Seahawks rookie mini-camp notebook: Many good first impressions

Shaquem Griffin 5-5

RENTON -- The newest class of Seahawks draft picks and undrafted free agents is in the books. The totality of what can be learned from such practices is limited, but nevertheless its the first chance to see the rookie class acclimating to a professional environment for the first time.

The Seahawks had nine draft picks, 15 undrafted free agents and 50 players working out as tryout players over the three-day mini-camp with 37 of those tryout players being rookies.

The following is a compilation of some of the notes from the first practices open to reporters since the season ended in January.

-- Rashaad Penny looks smooth and natural:

Seattle's top draft pick showed many of the attributes that interested the Seahawks over the span of the three-day mini-camp.

Penny showed he was equally capable of catching passes out of the backfield as he is carrying the ball between the tackles. Penny is an incredibly smooth and fluid runner that seemingly has a knack for knowing exactly where the open running late will be.

"Rashaad came out very comfortable," head coach Pete Carroll said. "We moved him around a lot just to see things that he could do, just to start gathering information – a little bit in the running game but more in the passing game just t  see what we could see."

One running back in camp on a tryout basis also seemed to show up regularly through the three days of camp. De'Shawn Jones, a 5-foot-11, 205-pound running back out of FCS Campbell University, showed good quickness and appeared to be a skilled receiver out of the backfield as well. He might get the chance for an extended look after a strong camp.

-- Michael Dickson is a potential weapon as a punter:

A fifth-round pick of the Seahawks, Dickson was the first punter selected in the 2018 NFL Draft after an accomplished career at the University of Texas.

It didn't take long to get a sense for the type of asset Dickson could prove to be for the Seahawks. He was able to hit punts that carried 75 yards, and occasionally more. He can also hit punts with spin that causes them to dart away from a receiver attempting to catch the ball downfield.

"He’s had a chance to show us some stuff," Carroll said. "You saw the competitions that were really just designed to put him under a little bit of observation and also see what he could do. We’ll see. We’ve got time. Plenty of time to figure that out. But he does have an array of things he can do with the ball."

Dickson can also drop kick the ball with relative ease. He showed he was capable of drop kicking a ball through the uprights from well over 50 yards over the course of the weekend.

-- Alex McGough should complete for backup job:

Carroll called McGough the "surprise of the day" on Friday after the team's first practice. He continued his strong showing throughout the weekend.

McGough is pretty clearly the most talented quarterback to handle the rookie mini-camp duties since Russell Wilson was selected in 2012. He seemed to have a strong presence at the line of scrimmage and was a very capable passer as well, particularly on the move.

"He can throw all the passes," Carroll said. "He’s got a big arm. He moves real well. We’ve seen him move a ton in college. I was really anxious to see him in the pocket more because he was so in and out with all the pressure he had to deal with. I thought he was very positive. We’re excited about it. I don’t see any restrictions in the types of things we can do looking at his first few days."

-- Shaquem Griffin was a little too aggressive during his first practice:

Griffin said on Friday that he's ready to turn the page to playing football - a sentiment echoed by head coach Pete Carroll - following all the hoopla that surrounded him leading up to and immediately after the NFL Draft.

That eagerness was shown by how he needed to be told to dial it back just a little after the early stages of practice on Friday.

"We had to slow him down some early on in the practice and in the walk through, he was going too hard. So we had to chill him out a little bit. But he’s very excited about being here. He’s a very good looking prospect. He’s big and fast and had a good feel for what’s going on."

Carroll said that weakside linebacker appears to be the right spot for Griffin as he acclimates into Seattle's defense. It's the same position K.J. Wright has manned in recent seasons.

"I feel pretty comfortable there," Griffin said. "When I was at UCF I played a lot of different positions so I don’t feel uncomfortable moving around. I feel that where they put me at right now is a pretty good fit. It doesn’t matter where I play at as long as I get the opportunity to help better my team in any aspect I’ll play anything."

-- Tre Flowers is the prototypical 'Seahawks' cornerback in build:

It didn't take long to understand why the Seahawks thought they could turn Flowers - a safety at Oklahoma State - into a cornerback.

Flowers has a strikingly similar build to that of former Seahawks cornerbacks Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman, all the way down to the relatively skinny lower legs. At 6-foot-3 and with nearly 34-inch arms, Flowers fits the mold of the type of player Seattle's wants at cornerback.

"This is one that I’m really excited about," Carroll said. "We spotted a player that we thought had special qualities that could be a corner.

"The film that we got off the first couple of days of practice was really positive and we’re really excited about that."

-- Expect the return of the fullback position to Seattle's offense:

While it never disappeared completely, the use of a fullback in the Seahawks' offense has dwindled since the days of Michael Robinson and Derrick Coleman at the position.

The Seahawks currently have four fullbacks on the roster after signing Michigan's Khalid Hill and Slippery Rock's Marcus Martin. Tre Madden and Jalston Fowler are still on the roster after ending the year on injured reserve and the practice squad, respectively.

"It has been a return to the dynamics that that gives you," Carroll said. "We always want to be hard ball and run the thing as we like and that gives us a whole (different) dimension that we've just been without. ... This is a good competition right now and I'm really happy that we have that kind of depth so that we can really check it out and we won't have to just kind of spot play it and we can really go to it and lean on it during the camp time."

-- Rasheem Green and Jacob Martin adapting on the defensive line:

Carroll had significant praise for second-round pick Rasheem Green and the knowledge he seems to be bringing with him from USC to the pros. Green was coached by former Carroll assistant Kenechi Udeze at USC and has been well-versed in the techniques and schemes of Seattle's defense.

"You could see after the first day that he’s really well coached," Carroll said. "You could see that he’s got a real sense for rushing the passer. His movements and kind of his transitions in and out of his movements – he’s an experienced kid for a 20-year old. So that means he’s been coached really well and he’s a good natural athlete. It’s really obvious in the camp. He looks like he would have a chance to do what we need him to do. It doesn’t look like he has a million miles to go."

Jacob Martin, like Griffin, plays really hard and may have trouble showing his best attributes in a non-padded practice setting. Carroll also said that Martin could get a look at linebacker as well as they move into training camp.

"It’s hard to evaluate Jacob because he plays so hard," Carroll said. "He’s a motor guy and a physical guy that runs and hits and does all that, and this camp is not really suited for that. He’s really smart. He showed attention to do the details as he’s picking it up. We’ll know more about him when we see him play. He’s got the potential to play other spots too. So there might be some outside backer in his future too."

-- Earl Thomas seems content to stay away from voluntary practices for now:

Free safety Earl Thomas has not been on hand for the start of the team's offseason workout program. That doesn't appear set to change any time in the imminent future.

All practices and workouts at this stage of the offseason are voluntary. Only the final mini-camp before the summer break in June in mandatory. According to Carroll, Thomas seems to be content working out on his own for now.

"Phase 2 doesn’t look like it’s suiting him right now and so we’ll see what’s happening," Carroll said. "Phase 3 is around the corner for us so we’ll see. We got one more week of Phase 2. Earl had a fantastic offseason and I know he knows how to get in shape. Veterans sometimes look at those rules and they see “voluntary” and they see it differently than other guys. So, we’ll see."

Photo Credit: Seahawks linebacker Shaquem Griffin speaks with reporters following his first practice with the team in rookie mini-camp on Friday. Griffin was a fifth-round pick of the Seahawks last week. (photo by Curtis Crabtree / Sports Radio 950 KJR)

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