Can cornerback Tre Flowers make a big second-year leap? And what might the role be for offensive lineman Jamarco Jones this season?
That and more in our latest Seahawks mailbag.
A: Interesting you should ask that because Seahawks coach Pete Carroll volunteered his name a week ago when he talked to the media following the team’s final minicamp practice. He was asked if there were any young players who are not rookies who he thought could take a big leap this season.
Flowers was one of the team’s most pleasant surprises in 2018, emerging as a fifth-round pick who played safety at Oklahoma State to become a full-time starter at cornerback as a rookie.
Earning a starting job is one thing. Living up to the legacy of those who came before him in the Seahawks secondary will be a much more difficult task.
Last season, the Seahawks’ pass defense was as forgiving as any since Carroll’s first year in 2010 (pre Legion of Boom), allowing 240 yards per game, 17th in the NFL. Seattle also allowed a passer rating of 94.3, 18th in the NFL.
By way of comparison, when the Seahawks won the Super Bowl in 2013, they led the league by allowing a passer rating of just 63.4.
There’s way more involved in those numbers than just a change in cornerbacks. The Seahawks will need a major upgrade from Flowers and third-year corner Shaquill Griffin this season to get back to being the kind of defense Carroll would like in 2019.
If that seems like a lot to ask in years two and three, recall that the Legion of Boom was as good as it would ever be by the midway point of the 2012 season, when Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas were in their second or third seasons.
“This will be a big year for Tre,’’ Carroll said last week. “That was an enormous accomplishment playing his entire rookie season at corner and surviving it. I know mentally he is way ahead of where he was. The things I’m talking to him about now compared to where we were a year ago, it’s not even on the same plane. So he should make one of those jumps.’’
We’ll get some good “information’’ — to use one of Carroll’s favorite terms — on just where Flowers, Griffin and the rest of the defense is early as the Seahawks open with games against three proven quarterbacks in Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton, Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger and New Orleans’ Drew Brees.
So, the secondary better be ready to hit the ground running.
A: The main reason you haven’t heard a lot on Collier is that it’s hard to make much of what linemen are doing during the offseason program. Players can’t wear pads, and there is no full contact. So, much of what the coaches need to see out of linemen is hard to assess in those sessions.
That doesn’t mean they don’t learn anything. Obviously there is a lot of learning of the system, and coaches can get a gauge of anticipation and quickness and instincts and things like that.
But, until the pads go on coaches can only learn so much.
As Carroll said last week, “We’re so restricted in what we can do with defensive players in these camps right here that you really can’t tell. They can’t touch the receivers. They can’t engage. So we just have to wait until camp. This is really offensively oriented in terms of the rules.’’
That’s why you tend to hear quite a bit about receivers in these camps since they have free reign to run down the field and leap for balls knowing they aren’t going to get hit.
The Seahawks seemed happy enough about what they learned about Collier.
“L.J.’s a pretty good football player,” Seahawks defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. said last week. “Really glad he’s on our team. Strong, fast, smart. He loves ball, and he fits right in with our guys.”
But any real assessment is going to have to wait for a little while.
A: Jones is player for whom this year looms really big, and it’s hard to tell yet exactly what the future holds.
Jones, a fifth-round pick in 2018 at 168 overall, was off to a nice start last season, filling in a few times with the starting unit at right tackle in camp, before suffering an ankle injury in the preseason opener that required surgery and ended his season.
He’s healthy now and worked with the second team at tackle during the offseason program.
That’s a spot where the Seahawks seem set for 2019 with Duane Brown on the left side, Germain Ifedi on the right and George Fant able to back up both spots and is again slated as a tight end/eligible tackle. Fant could also push Ifedi in camp, though there was little evidence in the offseason program that Ifedi’s job is in any real danger, and the Seahawks like the role they have carved out for Fant.
But the Seahawks will almost certainly want at least one more tackle on the 53-man roster, and in my latest projection I had Jones as that guy.
Much of what I wrote above about Collier applies to the offensive line — until the pads go on the team can only learn so much.
The Seahawks have only one other tackle — Elijah Nkansah — though Ethan Pocic can also play tackle. So, assuming they were to keep four “true’’ tackles, I think Jones would make it.
That doesn’t mean he’d have anything more than a backup role in 2019, and could be inactive much of the time. His true worth could be in developing for the future with Fant and Ifedi eligible to be free agents following the 2019 season.
And that may be what the Seahawks will look for most out of Jones this year — signs that he could replace one or the other in 2020, if needed.
A: My first answer is that I doubt the Seahawks will wait that long to add players at positions where it might want some help. Veterans often become available earlier in training camp once each side realizes that the a player won’t make the roster.
That’s what happened to Jon Ryan last year as he was waived after the second game when it was obvious that he wasn’t going to beat out Michael Dickson. That gave Ryan at least a few weeks to try to find another team. He signed with Buffalo and played in preseason games, though he didn’t make it with the Bills, either.
To me, the team’s biggest need remains pass rush, and I could see the Seahawks continuing to explore options there, especially until they know when Ziggy Ansah will be ready.
There could be a need in the secondary, depending on how they assess the progress of some of the younger players — and if health issues were to pop up.
I think they like the young players on the OL (such as Jones and Phil Haynes) enough that they wouldn’t go out of their way to add anyone who would bump those guys off, unless it gets late in camp and those players haven’t shown the progress they were hoping.
Receiver is an interesting position. If all the young players make the kind of progress the Seahawks expect, their only issue will be deciding who to keep.
Despite the offseason additions and the excitement about the young players at that spot, I wouldn’t rule out the Seahawks considering adding some competition there depending on who becomes available and how they feel about the progress of the youngsters. Always Compete.