Seahawks rookie camp: First impressions of Mike Macdonald, Byron Murphy II

RENTON, Wash. — The next phase of a new era of Seattle Seahawks football began with two days of rookie minicamp over the weekend at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center.

The breakdown of the participants was: eight drafted players, 16 rookie free-agent signees and 33 tryout players. Fourteen of the rookie free agents were discussed here, and they were joined by two previously unreported names, Florida Atlantic running back Kobe Lewis and Tennessee wide receiver Dee Williams.



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Williams is listed as a receiver and a return specialist because he didn’t switch to offense until the 2023 season and had only two career catches in college. He did most of his damage on special teams, returning 20 punts for 259 yards with one touchdown last season and averaging 21.4 yards on his 21 kickoff returns. Williams’ hopes of making the team will come down to whether he can be dynamic in the return game during the preseason.

Lewis transferred a couple of times, then landed at FAU, where he rushed for 412 yards and three touchdowns on 85 carries last season. He’s not very big (5-9, 208) nor did he test well (4.55 in the 40), but there are going to be carries available in the preseason because of how light Seattle is at running back, so Lewis will just have to make the most of the opportunities he receives.

Here are notes and takeaways from the first two open practices of the Mike Macdonald era.

Easing into the new job

Macdonald is still getting the hang of being a head coach. His first couple of practices followed a typical structure: special teams for the skill guys while the quarterbacks and linemen did positional work, individual drills, full team period, seven-on-seven, more team drills then a walk-through “just to get some cheap reps at the end,” he said.

For most of the weekend, Macdonald just observed while his assistants were more hands-on. The structure of practice, including Macdonald’s level of involvement, will be fluid as he and his staff continually evaluate their process.

“As we get going, I’ll be more involved with the whole team, and then when we get down to the nitty-gritty with the defense, then I’ll probably spend more time with those guys when we’re separate,” Macdonald said. “Working through all that, it’s adjustable and right now I just want to get a great feel for the team and the guys and what we’re coaching, and it’s really cool to see how it all comes together from individual (drills) to team. I’m an observational guy, but that’s the thought.”

An interesting dynamic to monitor in that regard will be how involved Macdonald chooses to be in the offense. His predecessor stepped in at times but generally gave the coordinators space to execute the vision and play his preferred brand of football. But Pete Carroll was a seasoned vet when he came to Seattle, and his coordinators weren’t as green as Ryan Grubb, who is coaching in the NFL for the first time. Macdonald has to manage that while building a rapport with first-time defensive coordinator Aden Durde, who called plays over the weekend because, Macdonald said, “I think I need to figure out how to run a practice first.”

Low volume, at least for now

Friday’s practice didn’t start with music, but after a few drills, a playlist came on at a low volume from one of the speakers on the southeast side of the field. Macdonald said practices in Baltimore had music playing, but it was “probably not as much as we’ll have here. We’ll kick it up a little bit, but (we’re) trying to find the right balance.”

Part of the balance is figuring out whether to blast the music so it’s audible from every corner of the practice field or keep it low so the staff can easily communicate with all the new players.

“We’re working through it,” said Macdonald, adding he was unsure of who put together the playlists we heard Friday and Saturday but he might implement a system where players can curate a session if they make plays in practice. “You want to bring the juice and have energy, and have the music flowing. That’s all good, but you also want to temper that with, ‘OK, we’re trying to get some teaching done at the same time.’”

First impressions of Murphy

First-round pick Byron Murphy II stands out among the other defensive tackles in part of his build. He’s a solid, well-put-together 306 pounds. Murphy developed a reputation in high school and college for practically living in the weight room, and it shows up when looking at him up close.

In drills, he was quick with strong hands. The defensive linemen don’t really get to show what they can do until the padded practices, so there wasn’t much to learn about Murphy over the weekend. Macdonald said the first-rounder had a “good start” but was also critical of Murphy’s conditioning.

“We’re not going to crown him right now like he’s the next best defensive tackle of all time, but we’re really excited about it,” Macdonald said. “He shows all the bend and the strength at the point of attack and acceleration. Need to get in a little bit better shape, so we can get through a whole practice and fly around like we expect him to, but he understands that just like the rest of these guys; it’s so hard to stay in this elite shape the way the calendar is set up. He’ll get there, but we’ll be pushing them in the meantime.”

Lineup notes

The “first team” lineup along the offensive line I saw most often was, from left to right: Garret Greenfield, Sataoa Laumea, Mike Novitsky, Christian Haynes and Michael Jerrell.

At Utah, Laumea — a sixth-round pick — played two years at guard then moved to right tackle out of necessity for the 2022 and 2023 seasons. He said he feels most comfortable at guard, which explains Seattle sliding him inside. Haynes played exclusively at right guard in college, so I’d imagine he’ll stay there and compete with Anthony Bradford for the starting job while Laumea is groomed at both guard spots in the event he has to come in as an injury replacement during his rookie year.



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Fifth-round rookie Nehemiah Pritchett worked mostly at right cornerback. His former Auburn teammate, sixth-round pick D.J. James, played nickel. It’s a new position for James, who was an outside cornerback in college.

Nickel corners can be very impactful if they can not only play man coverage but also demonstrate awareness while playing zone. That requires athleticism, anticipation and eye discipline, which is why James said he’s looking forward to the switch (Macdonald says the goal is to play him on the outside as well). James had excellent ball production in two years at Auburn because he was a quick processor and understood when to break on the ball. You can see the potential for that to carry over to the NFL.

“I love the inside,” James said. “I get to work my feet. It’s more of an eye progression type of deal. Just working where your eyes are at, looking at the quarterback and getting your eyes to your man and then to your landmark. It’s making you use your brain, and that’s what I like to do while playing football: working, using my brain and playing smart football.”

Fourth-round rookie tight end AJ Barner didn’t practice because of a hamstring injury he sustained during the pre-draft process.

“I’m a competitor and I love being out there, and one thing with me is I’m gonna do everything I can to be back as fast as possible,” Barner said. “I’m on a track to be back really soon. Whatever they ask me to do, I’m going to ask for a little more to get back as soon as possible. But I’m feeling really, really good and should be out here any day.”

Under-the-radar standouts

Chevan Cordeiro was the better of the two quarterbacks in terms of accuracy, but neither of them flashed much in the two practices. Tryout quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa was on the wrong end of Friday’s most notable defensive play when he airmailed a crossing route into the hands of cornerback Andrew Hayes.

The quarterback play made it difficult to evaluate the wide receivers, but one of the guys who stood out was Idaho’s Hayden Hatten, who hooked up with Cordeiro a few times during the team periods. On Saturday, he created separation from Pritchett on a comeback route and caught a pass from Cordeiro for a decent gain. Seattle has plenty of talent at receiver, but there’s occasionally a guy who comes out of nowhere and makes an impression. Hatten might be that guy this offseason.

On defense, that guy might be outside linebacker Sunny Anderson from Grambling State. He was Edge35 in Dane Brugler of The Athletic’s draft guide after recording five sacks with two forced fumbles at Grambling State last season, and he flashed some nice pass rush moves in limited action over the weekend. On Sunday, Seattle signed nose tackle Buddha Jones, who participated in camp on a tryout basis but played well enough to earn a spot on the 90-man roster.

(Photo of Byron Murphy II, left, and Mike Macdonald: Steph Chambers / Getty Images)

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