the learning work can be accomplished anyway.
But, one obvious focus of attention during these sessions is the performance of Seattle’s first two picks, cornerback Devon Witherspoon (fifth overall) and receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba (20th). Each had been limited during rookie minicamp two weekends ago.
Each appeared to do a little more Monday, but they were a step short of full go.
Smith-Njigba took part in some individual and position drills and a walk-through, and Witherspoon got some work at cornerback.
With cornerback Tariq Woolen not present for unknown reasons — coach Pete Carroll did not talk to the media afterward — Witherspoon often lined up with the first-team defense at one corner spot, with Michael Jackson usually on the other side, but Tre Brown also. That Seattle later in the day re-signed veteran cornerback Artie Burns, though, was at least somewhat intriguing given that the Seahawks seem to be fairly well set at corner. But the Seahawks may also simply want some veteran depth and with a player who has knowledge of the system.
A good day for Dee
There has been much discussion of where Seattle’s first pick in the 2021 draft — receiver Dee Eskridge, taken 56th overall — fits into things after the drafting of Smith-Njigba, who projects as the third receiver alongside DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett and likely to play primarily out of the slot.
That’s exactly the role the team once envisioned for Eskridge before he struggled through two injury-plagued seasons, held to 17 catches in 20 games the past two seasons.
But Monday, Eskridge was all over the place, working often with the first offense (among other WRs present but not taking part in team drills were Cade Johnson, finished last season as the third receiver, and UDFA signee C.J. Johnson).
Quarterback Geno Smith said afterward he has been impressed by the work Eskridge has done this offseason.
“Dee is going to do some things,’’ Smith said. “He’s getting ready to do many things. I know things have started slow for him but (that) doesn’t matter. He is a physical specimen. He’s got everything it takes. He’s studying his butt off. I’ve been with him every single day and we are watching extra film and he looks to be really taking that next step.’’
Smith said he has worked out with Eskridge this offseason in Florida.
“We trained together last year and this season we spent a bunch of time together and we are going to train again once we get a break from here,’’ Smith said. “We are all collectively working together, but Dee and I have been really close as of late. I really see the growth in his mindset and his mentality. He wants it. He’s always wanted it and he’s always had that ability, but obviously he’s had some setbacks. But I can see just in his mental makeup that he’s ready to take that next step and it’s my job to help him and that’s why I want to be there with him. He’s working his butt off. He’s super explosive out here on the field. He’s one of the more explosive guys I’ve ever seen. If we can get him where I think he’ll be, I think it will help us out a lot.’’
A new addition up front
Before the Seahawks took the field Monday the team announced it had signed nose tackle LaTrell Bumphus, an undrafted free agent out of Tennessee, and released linebacker Chris Garrett to make room on the 90-man roster.
Bumphus becomes the seventh nose tackle on the roster — a spot that has gotten a lot of attention after the release of Al Woods and with Bryan Mone continuing to recover from a December ACL injury.
Mone was present for Monday’s OTA but, as expected, did not take part in any drills.
So, the Seahawks have six healthy nose tackles — all players Seattle has either drafted or signed over the last month.
The six: Cameron Young, a fourth-round pick out of Mississippi State; UDFA signees Bumphus, Robert Cooper of Florida State and Jonah Tavai of San Diego State; and veteran signees Austin Faoliu and Forrest Merril. Faoliu, who just finished his season with the Sea Dragons of the XFL, did not take part in team drills Monday.
Bumphus was present and took part in drills, but obviously one noncontact OTA is not enough to make a real assessment of where things stand at nose tackle. But, if nothing else, Seattle at least has depth in numbers at a spot of need.
Myles Adams, listed as a defensive end, can also play nose tackle and saw some time there Monday.
• So again, these are voluntary sessions and players often come and go. But a few others who were not seen were DE Mario Edwards, Jr. — who signed last week — DE/LB Darrell Taylor, FB/LB Nick Bellore, DE/LB Alton Robinson and punter Michael Dickson. Among those who did take part fully was LB Tyreke Smith, a fifth-round pick in 2022 who missed all of his rookie season due to injury.
• As expected — but still worth noting — free-agent signee Evan Brown worked with the first team at center. Brown played guard last year with Detroit but played center in 2021, and the Seahawks view his best position as center where he is the leader to replace last year’s starter, Austin Blythe. Seattle also drafted Olu Oluwatimi out of Michigan in the fifth round and he will compete at center, as will Joey Hunt.
• Abraham Lucas, who started at right tackle last season, was present but did not take part in 11-on-11 drills (again, with Carroll not speaking, there was no explanations for why some players were out), which had Jake Curhan taking over that spot. But the rest of the OL was as expected with Charles Cross at left tackle and Damien Lewis and Phil Haynes at guard.
• With Jamal Adams not present while rehabbing from injury, Quandre Diggs and free-agent signee Julian Love worked with the starting unit at safety. Joey Blount, who ended last year on injured reserve due to a knee injury, appears to be fully recovered and got regular work at safety.
• Bush, signed as a free agent in March, is wearing No. 0 — he had been listed as 11 but that number now belongs to Smith-Njigba. Bush regularly lined up as one of the starting inside linebackers alongside Bobby Wagner.