Kenny Lawler, Malik McDowell shine in rookie camp

posted by Curtis Crabtree -

RENTON -- Rookie mini-camp wrapped up for the Seahawks on Sunday with a non-rookie getting the chance to re-introduce himself.

"Kenny had a really good camp," head coach Pete Carroll said. "...This camp was really good for Kenny, because he really shined throughout the whole thing. We can see him differently than we saw him last year at this same time, so that’s really good for him."

Wide receiver Kenny Lawler had a strong showing throughout the three days of mini-camp. A seventh-round pick last year, Lawler was released at the end of training camp and spent the majority of the season on the team's practice squad.

However, his slight build made it difficult for Lawler to find success against NFL competition in practice and preseason games. He's come back stronger and noticeably bigger this offseason.

"Kenny came back maybe 15 or 17 pounds heavier than he was when he came here last time around," Carroll said. "He just has worked out really hard, he’s more powerful coming off the football and running. He has always had great catching range and skill catching the football."

Lawler was a favorite target of the quarterback group through all three days of practice. Lawler made several nice grabs during Sunday's final practice, including a leaping touchdown down the right side during the team's scrimmage period.

Despite not being a rookie, Lawler was able to participate in the camp due to not having accrued any service time on the team's active roster last year. Quarterback Jake Heaps, linebacker Kache Palacio, tight end Bryce Williams, defensive end Tylor Harris, tight end Marcus Lucas and center Will Pericak among other players on Seattle's roster able to take part.

Here are some additional notes from the conclusion of mini-camp on Sunday:

-- Second-round pick Malik McDowell had a brief scare when he went down to the turf late in the practice and limped to the sidelines after grabbing his left leg. However, it was just a scare and nothing significant.

"He just got stepped on," Carroll said.

McDowell made a strong first impression throughout the weekend. He lined up more inside at tackle on Sunday than he had the previous two days. His explosiveness off the line of scrimmage should translate well to when he begins lining up against stronger competition.

"He’s a different looking athlete than we’ve had," Carroll said. "So his stature – he’s  taller, longer than guys we’ve been able to coach. He’s really quick. He  understands what we’re talking about. We played him a lot at the  five-technique spot just so that we could see him there. He looks really  natural in his movement and kind of his coordination. So we saw nothing  but great stuff. It was a highly successful weekend and him showing us  what we’re getting so it was fun to see that."

Similarly impressive was Seattle's other second-round selection, offensive lineman Ethan Pocic.

Pocic lined up at right tackle throughout the weekend and looked comfortable despite limited experience on the edge.

Pocic looks like a prototypical lineman. While he's played mostly inside during his college career, he did have some experience at tackle as well. Carroll said the team wanted to see just how comfortable he could be on the edge when asked to play there.

"We wanted to make sure we could see him at tackle. He had no problem," Carroll said. "All of the film we watched, it was always impressive how from game to game or even within the game he could demonstrate that he was comfortable at other spots. He’s got a really good background. He was raised great by their program. He’s technique-sound. He’s very bright. He can make a new concept or the way we may talk about a scheme or technique just come to life for you. 

"So, we’ll see how this goes but we know we have flexibility. That’s why he was our favorite guy in the draft because he could play anywhere. He looked very comfortable at right tackle."

-- Undrafted guard Jordan Roos from Purdue was the name that came to Carroll's mind when asked which undrafted player made the biggest impression on him this weekend.

"I thought he looked really good," Carroll said. "That was a really important signing for us, we had targeted him through the draft, and we weren’t able to get him, but he looks like he fits right in. I was really, really happy about that, because we’re trying to keep that whole position as competitive as possible. He looks like he’ll be able to battle, I’m talking with the guys who are going to do the playing, so I think he made a great first impression. We’ve got to get the pads on for those guys, which is a long ways away, but his first impressions were  excellent in this thing.”

-- Tryout quarterback Michael Birdsong out of Tennessee Tech seemed to acquit himself nicely over the three days of rookie camp.

He made strong, accurate throws and showed he can throw well on the move as well.

"I thought Birdsong did very well," Carroll said. "Probably graded out the best of those guys in terms of completion percentage and things like that. He’s competing well to show there, he threw some really good footballs. So they did good stuff, we’ve got decisions to make."

Heaps and undrafted free agent signing Skyler Howard out of West Virginia were the three quarterbacks working the three-day camp for Seattle. Heaps was re-signed to the roster recently and Howard was added after the draft. Birdsong may have been able to convince the team to create room for him on the roster this weekend.

-- Rookie receiver Cyril Grayson was back in camp the last two days after missing Friday's practice to attend graduation at LSU.

Grayson is an unusual case. While he's a rookie, he didn't have to go through the draft process because he didn't play college football and had exhausted all of his eligibility. Grayson was a track athlete at LSU and scholarship rules prohibited him from competing in football while on a track scholarship. 

It gave him the unique opportunity to sign with a team as a free agent without going through the draft. As such, he's been able to practice with the veterans the last several weeks as well.

"The speed is obvious," Carroll said. "He’s got a really good catching range, he’s really natural catching the deep ball, we’ve already seen that. So we know,  ‘OK, he’s really fast, he can catch the deep ball, can we get him lined  up right? Can he get his footwork right? Can he get off the line of  scrimmage? Can he time it up? He’s got a great attitude, he’s got a  wonderful personality."


Photo Credit: TEMPE, AZ - JANUARY 28:  Head coach Pete Carroll of the Seattle Seahawks walks the field during a practice at Arizona State University on January 28, 2015 in Tempe, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

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