Harper, Willson look to find roles with Seahawks

By CURTIS CRABTREE
Associated Press

RENTON, Wash. (AP) - The Seattle Seahawks already had a deep roster even before the NFL draft.

For the 11 draft picks selected by Seattle, just finding a way onto the roster by the end of training camp will be tough.

However, two of the Seahawks selections have already made an impression with coach Pete Carroll during the team's three-day rookie minicamp.

Fourth-round receiver Chris Harper and fifth-round tight end Luke Willson each caught the ball well during the minicamp and Carroll is already envisioning roles for the pair for the start of training camp in July.

"Those guys will get tossed right in with the first group," Carroll said. "First dozen plays they'll be out there."

Being able to fill specific roles will benefit both Harper and Willson in their pursuit of making the Seahawks roster.

The Seahawks drafted Willson with the hope his speed would give them a downfield receiving threat they don't have at the tight end position.

Willson made an immediate impression on the first day of minicamp. Willson hauled in a pass from recently signed quarterback Jerrod Johnson along the left sideline and managed to turn up field and run away from a pair of defensive backs for a long touchdown.

"We really did give him a chance in this camp to show stuff," Carroll said. "We gave him a lot of balls and we wanted to see if his speed would show up downfield and it certainly does. He's very fast. He'll be our fastest tight end in camp."

Willson dealt with a high ankle sprain and back issues through the duration of his senior season at Rice University. He caught just nine passes for 126 yards and two touchdowns last season before Seattle selected him in the fifth round. He began to feel better soon after the season ended and ran a 4.5-second 40-yard dash at his pro day catching the eye of NFL scouts.

"I feel great out here now," Willson said. "I feel like I'm moving around pretty good. A lot easier and a lot more free than I did it last season."

In Harper, the Seahawks wanted a bigger body at the receiver position. At 234 pounds, Harper has a body-type unlike any other receiver on Seattle's roster.

"He's a big, solid dude like we thought," Carroll said. "He really has great hands. He has really classy hands. I don't think that there's any ball that he's out of. If he can get his hands on it, he has a chance to catch it."

Percy Harvin, Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin are all smaller players. Sidney Rice is tall and lanky. Harper brings a solid, strong frame to the position the coaching staff was seeking in the draft.

"We kind of already knew who Chris was and he hasn't disappointed," receivers coach Kippy Brown said. "As a matter of fact, he's probably more athletic than I thought."

After a slow first day of minicamp, Harper started to show his skills the final two days of camp.

"I pride myself on making all the tough catches," Harper said. "... I just want to bring my physical style of play to the team and that's something that we definitely have a receiver already, but I just want to add to that."

Both still face an uphill climb to find playing time if they can make the roster. Seattle has invested significant money at both positions in recent seasons. Zach Miller will be the highest-paid tight end in the league next season. Rice signed a big free agent deal two years ago and Seattle gave Harvin a lucrative extension after trading for him in the offseason.

But through their first taste of the NFL, both Harper and Willson appear to be up for the challenge.

"Everybody looked like they fit into the role that we had hoped for with a million miles to go," Carroll said.


(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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