The Seahawks were counting on the 2016 draft class to help sustain them as the draftees of 2010-12 moved on, but it's been a disappointment overall. Why? That, plus thoughts on the Seahawks' use of the full back, tight end battle and more in the latest mailbag from beat writer Bob Condotta.
It may just be the preseason, but this marks the beginning of the first week of the year in which there will be a Seahawks football game, Seattle hosting the Colts on Thursday night at CenturyLink Field.
As we get nearer to actual football, it’s also time to get to a few more questions via Twitter.
A: It’s a fair assessment that the 2016 draft class — which featured Germain Ifedi as the first-round pick, Reed in the second and C.J. Prosise, Nick Vannett and Rees Odhiambo in the third — has been a little underwhelming to date. All were taken within the first 97 picks in the draft — the only time since 1996 Seattle has had five picks in the top 100 — and it was a class that the Seahawks hoped would help sustain them as the draftees of 2010-12 began to age and/or move on.
As you note, Reed is the one player who has pretty much done to this point what the team hoped, having emerged as a solid player at a key position, nose tackle (Reed plays a position where he’ll never likely put up big conventional stats, but he graded out well last year by Football Outsiders and other analytic sites).
The rest have all had some moments of brief flashes. But as they enter year three, all are also entering what are pretty much make-or-break seasons to prove their worth, Ifedi most of all.
Ifedi has started 29 games in two seasons, so the team has at least gotten some a lot of snaps out of him. But it’s obviously been far from smooth with Ifedi leading the league last year in penalties and generally performing inconsistently, at best (Football Outsiders listed Ifedi fifth among all offensive tackles last year in blown blocks with 38. The leader was an interesting name — former Seahawk Breno Giacomini with 47).
The Seahawks hope Ifedi can solidify himself as the right tackle this season with one thought that he’ll be a better fit in the more-varied schemes of Mike Solari (I wrote in depth about that here earlier in camp).
But as coach Pete Carroll frankly pointed out afterward, Ifedi was one of the disappointments of Saturday’s mock game, committing a false start and then a holding penalty on one drive, and then pulled out mid-drive and replaced by Isaiah Battle.
How he reacts to that and performs over the next few weeks may tell an awful lot about what Ifedi’s future with the Seahawks holds.
Prosise has likewise showed some real potential at times but has had trouble staying healthy, playing in just 11 of a possible 32 regular season games. He’s been healthy this camp but was another of the disappointments Saturday with two drops of potential touchdown passes, the kind of plays he needs to make since his greatest value is in receiving roles.
Vannett has typically worked as the number one tight end with Ed Dickson sidelined so far. He’s had a couple of really good days in camp, but he’s flashed in practice before. Third-year players need to show it in games, and the preseason will be big for him to get some confidence — and the team confidence in him — heading into the season.
Odhiambo got seven starts last season at left tackle and this year is being used for the moment at guard as he gets back into football shape following hand surgery that ended his 2017 season midway through.
It’s too early to really know where he stands but at the moment he doesn’t project as a starter on the line. But should Ifedi’s struggles continue, Odhiambo could be thrown into the right tackle mix.
Two other players in that class remain on the team — defensive lineman Quinton Jefferson and center/guard Joey Hunt.
Both appear to have had nice camps, with Hunt generally working as the backup center and Jefferson often playing with the ones at end, due in part to all the injuries at that spot.
But as I said about Vannett, all these guys have had some nice moments in camp and offseason programs before. Now it’s about producing on the field.
If the season began today I think all would be on the 53-man roster, with Hunt maybe the biggest question mark.
As Ifedi said in the story linked above, he knows it’s past the time when youth can be an excuse. That’s true for everyone else in the draft class of 2016.
Is there optimism that any/all can break through?
The Seahawks are certainly counting on it, having crafted the roster in a way that Ifedi, Reed, Vannett and Prosise are all ticketed for significant roles if they can hold up their end of the bargain, with the other three in a position to at least be key backups.
Can they do it? That will be one of the intriguing questions of the 2018 season.
What we do know is that the draft class would have looked one heck of a lot better had they kept Alex Collins and he had the same kind of year for the Seahawks that he had with Baltimore in 2017.
A: Recall that Seattle traded a seventh-round pick for Battle last year after an injury to George Fant left them scrambling to add some bodies at tackle.
Battle has been on the roster in some capacity ever since.
So in that regard, the Seahawks have certainly been high enough on him to want to keep him around.
But Battle has yet to carve out any kind of a significant role for himself.
Battle has been running as the backup at right tackle to Ifedi and took his place in Saturday’s mock game.
If Ifedi continues to struggle, at the moment Battle appears to be the next man up at that position.
So yes, he could become a pretty key player for the Seahawks this season.
If the team really pulls the plug on Ifedi at RT — I still think it’s too early to think that’s going to happen but the odds are better today than they were before Saturday — then they’ll undoubtedly try other players at that position.
Fant is one possibility once he gets back to being full go. The Seahawks have wanted to leave Fant at left tackle as he gets back into football shape following almost a year off. And while so far rookie Jamarco Jones has been used solely at left tackle, he might be another option at RT should Ifedi’s travails continue.
But Battle certainly will get his chances over the next few weeks.
This is Battle’s fourth year in the NFL, though, and he has yet to play in a game, so he’s another for whom it’s sort of now or never.
A: The Seahawks appear set on having a fullback on the roster this season, and entered camp with three —- Jalston Fowler, who started seven games and played in 42 overall with the Titans from 2015-17 — undrafted rookie free agent Khalid Hill of Michigan and holdover Tre Madden, who won the starting job out of camp a year ago then was lost for the season after eight games
But what loomed as one of the most intriguing position battles of camp has yet to really get going with both Hill and Fowler out most of the last week with injuries, leaving Madden as the only healthy player.
Carroll indicated both Hill and Fowler will return to practice this week, and if so then you’d imagine each will be able to play Thursday against the Colts, and then maybe the competition can really begin in earnest.
Given the Seahawks’ stated desire to revive the running game and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer’s history with the position, you’d think Seattle will keep a fullback. And in terms of pure lead blocking, Fowler (261 pounds) and Hill (263) would maybe have an edge on Madden, a former tailback at USC who is listed at 235.
Madden, though, also emerged as a really key special teams player a year ago — he was on pace to play the most special teams snaps of anyone on the team other than Neiko Thorpe before he was injured.
So I think this one is way too difficult to call yet.
But to your good question of if they will keep one, I’d say yes they will. Check back with me on Sept. 1 to know for sure.
A: I don’t have definitive snap counts from the mock game — and it’s worth noting it was relatively short, only lasting eight series, one of which lasted one play.
But the tight end pecking order has been pretty clear — prospective starter Ed Dickson remains on the Non-Football Injury list and has yet to practice; Vannett has been the usual number one in place of Dickson with rookie Will Dissly behind Vannett and then second-year player Tyrone Swoopes.
Those are the top four at the spot and I think Dickson, Vannett and Dissly are the top three, all likely on the initial 53-man roster.
Swoopes has shown some flashes and also has a chance, and maybe more than the other three what he does in games could be pivotal as the Seahawks view him as having some big-play ability.
And you never know, Seattle could keep four tight ends.
But Swoopes, who is making a transition from college quarterback, also still has practice squad eligibility and if I had to do a 53-man projection today, that’s where I would place him, assuming he clears waivers, a chance the Seahawks may be reluctant to take but also might have to.