RENTON, Wash. — After a two-day holdout due to a minor contract issue, rookie cornerback Devon Witherspoon joined his teammates at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center for Day 3 of training camp Friday afternoon.
Witherspoon, the No. 5 selection in the 2023 draft, officially signed his four-year contract worth a fully guaranteed $31.8 million with a signing bonus of $20.1 million, according to Over the Cap. Rookie contracts are slotted under the league’s collective bargaining agreement, so holdouts that run into training camp are rare. They tend to center around the scheduling of signing-bonus payments.
The Seahawks don’t make their rookies available to the media until Sunday, so there’s no official word from Witherspoon as to what exactly caused the delay. Coach Pete Carroll also did not address the media on Friday.
With Witherspoon back Friday, Seattle had its first practice with the entire roster present. The Seahawks also made two additional transactions: Running back Wayne Taulapapa was signed, while cornerback Montrae Braswell was waived.
Seattle finds itself in need of running backs as both Kenneth Walker III and rookie second-round pick Zach Charbonnet were non-participants on Friday. Walker has missed the last two days of practice, while Friday was Charbonnet’s first day as a spectator.
Here are some additional notes and observations from Friday at camp:
— Seattle Seahawks (@Seahawks) July 28, 2023
1. Witherspoon ran with the starters in minicamp but was with the No. 2 defense at left cornerback on Friday. Tariq Woolen, the team’s starting right cornerback, is still on the physically unable to perform list. Veterans Tre Brown and Michael Jackson continue to serve as the first-team unit. Jackson in particular is making a strong case to keep that job and had some great battles with receiver DK Metcalf on Friday.
It started during a red zone period when quarterback Geno Smith threw to Metcalf on four straight plays with Jackson in coverage. The first pass was batted at the line by outside linebacker Darrell Taylor. The second pass was a go ball that fell incomplete in part because Jackson boxed Metcalf out as the two ran step for step toward the back pylon.
On the third attempt, Metcalf found space in the end zone and nearly caught a touchdown, but Jackson swooped in at the last second to knock it away — then roared in celebration. On the final play, Metcalf got a step on Jackson, who grabbed his jersey and held it for about 7 yards until the go ball fell incomplete. The official threw a flag.
During a two-minute drill later in the day, Smith threw a jump ball to Metcalf in the end zone. Jackson jumped with him, got a hand on the ball, jostled with the receiver and poked it away at the last second. Smith and Metcalf got Jackson at the end of practice with a touchdown strike in the back of the end zone.
“It’s fun being able to see Mike Jack because Mike Jack had a great year last year and he’s picking up where he left off,” receiver Tyler Lockett said after practice. “He’s playing great and he’s trying to challenge all of us at receiver. He’s doing great at being able to understand route combinations and plays when it comes to down and distances. He made a couple good plays out here today and he’s made a couple of good plays the first three days. I’m excited to see him battle.”
Metcalf is a good litmus test for cornerbacks in practice. His combination of size, strength, athleticism and chemistry with Smith makes him a tough cover, particularly in a setting where the corners can’t be very aggressive.
Jackson played well in the spring and has carried that into camp. At the same time, his holding call and the touchdown he surrendered late are the types of plays that give guys like Brown and Witherspoon room to challenge for starting roles.
Seattle’s defensive players and coaches are excited about the depth they have in the cornerback room — “This is probably the best depth we’ve had since I’ve been here,” safety Quandre Diggs said — and it’s easy to see why they feel that way. Between Woolen, Jackson and Brown, Seattle has three starting-caliber cornerbacks in addition to a top-five pick in Witherspoon who should soon fall into that category as well.
2. Seattle’s second-string offense had some trouble keeping the ball out of harm’s way. During the day’s first team period, quarterback Drew Lock rolled left and threw an ill-advised sideline pass in traffic to one of his tight ends. The ball was tipped and intercepted by linebacker Vi Jones, who is competing for one of the backup spots behind Bobby Wagner and Devin Bush.
During a red zone period, Lock flicked a pass to Griffin Hebert underneath, but as soon as the rookie turned to take his first step after controlling the ball, safety Joey Blount flew in, knocked the ball into the air, caught it and ran roughly 80 yards the other way for a touchdown. It was a bang-bang play so it’s unclear whether it was an interception or fumble recovery, but it was a heady play nonetheless by Blount, a second-year player out of Virginia trying to make the team as the fourth safety behind Diggs, Jamal Adams and Julian Love.
A Detroit Lions castoff had his prayer answered, then became ‘the backbone of the Seahawks’
3. The third-string defense generated a turnover, too. In the final red zone period, undrafted rookie Holton Ahlers was picked off by fellow undrafted rookie Patrick O’Connell, an inside linebacker from Montana.
4. Free-agent signee Evan Brown and fourth-round pick Olu Oluwatimi appeared to be alternating practices running with the starters at center. Brown was the guy I saw most often with Smith and the first-team offense Friday, while Oluwatimi was the guy Thursday.
On Thursday, Smith said Oluwatimi has the presence of a veteran and has thus far been very committed to working, studying and being reliable when he’s on the field. The quarterback also commended Brown for quickly picking up Seattle’s system after playing in a different scheme in Detroit the last few years.
“Both guys are doing a great job,” Smith said. “I’ve been impressed with Olu, with just how he picks things up. Evan is a vet and he’s versatile. He’s really smart in there. They’re all communicating, and that offensive line is a unit, so all of those guys work together as a unit. They’ve all been doing a great job, and I just go out there and try to do my job and not worry about who’s up front. I don’t notice a difference when either guy is in.”
5. Lock’s highlight play of the day was a play-action deep shot to Dee Eskridge for what may have been a touchdown in a real game. Lock put enough air under the ball to get it over cornerback Arquon Bush but had enough touch to drop it in front of the safety lurking over the top. Lock is facing an uphill battle as he throws to backups in practice, but Eskridge has been a reliable target this offseason. He’s quietly off to a strong start in camp.
“We see him out there scoring a touchdown every single (day),” Lockett said.
(Photo: Lindsey Wasson / Associated Press)
The Football 100, the definitive ranking of the NFL’s best 100 players of all time, goes on sale this fall. Pre-order it here.