Here is a look at 10 things we have learned about the Seahawks through the first two weeks of OTAs.
The Seahawks have completed two weeks of their OTAs (Official Team Activities), having held six of the maximum 10 that are allowed over a three-week period (the rest are next week).
As we end the second week of OTAs, here’s a look at 10 things we appear to have learned so far, in no particular order of importance:
1. Jimmy Graham will make a big difference in the red zone: Okay, so I think we already knew that. Still, thinking and seeing are two different things. And we definitely saw the difference Graham will make this season during the Tuesday OTA session that was open to the media. The practice was heavy on red zone work, which obviously plays to Graham’s strength. But he made the most of it with at least five TD catches during the sessions, punctuating each with a hefty spike, and showing he appears to already be developing a solid on-field chemistry with QB Russell Wilson. The Seahawks certainly seem to be excited, featuring Graham in roughly half the pictures the team published from Thursday’s OTA.
2. The Legion of Boom appears healthier than might have been anticipated: Remember how potentially dire things seemed about the LOB following the Super Bowl with reports that Richard Sherman would need elbow surgery, that Kam Chancellor might need knee surgery and Earl Thomas might need shoulder surgery? Instead, only Thomas had surgery with Chancellor and Sherman not only avoiding the knife but showing up fully healthy for OTAs, participating in everything (recall that Chancellor said he’s never felt better at this point in an off-season). Thomas, meanwhile, appears on track to be ready for the beginning of the season, if not the opening of training camp, getting out on the field for a few early drills in Tuesday’s practice. The LOB still has some health issues, with Jeremy Lane likely not ready for the start of the season with knee and arm injuries, and Tharold Simon still rehabbing a shoulder. But the overall picture is definitely brighter than might have been thought that night in Glendale
3. The backup QB spot remains muddled: With Tarvaris Jackson still unsigned and B.J. Daniels now being used primarily as a receiver, the Seahawks have just two QBs in Wilson and R.J. Archer. The team sounds increasingly comfortable with Archer as a potential backup. But the Seahawks also are sure to bring in another QB at some point, and the preference appears that that person would still be Jackson, an unrestricted free agent. Archer, though, is getting valuable reps now as the team tries to find out how legitimate of an option he could be.
4. Will Blackmon has a leg up on the nickelback spot: Blackmon, a former Seahawk who returned this off-season after two years in Jacksonville, has been the nickelback with the starting defensive unit in the practices open to the media. That’s no real surprise given what Pete Carroll had said about the team liking his ability to play the spot. But with Lane likely out to start the season, and it unclear when he will return, Blackmon’s signing and potential emergence as the starter there looms as one of the more pivotal moves of the off-season. Marcus Burley also will still be a factor there, as well. But based on what we’ve seen, Blackmon appears the leader at the moment.
5. Ryan Robinson may be a name to start getting to know: The fact that so many of the key defensive line players — Bruce Irvin, Cliff Avril, Tony McDaniel, Brandon Mebane and Michael Bennett — have either been sidelined or absent for a variety of reasons, has led to lots of snaps for some of the team’s younger players throughout the early OTAs. One who appears to have made an impression is Robinson, who was a member of the practice squad much of last season after playing in 13 games for the Raiders in 2013. Robinson has often worked with the starting unit in the LEO, or pass rushing end, position, a spot where the Seahawks could use some depth. He’s done enough so far to earn a mention from Carroll during the team’s Town Hall meeting with fans earlier this week, specifically in relation to what Carroll said could be a faster defensive line than the team had a year ago.
6. Cassius Marsh is healthy and appears ready to make a big impact: Marsh, a second-year player from UCLA who was taken in the fourth round of the 2014 draft, is another who earned a citation from Carroll at the Town Hall on Wednesday, appearing fully recovered from the broken foot he suffered after the fifth game of last season, an injury that sidelined him for the rest of the year. Marsh has a Michael Bennett-like versatility and his emergence this year could allow the team to give Bennett a bit more rest this year while also simply giving the Seahawks more depth up front. That was something sorely lacking at the end of last season, becoming glaring in the Super Bowl.
7. Alvin Bailey appears to be the new starting left guard: This is also no surprise, as Bailey was mentioned as the heir apparent at this spot from the minute James Carpenter signed with the New York Jets in the off-season. What wasn’t as apparent then, though, was the team’s unhappiness with his condition a year ago, and Bailey’s subsequent steps to make amends. He’s reportedly lost about 30 pounds from a year ago and is now actually at his listed weight of 320, which has him back flashing the kind of form the team envisioned when they kept him on the roster in 2013 as an undrafted free agent. While the team has 2015 draft picks Mark Glowinski and Terry Poole also playing guard, Bailey for now appears to have entrenched himself in the starting offensive line along with LT Russell Okung, RT J.R Sweezy and RT Justin Britt.
8. The center spot, conversely, remains open: While Bailey appears to have taken hold of the left guard spot, center remain pretty wide open. Lemuel Jeanpierre has worked with the No. 1 offense throughout OTAs with Patrick Lewis as the backup. But the issue seems far from settled, based on comments Tom Cable has made on the radio and in the Town Hall meeting in recent days. Will Pericak, Drew Nowak and 2015 draft pick Kristjan Sokoli also have been getting snaps at center. And the team could still add a veteran, as well. Both Jeanpierre and Lewis started games last season for the Seahawks and it seems like the team may be more comfortable with the prospect of one of those two handling the job than fans are. But exactly who will get the initial call this season at taking over for Max Unger as the starter remains unclear.
9. Kevin Pierre-Louis could be ready for a breakout season: Like Marsh, Pierre-Louis was a fourth-round pick in 2014 who battled injuries his rookie season and finished the year on the Injured Reserve list. And like Marsh, he’s now healthy and appears ready to become a major factor at linebacker. With Irvin gone, Pierre-Louis spent Tuesday’s workout working as the No. 1 strongside linebacker, and undoubtedly the team could be grooming him to take over that role should things not work out for Irvin to stay beyond the 2015 season. For 2015, Pierre-Louis could take over the utility linebacker role held the last few years by Malcolm Smith, who signed as a free agent with the Raiders.
10. Tyler Lockett should make an impact this season: The first days of OTAs don’t appear to have changed anything about the team’s excitement over the possible contribution this season from Lockett, a receiver taken in the third-round after the team traded three picks to move up 24 spots to get him. The receiver spot could be as competitive as any the team will have this year. But Lockett so far appears to fit right in. More critical is his role as a returner. Carroll again waxed fairly enthusiastic during the Town Hall meeting this week about the difference he thinks Lockett could make in the return games this season, each of which were year-long issues for the Seahawks in 2014.