RENTON — A week into training camp Wednesday, the Seahawks took a day off. They’ll be back at it Thursday, ramping up to their first “mock game” Saturday at CenturyLink Field.
As the Seahawks take a brief break, it’s time to take a look at five things we’ve learned from the first week of camp.
Better depth just about everywhere
Maybe the Seahawks didn’t spend big to assure they got one or two marquee free agents such as Jadeveon Clowney (though their offer in the $15-16 million was more than competitive), saving their big move for later and trading heavy draft-pick capital for safety Jamal Adams.
But the Seahawks did make a number of mid-sized moves throughout the offseason to add experienced depth at almost every position group on the roster.
That, combined with the maturation of the 2017-19 draft classes (21 of 31 of whom remain and who all could realistically make the 53-man roster) has the Seahawks in a much better position to ride out the injuries that inevitably hit every season (as well as who knows what else might happen in our COVID-19 environment).
After the way injuries decimated the Seahawks at the end of last season, improving the depth was one of this offseason’s overlooked goals.
Areas where improved depth is really noticeable early on include the back seven on defense. At linebacker, the Seahawks have three healthy, proven veterans set to start in Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright and Bruce Irvin. This year, if one gets hurt, they can turn to any one of three players who have at least a year of experience in Cody Barton, Ben Burr-Kirven and Shaquem Griffin, or first-round pick Jordyn Brooks (more on him in a minute), as opposed to last year, when the first option was an untested Barton.
And in the secondary, where the primary backup cornerback last year was Akeem King — who had one start in his career before 2019 — this year that backup could be Tre Flowers, a starter the last two seasons.
The improved depth is also noticeable on the offensive line, where players who project as backups, such as Jamarco Jones and Jordan Simmons, are healthy and have experience in key situations. There’s also the addition of former first-round pick Cedric Ogbuehi, who has drawn raves early on from coach Pete Carroll and could be the backup swing tackle.
Some around the team think the Seahawks may have the best top-to-bottom roster depth they’ve had since the 2013-2014 Super Bowl teams, which is more important than ever this year also due to new roster rules allowing teams a pool of 69 players each week to assemble a roster of 55 on Sunday.
Whether the Seahawks have the same starting 22 front-line talent as the Super Bowl teams is debatable, but an NFL season is always a battle of attrition, and they seems better positioned to manage that this year.
Jordyn Brooks’ role
An underrated story of the first week was Carroll saying that, for now, Wright will remain at weakside linebacker, where Brooks is also playing. The thought was if Brooks showed well early, maybe the Seahawks could move Wright to the strong side, or maybe even look to cut him (the team could save $6.5 million against the cap and in cash with his release).
But that’s also where they have Irvin, whom Carroll has noted is the best strongside linebacker the Seahawks have had in his 10 years as coach.
With Brooks off to a slower-than-hoped-for start, missing one practice and limited in another due to a groin issue, Wright, for now, seems entrenched as the starting weakside linebacker. He appears to have recovered from his offseason shoulder surgery that played a role in drafting Brooks.
A lot can change in the next few weeks, of course. But if the Seahawks stick with the Wright-Irvin-Wagner linebacker trio for this year, does that mean Brooks gets something of a redshirt/special-teams year?
Could be, and that would inevitably renew the debate the pick engendered in the first place. But, as noted above, improving depth for this year everywhere was a key offseason goal.
Wright is also entering the final year of his contract, and Brooks has been viewed all along as an heir apparent at a key spot, if not now then a year from now.
At the moment, “a year from now” seems the favorite in when Brooks will take over that spot.
Center might be most competitive spot
Free agent B.J. Finney appeared set to take over at center when he inked a two-year deal worth a guaranteed $4.5 million and the second-highest cap number this year of any Seahawks offensive lineman ($3.5 million) behind only left tackle Duane Brown.
But Tuesday, four-year vet Ethan Pocic filled the starting center spot. Carroll said earlier in the day that center is “a wide-open competition. We’re going to let those guys go. … The center spot is rotating right now as the starter.”
The thought of Pocic at center may not excite Seahawks fans — everyone is attracted to the new.
But Carroll noted this week Pocic primarily played center at LSU (27 of his 37 career starts), and that the Seahawks have never before this year let Pocic concentrate solely on center (his previous 16 NFL starts have all been at guard).
The Seahawks appear eager to find out if Pocic should have been at center all along.
Marquise Blair may be real deal at nickel
Again, it’s early, and optimism usually reigns this time of year. But the first few practices have built evidence that Marquise Blair may indeed may be able to make the transition to the nickel spot, where he is consistently running with the starters with Ugo Amadi at backup.
Finally adding Quinton Dunbar to the secondary could change the dynamic some — one thought has been that Dunbar could slide inside to the nickel on passing downs with Flowers playing outside.
While there will be understandable media/fan debate on which player is winning the battle, the Seahawks’ bigger take-away is that the nickel spot appears much better this year — either the promising and obviously talented Blair winning it, or going with a proven player in Dunbar.
DeeJay Dallas standing out
Carroll said following the first practice last week that Dallas, a fourth-round pick out of Miami, “has made a really good first impression.”
Every impression since has appeared to be just as good. Dallas has gotten a ton of work with Chris Carson missing a few days and the Seahawks also favoring getting the young guys lots of snaps.
Dallas, who began his college career as a receiver, has shown good hands and has also looked tough on his runs.
And for now, he seems a lock to make the 53-man roster making the running back spot another that appears better-positioned depth wise this year than last season with a likely initial foursome of Carson, Carlos Hyde, Travis Homer and Dallas, with Rashaad Penny then likely to be activated at midseason.