Boling: Familiar faces, yet slightly forgotten, step up in camp

dave.boling@thenewstribune.comJune 8, 2014 

Natural at this point of the offseason that observers would have a few consult-the-roster moments when watching Seattle Seahawks voluntary practices.

There’s rookies, free agents and undrafted types seeing action, so it takes some time to quickly distinguish Brock Coyle from Horace Miller.

But there have been some veteran players demanding attention and forcing us to double-check the numbers to be sure.

Who, for instance, is that big guy wearing No. 77? He resembles James Carpenter, but only part of James Carpenter. This guy looks leaner, fitter and more aggressive.

Pete Carroll and line coach Tom Cable have raved about Carpenter’s fitness level, energy and motivation, saying he’d lost 15 pounds. I’m betting the “over” on that loss figure — at least compared with how he looked when he came in as a rookie who seemed to start breathing heavily just getting into his stance.

Remember, this was the 25th overall draft pick in 2011 — 124 spots ahead of All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman.

Carpenter was expected to come in and own the right tackle spot for a decade or so. But a couple bad knee injuries and a position change contributed to his lack of productivity. Instead of being a plug-in tackle, he missed 16 games his first two seasons and only shared the starts at left guard last season.

So when it came time to exercise their fifth-year option on Carpenter’s rookie contract, the Seahawks declined, an unmistakable message to Carpenter that it was time to perform.

Thus far it appears he understands the situation. He’s carting around less weight and looks much lighter on his feet. Going non-contact in the spring is not the same as playing 70 snaps against Justin Smith, but Carpenter has been firing out low, rising through the blocks, and putting his power to good effect.

If Carpenter can come in and be an above-average left guard, it will seem like the Hawks got a draft pick back.

And what about that guy wearing No. 33? Sheesh, it’s almost hard to see his number because he’s moving so fast. Right, right, that’s Christine Michael, last year’s second-rounder who carried the ball in only three games as a rookie.

With Marshawn Lynch volunteering to stay away from organized team activities (OTAs), Michael is getting enough carries to show impressive speed and balance, and a running style that could make him a nightmare to tackle — bursting through small openings with his pads about a foot off the ground.

At a recent gathering, offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell cited Michael’s play to the extent that he predicted a running back-by-committee approach, a departure from the feed-Marshawn-until-he-drops scheme.

Michael is just 23 years old and his legs are certainly fresh, having had most of last season to get ready for his chance to show the Seahawks what he can do. He will get considerable action in the exhibition season to prove his readiness.

No. 41 is pretty easy to remember, as cornerback Byron Maxwell has been around for three seasons, but he didn’t get the first start of his career until December last year as a fill-in for injured/suspended starter Brandon Browner. But when Maxwell was tossed in as the newest Legionnaire, he brought ample Boom, intercepting four passes (third highest season total on the team) in just five games.

He also forced a fumble in the Super Bowl. Because opponents generally were wise enough to avoid Sherman, Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor in the secondary, Maxwell was tested constantly.

And he responded accordingly, having as many interceptions in that span as Sherman, along with 10 passes defensed to Sherman’s eight.

Confident and comfortable, Maxwell has looked a worthy full-time member to the best secondary in the NFL.

Another has looked good even though not actually practicing. That No. 18 running routes on the side looks like the tall receiver they’ve searched for since back when Sidney Rice was healthy.

Wait, that is Sidney Rice. He had been cut and re-signed on the cheap after missing the second half of last season with the knee injury. Watching him run routes is to recall the big catches he’s made over the last few years when he’s been healthy.

A full season of a fit and fast Rice would only add to the quality of a receiving corps including Percy Harvin, Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse and drafted rookies Paul Richardson and Kevin Norwood — among other hopefuls.

This is a time for players to earn their chances, to step up and be noticed. And recently it’s some familiar, if slightly forgotten, faces that have been conspicuous with their efforts.

Dave Boling: 253-597-8440 @Dave Boling

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