By Danny O'Neil
Three things we learned and three things we're still trying to figure out after the Seahawks' three-day rookie minicamp:
THREE THINGS WE LEARNED
1. Tight end Luke Willson is not some long-shot project.
While plenty of people arched an eyebrow over the fact Seattle used a fifth-round pick on a backup tight end from Rice who caught nine passes as a senior, Willson was the one rookie who most strikingly stood out over the three-day minicamp. He was slowed by a high-ankle sprain his final collegiate season and also a lower-back issue, but he's healthy now and he made the play of the day Friday when he ran caught the ball on a crossing pattern, and then not only beat the defensive back but turned the corner and ran away for a touchdown.
Willson is the fastest tight end on this team and someone Seattle very well may use to stretch the field this season.
2. Tony McDaniel might be this year's version of Barrett Ruud in Seattle.
You remember Ruud, right? Veteran middle linebacker who signed with Seattle last offseason as a veteran failsafe in case the team didn't draft a middle linebacker capable of starting right away. Well, Seattle wound up with Bobby Wagner, who showed early in training camp he was more than ready to start, leading to Ruud's trade to New Orleans for a seventh-round pick.
A year later, Seattle is looking to see if another rookie can step into a starting role, only this time it's defensive tackle Jesse Williams, the fifth-round pick out of Alabama. So while the presumption was that McDaniel was signed this offseason to step in to the vacancy at defensive tackle, the reality is that he might be the veteran insurance if a rookie – in this case Williams – isn't ready.
3. Chris Harper has that gift of grab.
He only spent two and a half seasons at receiver at Kansas State, playing quarterback before that, but Seattle's fourth-round pick sure is smooth when it comes to catching the football. He's a big receiver, not in terms of height so much as his body type. Harper is 6 feet 1, which is 3 inches shorter than Sidney Rice, but Harper outweighs Rice by almost 30 pounds.
"It gives me an advantage as far as the point of attack when the ball's in the air," Harper said of his size. "When they want to get in pushing matches, I usually come out on top of those."
After three days of the minicamp, coach Pete Carroll was already imagining how Harper would contribute to the team's group of receivers.
"There's a case of a guy that early on, he'll go right in with the first group," Carroll said. "He'll get reps with those guys early on so we can see what he can do."
THREE THINGS WE'RE STILL TRYING TO FIGURE OUT
1. Why Tharold Simon spent so much time in the water line?
He's a 6-foot-2 cornerback who's tough and feisty, which is exactly the flavors that Seattle prefers in its cornerbacks. He may not, however, be in the greatest shape, according to Carroll.
"I don't know what kind of condition he's in yet," Carroll said of Simon, "but we'll get him stronger and get him right. By the time we get through camp, I would think he can compete with our guys. He looked kind of in the fashion of guys that we like."
2. What exactly Seattle has in mind for Spencer Ware.
The Seahawks drafted him out of LSU with the intention of shifting him to fullback, and that's where he's going to be competing for a roster spot, according to Carroll. So why was Ware still getting turns carrying the ball during this weekend's minicamp? It certainly points to the possibility that he'll be more than just a blocker in Seattle's offense. Could he be someone Seattle looks at as a third-down back, who is involved in the passing game whether it's in terms of protection or receptions? It's something to keep an eye on.
3. Can offensive tackle Michael Bowie play his way onto this roster?
He was the last of Seattle's 11 selections in this year's draft and one of three offensive linemen Seattle drafted in the seventh round. As an offensive tackle, though, he plays a position where Seattle needs depth as Frank Omiyale – the team's third tackle last year – has not been re-signed.
Bowie played left tackle only during his first weekend, and at 330 pounds he clearly stands out as one of the more physically imposing rookies. He has only one season of major-college experience having spent two years at junior college, transferring to Oklahoma State where he played in 2011 only to be dismissed from the team the following August, which is a primary reason he was not picked before the seventh round.
His first weekend with the team showed he'll have a shot at making it, though.