C.J. Prosise's durability is an unknown, but the defensive line may stand as the Seahawks' biggest question mark as Seattle enters the 2018 season.
Questions about the most vulnerable position groups and star-crossed third-year tailback C.J. Prosise in the latest mailbag.
A: Two questions about Prosise, that can probably be dealt with in one answer.
As for the first question, the Seahawks have had no choice but to take Prosise’s injury history into account as they assembled this year’s roster — he has played just 11 of 32 regular season games and also missed both playoff games in his two years in Seattle.
That’s why they kept J.D. McKissic — who replaced Prosise as the third-down back last year — and then also added a running back in the draft they also think could be a good enough receiver to fill a similar role if needed in Rashaad Penny (granted, that’s not expected to be Penny’s primary role. But it’s one they think he could fill if needed).
Coach Pete Carroll, in fact, raved at the end of minicamp about how he felt all of Seattle’s five tailbacks — Prosise, Penny, McKissic, Chris Carson and Mike Davis — are good enough receivers that the team would be comfortable with them in a third-down role, if needed.
So Seattle appears to have options in how he wants to parse out its tailback roles.
As for Prosise, there is really no downside to keeping him and seeing what happens and hoping for the best. He’s in the third season of his rookie contract and making $660,000 this year. Seattle would save less than $500,000 waiving him.
Given the big-play flashes he has shown in his career — the 72-yard TD run against the Eagles in 2016, the 46-yard reception against Tennessee a year ago, to name two — there doesn’t seem a lot to lose.
And the good news is that he was healthy throughout the offseason program, taking part fully in every practice. Now to see if he can get through training camp and the preseason. If so, then there’s no question that Prosise can be a contributor this season, and potentially a significant one if he could consistently replicate the kind of plays he turned in against the Patriots and Eagles as a rookie. If not, the Seahawks appear a little better covered with other options this season than last year, when Prosise’s injuries that limited him to five games were emblematic of an unhappy and constant revolving door at tailback.
A: Those are all reasonable choices as question marks.
And ss you note, there are even question marks within the question marks. If Earl Thomas is back, then the secondary I think moves off that list. If not, well….
The offensive line is a question mark mostly because of what has happened the last two years. But from a personnel and health standpoint, it seems as stable at the moment as any position group. Still, we need to see that a full year of Duane Brown, the addition of D.J. Fluker and what the team hopes will be a step forward for young players such as Ethan Pocic and Germain Ifedi will really make a difference before the line can be considered anything other than a question mark.
The receiving group has a huge wildcard in Brandon Marshall — even, say, a 35-catch season from Marshall could be a huge boost if he provides the kind of third-down and red-zone production the team envisions he could if healthy.
That leaves the defensive line of your list, and I’d maybe put it at the top for now.
Not only is there no Michael Bennett but also no Cliff Avril and Sheldon Richardson (though it’s worth noting the Seahawks played 12 games last year without Avril.)
Without those veterans, the Seahawks are depending on a lot of either young players or new faces to keep the line’s play at the level it has been the last five years or so.
Frank Clark and Jarran Reed can be considered pretty proven at this point. But the key to a good defensive line is having about seven or eight if not interchangable parts, at least ones who can form a group in which there isn’t a huge dropoff from starter to reserve. And whether Seattle has that is unclear at this point.
There’s reason to think the tackle spots will be fine with Reed and Nazair Jones back and Seattle having signed the Minnesota duo of Tom Johnson and Shamar Stephen to replace Richardson. If Seattle kept just four tackles on its 53-man roster, I’d imagine those would be the four.
The end spots are more iffy. Clark will start on the right side. But he’ll need help at times, which may have to come from rookies Rasheem Green and Jacob Martin as well as veteran Marcus Smith (and strongside linebackers such as Barkevious Mingo will also help with the pass rush).
Dion Jordan is expected to take over the left side, where Bennett started, but he sat out OTAs and minicamp after having another knee surgery. He’s expected to be ready for the start of training camp, but he’s now had four surgeries on his knee in the last two years or so and has only played five games since 2014, so the jury is still a little out on his ability to produce at a high level for an entire season. Branden Jackson and Quinton Jefferson are back as depth.
But as coach Pete Carroll always says, a team can never have enough pass rush, and whether Seattle has even what it had last year is in question. So I’d expect the Seahawks to keep looking to update on the line in general but with the pass rush in particular, and if some interesting names happen to become available along the way, it’ll be no surprise if Seattle makes an addition or two.