Camp Report: Whose Line Is It, Anyway?


Posted Jul 28, 2008


When 38-year-old backup center Chris Gray slightly injured his back during the second day of training camp, it posed an uncomfortable dilemma for the Seahawks. Gray, a 16-year veteran, is starting right now because starter Chris Spencer has not participated in any mini-camps or training camp practices following shoulder surgery in the offseason.

Spencer, who replaced long-time veteran Robbie Tobeck when he retired, struggled to make the line calls and take on his assignment last season, and the coaching staff was hoping Spencer would be able to use the offseason as a way to catch up to what he needs to know to fill his role.

Instead, he has been unable to participate, meaning that Gray, an insurance policy who played right guard last year and has not had significant time at center in seven years, has to take the majority of the snaps during camp, not ideal for a man who at this stage of his career would prefer to do less.

When Gray went down with the back injury, it left the Seahawks with Steve Vallos, a practice squad player last season, and Pat Murray, who was not on a roster, to snap to Seattle's trio of quarterbacks.

While that may not seem like a big deal during camp, it is a setback in the sense that the Seahawks revamped their offensive line to a degree to reinvigorate their running game, are installing some new blocking schemes under new offensive line coach Mike Solari and are trying to implement cohesion with newcomers Mike Wahle and Rob Sims, who switched from left to right guard when Wahle came in.

Instead, they are left with inexperienced players at center just trying to make the team, much less worrying about making the correct line calls.

CAMP CALENDAR: Camp closes Aug. 21. Intra-squad scrimmage at Qwest Field on Aug. 2. Team moves to its new facility in Renton on Aug. 17.

NOTES, QUOTES

-- Despite holding out of two offseason mini-camps and threatening to boycott training camp over a contract dispute, veteran receiver Bobby Engram was at camp. He said he and quarterback Matt Hasselbeck ran into each other on vacation at a resort in central Washington and worked out together on a high school field - until they were thrown off by a seven-on-seven passing drill for the high school team. "We told them we were eighth-graders, though, and we were going to be freshmen next year," Hasselbeck said.

-- Before the hitting of training camp began, the defensive coaches showed the players film of the some of the best defenses in NFL history, including Pittsburgh's Steel Curtain and Baltimore's 2000 defense that led to a Super Bowl victory. "Just a little first-day motivation. It was good for us," said veteran defensive tackle Rocky Bernard. "Just looking down the line of all the guys we have, there's no reason why we couldn't match those guy's intensity."

-- Seahawks all-pro middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu spoke with the media on the first day of training camp, the first time he has addressed a DUI charge to which he pled guilty and for which he has to spend a day in jail. "I was in the wrong. I used bad judgment," Tatupu said. "Sincerely, as far as all the fans, the organization, my teammate, anybody that I have let down - especially the kids out there - I just want them to know it's not the right thing to do. You shouldn't drink and drive. I'll never forget about it. I'm just glad no one was injured. I think I'll be a better person for it."

-- On his first day of training camp, rookie tight end John Carlson was running a route again Pro Bowl linebacker Julian Peterson. On the way back to the huddle, Peterson ran alongside Carlson and offered some advice. "When I was on the top of my route, I slowed down a little bit to give a head fake," Carlson said. "He said, 'Just don't do that.' He said I would have beaten him if I had just kept running. It's little things like that that are going to help me make a smoother transition. So I appreciate that."

-- LB Julian Peterson switched jersey numbers from 59 to 98, giving defensive end Baraka Atkins his old number. Peterson wore 98 in college, a combination of his high school number and his junior college number. When he first arrived in Seattle, Grant Wistrom was wearing the number.

QUOTABLE: "Last year, it was like Mr. Toad's Wild Ride -- the wind blew us. You never knew what was going to happen." -- Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren on the team's long snapping last season, which has been solidified by rookie Tyler Schmitt.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

The Seahawks completed the signings of all their rookies when tight end John Carlson inked a deal after missing one day of camp. The previous day, the Seahawks signed Lawrence Jackson, Owen Schmitt and Red Bryant to contracts. Carlson got a four-year, $4.25 million deal, $2.5 million of which is guaranteed, while Jackson signed a five-year, $11.25 million deal with $6.1 million guaranteed.

PLAYER NOTES

-- TE Zac Alcorn was released to make room for the signing of John Carlson. Alcorn was waived with an injury settlement after injuring his back in practice.
-- FB Dan Curran was released to make room for the signing of first-round draft pick Lawrence Jackson.
-- S Mike Green was released to make room for the signing of FB Owen Schmitt. Green was talented but unable to stay healthy, plus his release saves the team more than $1.3 million in salary.
-- DT Kevin Brown was released to make room for the signing of rookie DT Red Bryant.
-- WR Bryan Gilmore was signed in an effort to give the team more depth. He previously played with three other teams, including the San Francisco 49ers.

BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Darryl Tapp vs. Lawrence Jackson for starting DRE - Tapp had four sacks in one game last season but did little else, in part because he was hampered by a hand injury, prompting the Seahawks to draft Jackson. Either way, both will be in the rotation. Jackson has been working at defensive tackle in the nickel defensive, rushing over the guard.

OTHER BATTLE FRONTS: WR Ben Obomanu was chastised several times by coach Mike Holmgren for running poor routes, while WR Logan Payne continues to impress with his catching ability. CB Kevin Hobbs may be pushing Josh Wilson, last year's second-round pick, for the fourth corner spot.

ROOKIE REPORT: Lawrence Jackson is battling for a starting spot at RDE; John Carlson is slotted to be the starting TE; DT Red Bryant continues to impress, opening more eyes with his strength and surprising quickness in the first few days of camp; FB Owen Schmitt should shine more once full pads are put on; K Brandon Coutu is battling veteran Olindo Mare for the starting spot.



Related Stories
Seahawks Sign John Carlson
 -by NorthwestFootball.net  Jul 26, 2008
Training Camp Day 1: Holmgren Takes Stock
 -by NorthwestFootball.net  Jul 25, 2008
2008 Seahawks Training Camp Preview
 -by NorthwestFootball.net  Jul 24, 2008

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