Questions about the cornerback position and training camp changes in the latest mailbag.
Questions on the cornerback situation and training camp in the latest Seahawks mailbag.
Q: @SeahawksBrasil asked: Who will be CBs Starter (starting cornerbacks) in (the) opening game?
A: Well we know one for sure — Richard Sherman, who will line up again at his customary left cornerback spot when the Seahawks visit Green Bay Sept. 10.
But with last year’s starter on the other side, DeShawn Shead, not expected to be ready for the start of the season (he will almost certainly begin the year on the PUP, or Physically Unable to Perform, list) the other spot is open.
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How open, though, may be open to interpretation.
Both coach Pete Carroll and defensive coordinator Kris Richard gave pretty strong votes of confidence for Jeremy Lane — who was the team’s starting nickelback — during OTAs and mini-camp.
Recall what Carroll said at the end of mini-camp: “Jeremy has really applied himself. He sees the opportunity. He’s really going for it. Across the board, everybody’s evaluation of Jeremy across the entire program is that he’s really focused, he’s really tuned in, he’s really ready to go for it. He’s physically as fit as he’s been in a long time. Remember, he had a really difficult offseason a couple years back (following knee and arm injuries in the Super Bowl) and it’s taken him almost a couple years to overcome all of that and he’s back to full form. But more than that, his focus is really on it to seize this opportunity. We feel really good about that.’’
As Carroll’s statement makes clear, Lane had some struggles in 2016 that didn’t go without notice. But with Lane apparently now all the way back from injury and also facing a key year in his career — his contract runs through 2018 but is structured in a way that he would easily be a salary cap casualty if the team decides it can live without him —Carroll and the Seahawks seem to be banking on a bounceback season.
A likely scenario if Lane wins the job is that he would play outside in the base defense and then still slide into the nickel on passing downs (and recall that the nickel is just about every team’s dominant defensive formation anymore, with Seattle in it roughly two-thirds of the time last season). Seattle did just that on the couple of occasions last season when Shead was hurt, with Lane playing outside in base and then inside in the nickel.
That would leave the question of who emerges as a de facto third cornerback, playing as the other outside cornerback in the nickel, a battle that almost certainly would come down to Neiko Thorpe and rookie Shaquill Griffin — the two appeared to split time in that role during mini-camp.
The team is high on Griffin, a third-round pick who impressed with his speed, instincts and quick assimilation of the defense during the off-season program. But he still has to show he can stack up physically against NFL receivers, something the team won’t have a really good grasp of until training camp (no contact is allowed during the off-season and defenders also cannot make plays on the ball, one reason to always take with something of a grain of salt reports of amazing TD catches by receivers, etc.).
But the Seahawks also liked Thorpe — who also emerged as a key special teams player last season — enough to re-sign him to a two-year contract (the only free agent the team signed in the off-season to a multi-year deal).
Thorpe was signed before the team knew which rookies it was bringing in, and his contract ($1.34 million cap hit but just $300,000 in dead money) isn’t so big that it necessarily guarantees him any role.
Thorpe and Griffin each seem better-suited for now for an outside cornerback role, meaning they appear battling mostly for the RCB job and not the nickelback spot.
DeAndre Elliott and rookie Mike Tyson also will factor into the cornerback competition and each could contend for a backup nickel role.
Should Griffin progress in camp as he did in the off-season then he’d appear to have the inside track to becoming the third corner.
But for now, Lane appears to have a pretty sizeable edge on being the other starter opposite Sherman.
Q: @ImFrank4u asked: Is the coaching staff organizing training camp any differently than in years past?
A: That’ll be interesting to watch because the Seahawks did indeed make a change in how they conducted things during OTAs and mini-camp that they could well take into training camp.
Specifically, the Seahawks did much of their running game work during walk-throughs while saving much of the passing game sessions for the on-field workouts.
Carroll explained it as being due in part to having some veterans coming off some health issues it wanted to make sure got the needed work but also could get that work in even more controlled sessions, specifically lineman Luke Joeckel and running back Eddie Lacy (though it’s also worth remembering backs such as Thomas Rawls and C.J. Prosise are also coming off injury-riddled seasons).
“You notice we weren’t on the field as long as we have been,’’ Carroll said in June. “We kind of mixed our format some and it’s worked out great.”
Mixing the format in that manner also means the team is on the practice field for a shorter period of time, which Carroll may like in theoretically reducing the number of hard reps on veteran players, of which there are an increasing number on defense, in particular.
It was left unclear if the Seahawks will take that same format into training camp. But if they do, one offshoot is that fans will likely see a difference in the team being on the field for a shorter period of time during the 11 practices that are open to the public.