Training Camp Digest (8/3 – 8/6): Kennedy Finally Goes to Canton, and the Search for a Veteran Receiver Goes Down the Rabbit Hole

This weekend, Cortez Kennedy became the second career Seahawk to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame. 

Nose tackles don’t typically become household names.  Their job is mainly to plug up run lanes and occupy blockers so that the rest of the defense is free to make plays.  For his part, Kennedy always did his job like the good team player he was, routinely occupying three and even four blockers on every play.  But just as routinely, he would bull through all of those blockers and tackle on the ballcarrier, too.

Most of us already know Kennedy’s stats and accolades by heart.  He dominated offenses like few interior defensive linemen ever have or ever will, and now his accomplishments have at long last received the official recognition they so richly deserve.  As at the end of any great performance, the only thing left is to stand and applaud.

*        *        *

Antonio Bryant’s comeback is over, at least for now.  After ten days in camp, Bryant was released to make room for kicker Carson Wiggs, who was released himself a few days prior to clear up a roster spot for another veteran receiver tryout, Braylon Edwards.  Bryant looked good for the first few practices before suffering a hamstring injury that restricted him to the sidelines and ultimately earned him a shove out the door.

Today, the Seahawks took advantage of the players’ day off to host a workout for yet another veteran wideout, Terrell Owens.  No, that isn’t a typo, Terrell Owens really is in Seattle today, and from the sound of things he may very well be signed to the roster in the near future.  [UPDATE: scratch that, Owens just agreed to a one year deal.  Wiggs, you might not want to unpack your suitcase just yet.]

Is Owens really the answer for Seattle?  The man turned 38 last December, he sat out all of 2011 after tearing his ACL in the offseason, and his feuds with coaches and quarterbacks alike are both numerous and legendary.

But even though I can’t even begin to count the number of alarm bells that go off in my head at the mere thought of Owens in a Seahawks jersey, there’s also a possibility that signing him could go very, very well for the Hawks.  For one, the man has a proven track record on the field.  In 15 NFL seasons, he’s averaged 14.8 yards per reception, 4.9 receptions per game, and 72.8 yards per game.  Even when you look at just his stats for the last two seasons, he still averaged 14.3 yards per reception, 4.2 receptions per game, and 60.4 yards per game.  Those stats look even better when you consider that he put up those numbers on some truly awful teams (the 6-10 Bills in 2009 and the 4-12 Bengals in 2010).

Physical condition shouldn’t be a problem.  According to Mike Sando, Owens’ 40 yard dash time for the Seahawks today was 4.45 seconds, so he’s still got plenty of straight line speed.  And after a bout of recent financial problems, he’s got plenty of motivation to perform in 2012. 

The one wild card here is Owens’ behavior.  If his season in Buffalo taught us anything, it’s that he actually is capable of shutting up and just playing, but if there’s one thing that Owens craves above all else, it’s attention.  I remember once talking to a guy who used to handle player interviews for NFL Films, and he said that Owens was by far the strangest interview he ever conducted.  To paraphrase, Owens didn’t come off as a bad guy, it was more a sense that there was something vital missing in his personality, a small emptiness that he’s only ever been able to fill by attracting the attention of others.

If he’s still capable of playing like the T.O. of old, here’s hoping that Carroll can find a way to keep him from acting out like the T.O. of old as well.

*        *        *

Here’s the current Did Not Participate list: LB Bobby Wagner, WR Doug Baldwin, LB Alan Bradford, LB Matt McCoy, DE Red Bryant, TE Anthony McCoy, and professional question mark Jameson Konz, mostly for minor nagging complaints.  Don’t be surprised if WRs Ricardo Lockette and Kris Durham join the list soon, as both suffered injuries (knee and hip, respectively) in Sunday’s team scrimmage.

T James Carpenter and CB Walter Thurmond are, as always, still listed as Physically Unable to Play.

*        *        *

Speaking  of Sunday, the team scrimmage told us about as much as team scrimmages ever do.  Namely, the defense is further along than the offense at this point in training camp, and therefore had a better showing, with DEs Pierre Allen, Bruce Irvin, and Cordarro Law and DT Pep Levingston standing out in particular.

Not every defender played equally well.  Sixth round pick CB Jeremy Lane showed he’s still having trouble containing his temper by getting into fights with Ben Obomanu and Golden Tate.  Lane was ejected after throwing a punch at Tate.  The kid is fast and talented, but coaches don’t tend to put up for long with a guy who picks fights with his teammates.

All three quarterbacks struggled to some degree, with Wilson turning in the best stats, followed by Flynn and Jackson.  However, it should be noted that doesn’t mean much since their performances correspond to the defense each faced: Jackson played against the first string defense, Flynn the second, and Wilson the third.

Marshawn Lynch was outstanding, racking up 125 yards on 9 carries with a long of 70.  It should also be noted that Lynch’s 70 yard run was stopped short at the ten yard line when Irvin ran him down from behind.

Undrafted rookie Phil Bates was the scrimmage’s top receiver, catching 4 passes for 51 yards.

*        *        *

On defense, Clinton McDonald is having a great camp.  Despite playing with a cast on one arm, he’s holding up against blockers and getting good penetration, too.  That reminds me: Kelly Jennings is still not a Seahawk.  Hell yes.

Barrett Ruud is finally getting reps on the practice field.  The general consensus seems to be that he’s playing well and moving much better than one would expect from a guy who’s coming back from a knee injury.

Sixth rounder Winston Guy has been turning heads with his physical play ever since the pads went on.  He and Jeron Johnson look to be the primary backups at safety headed into the season, although there’s still plenty of time for other players to edge them out.

Heath Farwell is still playing surprisingly well at middle linebacker, reacting quickly to pick off a pass from Flynn on Saturday.  That is bad news for Matt McCoy, as Farwell is the better of the two on special teams.

*        *        *

The biggest surprise on the other side of the ball has been the play of supposed project-player J.R. Sweezy, who is attempting to make a position switch from defensive tackle to offensive guard.  During Sunday’s team scrimmage he got some reps with the first team offense at right guard (Moffitt is currently getting some just-in-case reps at center with the second team), and believe it or not he held his own.  Said Carroll afterwards, “He’s by far the quickest lineman we have.”

Not many people have taken notice yet, but WR Lavasier Tuinei is quietly having himself a solid camp.  Given the logjam at wide receiver he’s still a long shot to make the team, but he’s got a better than average chance to be added to the practice squad.

TE Sean McGrath appears to be in the same boat as Tuinei.  He doesn’t do anything spectacular, but he’s always where he’s supposed to be and he catches everything thrown his way.  However, the only way he’s likely to make the final cut is if the team decides to keep four tight ends and cuts either Cameron Morrah or Anthony McCoy; in that eventuality, McCoy would be the presumed odd man out, given his lingering injury and stone hands.

Golden Tate has a few bad drops to his name, but is performing well overall.  If anyone has been edging closer to earning the second wide receiver spot opposite Sidney Rice, it’s him.

Matt Flynn still appears to be outperforming Jackson and Wilson.  However, there’s been no word on when a winner in the three-way competition might be called.  There comes a point when you’re just dragging out the inevitable at the expense of taking reps away from your presumed starter, and that point may have already arrived.