RENTON — The suits and ties from the visit last week to the White House will be replaced by more familiar garb this week for the Seattle Seahawks.
Tuesday, the Seahawks begin Phase Three of their offseason program with the first of 10 Organized Training Activities the team will conduct between now and June 12.
The noncontact workouts, in fact, will be the first time the team has been able to go 11-on-11, offense vs. defense, since the Super Bowl. And as such, the workouts mark another significant step on the road toward attempting to make another White House trip necessary a year from now.
As OTAs begin, then, here’s a look at five key questions facing the Seahawks:
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1) Can the team replicate the defensive line rotation it had a year ago without the departed Red Bryant, Chris Clemons and Clinton McDonald?
Those three, all either released or lost via free agency, were part of a seven-man rotation up front that allowed the Seahawks to mix and match personnel liberally based on the scheme of the opponent, as well as keep each player fresh through the Super Bowl. No Seattle defensive lineman played more than 57 percent of the snaps a year ago.
That might not be possible this year with just four of those seven back — ends Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril and tackles Brandon Mebane and Tony McDaniel — each of whom might be called on to play more.
The hope, though, is that some younger players, such as Greg Scruggs, Jesse Williams, Jordan Hill and Benson Mayowa, will progress to a point where they can also play some meaningful snaps without a real drop off.
Also of intrigue is how much the team will use Bruce Irvin as a rush end. The team’s first-round choice in 2012, he played primarily strongside linebacker in 2013. But there have been hints he could be used more as a rush end this year to help pick up some of the slack there.
2) Is this the year James Carpenter shows why the team drafted him in the first round in 2011?
Carpenter has started 26 regular-season games the past three years, and also started the Super Bowl at left guard. So, he has been far from a bust. Still, the perception is that this is something of a make-or-break year for Carpenter, especially after the Seahawks declined to pick up the option on his contract for 2015. The Seahawks said that was largely a procedural, salary-cap decision, and the team can still re-sign him later if it wants. But Seattle let veteran Paul McQuistan, who shared the left guard spot with Carpenter last season, depart via free agency, and that job is now Carpenter’s to take control of for good. A positive early sign is that offensive line coach Tom Cable said during the draft that Carpenter is in shape and healthy and that he is expecting a big year from the former Alabama star.
3) How will the backup quarterback battle shake out?
Seattle has as secure of a starting quarterback situation as there is in the NFL with Russell Wilson back for his third season. But the battle for backup spots became especially interesting when Seattle traded for Terrelle Pryor and then added former Washington star Keith Price in the offseason to join the other two holdovers from 2013 — veteran backup Tarvaris Jackson and third-teamer B.J. Daniels. Seattle almost certainly won’t keep more than three for the season (though Price and Daniels would each have practice-squad eligibility) and went through training camp last season with just three. And for now, the team insists Pryor is a quarterback only.
4) Is Christine Michael ready to take the next step?
Michael, the team’s first choice in the 2013 draft at No. 62 overall, played sparingly last season behind Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin at tailback. He was one of a handful of rookies who were essentially redshirted a year ago, the team not really needing them in 2013. But with Lynch’s contract running for just two more seasons (and set for a $9 million cap hit in 2015 when the team might be looking for some salary cap relief), the Seahawks will need to begin getting a good sense this year of just what they have in Michael, who gained 79 yards on 18 carries in three games in 2013. More refined blocking and mastery of the running scheme will be particularly key for Michael this year.
5) Who returns punts?
This has been a question since Golden Tate, who was ninth in the NFL last year at 11.5 yards per attempt, signed with Detroit as a free agent. Free agency and the draft didn’t produce an obvious replacement, though there are plenty of candidates.
Richard Sherman was listed as the backup punt returner at the end of the season, and receiver Doug Baldwin could be among other veterans to also get a look. Second-round choice Paul Richardson figures also to be a candidate, though he didn’t really do it at Colorado. The player on the roster with the most NFL history of returning punts is free-agent signee Phillip Adams, who had 37 returns since 2010 while playing for the Raiders and the 49ers. Another free-agent cornerback, A.J. Jefferson, was one of the nation’s top kickoff returners while at Fresno State and could also get a look.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org.