The Seattle Seahawks have embarked on their 10th season in the Pete Carroll/John Schneider era, and the 2nd season into the retool I’ve previously coined “The Purge.” After experiencing more attrition than the seven kingdoms of Westeros, Schneider has identified some promising talent, while retaining his most important cogs, Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner. Attention has shifted to the rest of the team, which is largely a work in progress. Far removed from showcasing a legendary defense, Seattle’s offense has now become the least concerning from a personnel standpoint. As we draw closer to the first preseason game, a bit of roster-fog has begun to clear at training camp.
QB (2): Russell Wilson, Geno Smith
We’ve likely already seen Russell Wilson master the physical aspect of playing quarterback. He’ll continue diligently training fundamentals, mechanics and keeping his body in tip-top shape, but these will be marginal gains, if not routine maintenance. As athleticism declines, he will rely more on the cerebral side of his game, which is where I believe he sees his final form. Russell realizes the importance of getting off on the right foot with so many young, impressionable skill players. Creating his Summer Camp series allowed him to both bond and brand without sacrificing one for the other, something he admittedly found hard to accomplish previously, due to time management. We know being the highest paid will only motivate him to reach new heights, but how that manifests itself remains to be seen.
Regarding the backup job, Geno Smith’s experience over Paxton Lynch is evident. More poised on the field and on the podium, Geno looks and speaks like he’s here to work towards one more crack at a starting gig. With Lynch, I still only see a raw athlete with a live arm. All too often Lynch looked befuddled pre-snap, sometimes forced to take unnecessary timeouts. Relying too much on arm strength. Not getting through a full progression. Throwing his receivers into dangerous hit boxes. This cannot happen at the NFL level. With his guaranteed salary being paid by the Denver Broncos, the Seahawks are essentially getting a free look at the former first rounder, who, barring an immaculate preseason, should land on the practice squad.
RB (5): Chris Carson, Rashaad Penny, J.D. McKissic, Travis Homer, Nick Bellore
With Mike Davis’ departure, there are about 100 carries that need disposition. Carson will still be the featured back, complemented by Rashaad Penny who likely takes the bulk of Davis’ volume. Expect well over 100 carries from him in 2019. J.D. McKissic has picked up where he left off, showing positional flexibility. J.D. is rumored to be included in the battle for return duties, though he is now dealing with a minor foot sprain. The real question comes down to rookie Travis Homer and C.J. Prosise, who did manage to play in the scrimmage game after missing some days for the flu. Carroll’s draft day presser suggested Homer could immediately be a core special teamer. Between that, more years of club control, and health, the hype train for C.J. appears to be approaching its final stop. We should anticipate Prosise and Homer playing a lot Thursday if McKissic sits. Seattle will continue to roster a fullback and it appears Nick Bellore has no competition. I’ve seen it suggested Bo Scarbrough try to make the switch, but fullback is a dead position to most teams in the league. Bo likely prefers to put running back on film this preseason, once he’s stashed or cut.
OL (9): Duane Brown, Jamarco Jones, Mike Iupati, Ethan Pocic, Justin Britt, Joey Hunt, D.J. Fluker, Germain Ifedi, George Fant
Though known for its run blocking prowess, Seattle’s offensive line took large strides in pass protection throughout 2018, ranking 17th in pass blocking efficiency (per PFF) and 8th in pass block win rate (per ESPN). This year, the starting five return minus J.R. Sweezy, who has team-swapped to the Arizona Cardinals with Mike Iupati.
There are big expectations for this group to build upon last season, perhaps none more critical than those of Duane Brown, who believes they can be the best unit in the league. No matter how you define “cohesion” as it pertains to unit chemistry, it matters most to the offensive line. Brown, Britt, and Fluker are the only starters under contract in 2020. For now, the group is fine with a set starting five, but there will be injuries. Mike Solari needs to identify one more guard and tackle he can count on by 2020. A wildcard to throw in the mix is Jordan Roos. Training at both left and right guard, the heavily-bearded Boilermaker should not be forgotten. Fluker left the field for a drive during the scrimmage game, and Roos stepped in for the 1st team offense. Not Jordan Simmons, who some might’ve presumed.
WR (5): Tyler Lockett, D.K Metcalf, Jaron Brown, David Moore, Gary Jennings
Of the twelve receivers, six are rookies, and only two have more than three accrued seasons. Thus far, it seems Wilson has picked up where he left off with Keenan Reynolds on the field and twice now on the podium, mentioning strong work ethic and leadership qualities. If there’s something this group will miss in the wake of Doug Baldwin’s retirement, it’s leadership. Four months away from turning 26, Keenan is feeling the pressure to make a roster in 2019. When Seattle drafted three wide receivers, things obviously didn’t get any easier. Size and role will likely determine who gets the final spot. If Seattle carries six wide receivers, do they go smaller slot or bigger wideout? Keenan’s biggest threat, John Ursua, certainly wants to get a jump start on his career, being an older rookie himself. If it’s to be a larger frame, Malik Turner has six regular season games under his belt and a full year learning this offense. He should get the early nod over Ferguson and Darboh, but the team has big bodies. Metcalf, Jennings, Brown and Moore are all over the thresholds of 6 feet and 200 lbs. It would seem to me they need another small guy if Lockett ever comes off the field.
TE (4): Ed Dickson, Will Dissly, Nick Vannett, Jacob Hollister
Nick Vannett is in a contract year and unlikely to be featured the way Seattle envisioned when drafting him three years ago. Like Luke Willson, I expect Vannett to test free agency, before the team approaches to extend him at a discount. Even if Vannett is featured and relatively productive, I wouldn’t say no to a 4th or 5th round compensatory pick in addition to 2019 contributions. Dissly is running with more confidence but has been quiet in practices I’ve attended.
Jacob Hollister is the best receiver of the tight ends, and it just so happens he’s starting on special teams. Remember: the former Patriot was slated to be heavily featured in New England’s tight end friendly offense. Then, in early January, he was designated to Injured Reserve, just missing the Super Bowl run. With Ed Dickson’s knee injury, expect to see a lot of Hollister, who has been working with both 1st and 2nd team offense, depending on the personnel package.
DL (11): Rasheem Green, L.J. Collier, Quinton Jefferson, Ezekiel Ansah, Cassius Marsh, Poona Ford, Naz Jones, Al Woods, Earl Mitchell, Barkevious Mingo, Jacob Martin
Before the Jarran Reed verdict, uncertainty already clouded this defensive line. Collier’s injury news piled onto the already full plate of Rasheem Green, who I expect to start at defensive end. Barkevious Mingo has transitioned to full time pass rusher, the position he began his career at. Pete Carroll reminded us Mingo can supplement linebacker in emergency situations. Prior to camp, I considered him a cap casualty due to the depth at linebacker. Now, he’s a firm lock. I was recently told that Ziggy Ansah is planning to be ready for Week 1 but it’s likely to be pass rush-by-committee until returning to full strength.
The run defense will survive with Al Woods, Earl Mitchell, and Poona Ford. Justin Britt recently alluded to Ford having the potential to be one of the league’s best defensive tackles. The high praise isn’t necessarily unfounded. Ford had PFF’s highest run defense grade of all rookie interior defenders since they began grading in 2006. That includes Aaron Donald’s 2014 campaign! If Poona develops a pass rush, it could hedge a doomsday scenario in which Reed is lost to free agency after this season.
LB (5): K.J. Wright, Bobby Wagner, Mychal Kendricks, Cody Barton, Ben Burr-Kirven
The best positional group of the entire team. Finally, the linebackers get the respect they’ve long clamored for. I’m carrying five instead of six based on prior comments about Mingo. Cody Barton has been the most impressive rookie of the entire class. Though most comfortable at middle linebacker, Barton has experience outside, and the SAM position is his best bet at starting as soon as possible. It’s not going to take much for him to push Kendricks and that’s saying something. Kendricks is a very good player with a lot of experience in the league.
For now, Barton’s groin injury helps Kendricks, Calitro, and yes, Shaquem Griffin, who I’ve left off the 53-man roster for now. Shaquem is not a lock. His job is not secured. Seattle overhauled linebacker depth by drafting two and retaining three very good starters. Not to mention Austin Calitro — who started five games in 2018 — is still around. Shaquem cannot rest on the fact that he’s a special teams gunner. He’ll need to show he’s improved in run fit discipline, and that he can rush the passer.
DB (9): Shaquill Griffin, Tre Flowers, Akeem King, Jamar Taylor, Tedric Thompson, Ugo Amadi, Bradley McDougald, Marquise Blair, Deshawn Shead
Going to the scrimmage game allowed me to get a sense of the pecking order at nickel corner, and where a few guys fit best. I found players understanding multiple positions ever-noteworthy, as well as the frequency of cover 1, 2 and 3 the team would deploy when Ugo Amadi was on the field versus Tedric Thompson. Amadi, Taylor, King, and Shead all played multiple positions. Thomas, Thorpe, Reed, Blair, and Luani stuck to one. Versatility may help make the team but being a jack of all trades simply means you aren’t excelling beyond the basic understanding at either position.
Take Akeem King. It’s great he’s been here for a year learning both inside and out, but his larger body type is best suited outside. His only chance to start is at nickel though, and he may not fit as naturally as Taylor or Amadi against small, shifty receivers. Furthermore, you can’t just throw any ole’ Marcus Burley type out there anymore. Nickel cornerback has become increasingly valuable due to the frequency of 11 personnel shown by modern day offenses. However, the frequency of finding a human like Julio Jones remains rare, and those guys have become somewhat easier to defend thanks to the LOB influence on measurable baselines for outside cornerbacks. The result? Slot receivers have become the most dangerous weapons in the game. This is in part a reaction to the league trending towards larger cornerbacks. King is a better matchup for Adam Theilen than Stefon Diggs. You’re more comfortable with him across from Cooper Kupp than Brandin Cooks.
Training camp has been insightful, but some takeaways are often over-sighted and off-base. Thursday, we get a better opportunity to learn about the state of this franchise.
Pat yourselves on the back. You’ve survived another hellacious offseason of fast food tier-making and Seahawks Twitter pretending to care about the NBA.
(Editor’s Note: Our Raptors.)
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