Observations From Seahawks Seventh Training Camp Practice: Boye Mafe Flashes Rushing Off Edge – Sports Illustrated

RENTON, Wash. – Welcoming coach Pete Carroll back from a five-day absence after testing positive for COVID-19, the Seahawks returned from a day off and hit the field for their seventh open training camp practice on Friday.
Though highlights were few and far between in a somewhat uneventful non-padded session, several players on both sides of the football stood out with stellar performances heading into Saturday's mock game at Lumen Field. Here are five quick takeaways from Friday's session at the VMAC.
1. Geno Smith and Drew Lock quietly had efficient days and showed off their athleticism as ball carriers.
After finding success with the deep ball in Wednesday's practice, Smith and Lock weren't as aggressive seeking throws downfield on Friday and big plays were hard to come by in part because of extensive goal line work. However, with each seeing some snaps with the first team offense, both quarterbacks were more decisive from the pocket and threw with better anticipation, completing north of 65 percent of their passes apiece during Seattle's team sessions.
Enjoying a strong rebound day after struggling earlier in the week, Smith's highlight came towards the tail end of the practice when he evaded an oncoming pass rush by Darrell Taylor and rolled out to his right to extend the play, eventually finding Tyler Lockett crossing the field for a touchdown. As for Lock, he found Tyler Mabry down the seam for a big gain in 7-on-7 and was victimized by bad luck with Penny Hart dropping a perfectly thrown pass on a skinny post. Both quarterbacks also found success on the ground, with each finding paydirt with a rushing touchdown a piece and picking up multiple first downs using their legs.
2. A deep, underrated tight end group flexes its muscles and displays receiving chops.
All offseason long, Carroll and offensive coordinator Shane Waldron have talked up their tight end group after adding Noah Fant to the mix and re-signing Will Dissly, and on Friday, that group turned in its best practice collectively as receivers. Though he didn't have any explosive receptions, Fant caught a pair of slants from Lock for first down pickups, exhibiting his after the catch ability turning upfield for extra yardage. The reliable Dissly also caught a pair of short passes in 7-on-7, linking up with Smith and Lock on different plays.
Putting their depth at the position on display, Smith hooked up with Colby Parkinson on a fade route during the goal line period, lofting a jump ball for the 6-foot-7 tight end to high point. Despite excellent coverage by safety Josh Jones, his size advantage proved too much to overcome and he hauled in the pass for six points. Even Mabry got into the act, catching a trio of passes on the afternoon to continue a strong training camp thus far. If there's been one constant for the two quarterbacks so far, they both have shown a propensity for seeking out their tight ends in the passing game and using the middle of the field to do so.
3. After waiting his turn, Abraham Lucas received his first shot to work with the first-team offensive line.
Up until Friday, the Seahawks had yet to open up their right tackle competition to Lucas, a third-round pick out of Washington State. Getting his feet underneath him, he has exclusively worked with the second-team offense, often lined up alongside guard Phil Haynes and across from Stone Forsythe. The elder statesman of the tackle group with five starts to his name, Jake Curhan has received the majority of first team snaps with Forsythe rotating in behind him.
But as promised by line coach Andy Dickerson on Wednesday, Lucas would eventually enter the fray and Seattle elevated him to play all of the first team snaps in Friday's session. Without pads on, evaluating a lineman can be a futile exercise – if not impossible – but his athleticism and light feet were evident working into his pass sets against Taylor and Alton Robinson during team drills. Aside from allowing a couple quick pressures to Taylor, he fared well in pass protection and should receive some first-team reps in Saturday's mock scrimmage.
4. Learning in a situational pass rusher role, Boye Mafe has started to make his presence felt rocketing into the backfield.
While other rookies such as cornerback Coby Bryant shined early in camp, Mafe got off to a somewhat slow start during non-padded, OTA-style practices. But as Carroll noted speaking with reporters after Friday's session, the second-round pick jumped off the film once the pads came out starting on Tuesday and he began to flash with his elite physical and athletic traits working off the edge. This trend continued into Friday, as he generated multiple pressures during team drills, including snuffing out a flea flicker and finding his way to Drew Lock to force the play to be blown dead.
Mafe didn't show up only as a pass rusher, either. During an 11-on-11 drill where the offense had to pick up at least four yards to receive a point for a successful play, he astutely reacted to a bubble screen thrown outside of the hash and worked his way through a pair of blocks on the outside to wrap up the receiver at the line of scrimmage. Per Carroll, the Seahawks plan to use the rookie as a specialized rusher to allow him to play faster and pin his ears back off the edge. As evidenced over the past few practices, he could wreak havoc in such a role right away with sights on eventually developing into an every down player.
5. Stepping up with Jordyn Brooks sidelined, Cody Barton keeps making plays defending the run and in coverage.
Sitting out for a second straight practice with what Carroll called a "tweaked hamstring," the Seahawks were without their new field general in Brooks. But the linebacker group didn't miss a beat without him thanks to Barton, who continues to make the most of his first legitimate opportunity to be a starter. Early in the team run session, albeit without the ability to tackle or wrap, Barton perfectly diagnosed a pair of runs by Rashaad Penny and Travis Homer from his weakside linebacker spot and met them at the line of scrimmage. He also hunted down DeeJay Dallas on an off tackle run in the goal line period for a stop.
Not surprisingly given his prior safety background, Barton's play in coverage has been even more impressive. Facing 3rd and 3 and needing to move the chains to stay on the field, Geno Smith tried to connect with Fant working across the middle on a crossing route. But the fourth-year linebacker wasn't having any of it, staying stride for stride with the athletic tight end before extending his left arm out and swatting the pass away for a drive-killing incompletion. Playing fast and confident in the middle, the former Utah standout couldn't have gotten off to a better start to the season as he prepares to replace Bobby Wagner in the lineup in 2022.

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