Strong talent of reserves shows depth of Seahawks’ roster

July 30, 2013 

Those who compare sports teams from different eras tend to be highly subjective and have short memories. I think I used to be offended by that, but it seems I’ve forgotten.

Still, it’s not hard to agree with those who suggest the 2013 Seahawks will field the most talented regular-season roster – from player one through 53 – in franchise history.

Twenty starters return from the 11-win playoff team, including four All-Pros and five Pro Bowl players (all 27 or younger).

But early training camp practices have provided some evidence that we might expand that glowing assessment to the full 90 in camp, because players from the lower rungs of the depth chart are making eye-catching plays every session.

Over the first four practices, it seems a regular occurrence that a big hit or nice catch causes even the beat reporters to scan their rosters to double-check identities.

With top-quality depth at almost every position, it’s going to be hard for some of these guys to stay with the Seahawks. If nothing else, though, the competition is going to keep starters on their toes and make the exhibition games more interesting and relevant.

Stephen Williams, for instance, has stood above some other unknowns, as a 6-foot-5 receiver who has come up with some leaping, acrobatic grabs against a Seahawks secondary group that gives up nothing easy.

Williams had back and Achilles problems while with the Cardinals and was picked up as a free agent by the Seahawks in January.

“Stephen does an amazing job of attacking the football,”

quarterback Russell Wilson said. “When the ball is in the air, he goes and gets the football. He’s got great acceleration, he’s got great speed, he runs great routes … he’s got the whole package.”

Jermaine Kearse, the University of Washington and Lakes High School product, is also off to a strong start. He saw limited playing time as a free agent last season (three catches), but is catching everything thrown his way … perhaps benefitting from offseason Lasik surgery.

With veteran tight end Zach Miller sidelined with a foot injury, Sean McGrath is getting a shot at the position after seeing limited action late last season after coming off the practice squad.

A strong blocker and sure-handed receiver, McGrath went undrafted out of Henderson State in Arkadelphia, Ark.

“We have some young guys that are stepping up; you have Sean McGrath, who’s doing a great job,” Wilson said of the tight end situation. “He’s so into it, he makes all of the catches, and he does everything you need to.”

Coach Pete Carroll cited a pair of rookie tackles on the offensive line, Michael Bowie (seventh rounder) and Alvin Bailey (undrafted), as having had a good offseason and training camp.

And whenever young running backs are mentioned, Carroll seems to always toss in Derrick Coleman, the UCLA product who was another signed to a futures contract in January. He was cut by the Vikings during camp last year.

A couple other second-year draft picks who were lightly played as rookies, defensive lineman Jaye Howard and cornerback Jeremy Lane, are making themselves noticed every practice, too.

Howard played in just two games as a rookie, but he is getting a try at a couple of positions on the line and is flourishing with the return of defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, who coached Howard at Florida.

“We’ve worked him hard,” Quinn said. “He’s a guy who is off to a good start. We are going to play him in two spots on the inside. He’s bigger than he has been in a while. He’s playing with more strength and that’s important to us.”

With Brandon Browner’s suspension late last season, Lane got a few starts and played well. An aggressive ball-hawker, Lane has come up with a number of big plays this time around and helps make the secondary one of the deepest units on the team.

“He’s a really good football player and he’s incredibly fast,” Carroll said. “ He’s a hard-nosed guy who did well on special teams last year.”

The value of competition among talented non-starters is obvious. About this time two years ago, a fifth-round draft pick who was still new to the cornerback position was making himself noticed early in camp.

And now Richard Sherman is an All-Pro with his face on the cover of national magazines.

One of these kids may be that next big surprise. And that possibility serves as daily motivation for them all.

Dave Boling: 253-597-8440 dave.boling@ thenewstribune.com @DaveBoling

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