Which position do the Seahawks still need to address? What does the future hold for the tailback spot?
Those topics and more are addressed in our latest Seahawks mailbag. If you missed part 1 of the mailbag, you can read it here.
A: The defensive line, and specifically another defensive tackle.
Seattle has six players it lists as defensive tackles — the two likely starters in Jarran Reed and Poona Ford, second-year player Bryan Mone, 2019 sixth-round pick Demarcus Christmas, and rookie undrafted free agents Josh Avery and Cedric Lattimore.
The Seahawks also plan to use L.J. Collier and Rasheem Green as tackles in nickel situations, similar to the role Michael Bennett had for so many years.
But as the list above shows, Seattle really has only two players who are likely to fill the tackle role on early downs who have significant experience in Reed and Ford. Mone played 89 snaps last season (and another 16 in the playoffs) while Christmas sat out the year with a back injury.
Adding a veteran defensive tackle to that mix seems like something Seattle would want to do, and there are a few out there who the team might be interested in, notably Damon “Snacks” Harrison.
Harrison, 31, was a first team All-Pro pick with the Giants in 2016. He was released by Detroit in February amid some speculation that he might be done playing football. But more recent speculation is that Harrison might want to play in 2020 and could be a target of the Seahawks.
A couple of other veteran defensive tackles still available include Mike Daniels (a longtime member of the Packers who played for Detroit last season) and former Seahawk Brandon Mebane, who played for Seattle from 2007-15 and has spent the last four years with the Chargers. While Mebane is now 35, he started 13 games for the Chargers last season, playing 42 percent of the team’s defensive snaps, on par with his playing time during his Seattle career.
Seattle has had success through the years getting good seasons out of veteran defensive tackles, such as Al Woods last year (Woods is now with the Titans) and bringing back Tony McDaniel in 2016.
But any signing might not be imminent as Seattle could wait to get to camp — or even into camp — before making an addition
A: Ursua, a seventh-round pick last year, and Swain, a sixth-round pick in the draft last April, could indeed be battling for a final spot as a receiver on the initial 53-man roster.
Both project more as slot receivers. Swain said on draft day that being used more in the slot last year at Florida helped lead to having his best season a year ago.
Swain might factor in more to the return games than Ursua. Ursua didn’t handle any returns his final season at Hawaii and had 10 overall punt returns in college. He was not listed on the depth chart at that spot with the Seahawks at the end of last season.
Swain, meanwhile, was a regular punt returner for Florida the past two seasons and had 39 overall in his college for 308 yards and one TD (he also had four kickoff returns).
So returning could definitely help Swain land on the roster.
But I’m not sure this is totally an either-or thing between the two, especially with both expanded overall rosters and expanded practice-squad rosters and eligibility this year.
Everybody is now eligible for the practice squad, which is also now going from 10 to 12 players. I’d doubt both Ursua and Swain would make the initial 53, given how the overall WR position breaks down (you’d figure Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf and Phillip Dorsett are locks with David Moore a good chance to also make it and Seattle possibly needing to keep only five receivers). But I think Seattle would want to keep both around — maybe one on the 53 and the other on the practice squad, assuming he clears waivers.
A: They well could.
The future of the running-back spot is obviously one of the more intriguing issues facing the Seahawks over the next year or two.
Chris Carson is entering the final season of his four-year rookie deal and can be an unrestricted free agent next March unless the Seahawks sign him to an extension before then.
But Carson is also battling his own injury — a hip fracture he suffered against Arizona last December — and while there have been a few notable extensions given to running backs over the last few years, in general the trend seems to be against teams handing out big second contracts to running backs.
When Penny was drafted in the first round in 2018, a year after Carson had played just four games as a rookie due to an ankle injury, the immediate thought was that the team was setting up a succession plan at running back, with Carson a year ahead of Penny.
That Carson has rushed for 1,000 yards or more each of the two years since then — with both Penny and Carson suffering significant injuries in that time — complicates things a little.
But as your question posits, if Penny shows this year that he is fully recovered then it does give Seattle options on how to approach Carson’s situation following this season.
Also worth noting is the presence of recent draft picks Travis Homer and DeeJay Dallas. If one or both proves definitively this season they can be counted on for a significant role in future seasons, then that will obviously also factor in.
A: Not really, depending on how you think the defensive line come together.
Seattle could start three players on the defensive line who were with the team last year — and two as full-time starters — while the Seahawks could also start five or six of what were the primary starters in the back seven of the defense at the end of last year, as well.
And on offense, Seattle could well have the same starters in a base offense at all of the skill positions that opened last season.
But the offensive line could have up to four new starters, and as of today would be projected to have three, none of whom were with the team last year: center B.J. Finney, right guard Damien Lewis and right tackle Brandon Shell.
Duane Brown will return to start at left tackle and Mike Iupati was re-signed in April and might again start at left guard, though he figures to compete with 2019 fourth-round pick Phil Haynes for that spot.
Certainly, the current situation with teams still unable to get on the field for OTAs isn’t ideal for putting together a new line.
Brown talked about that challenge when he spoke with reporters who cover the team via Zoom last week.
“You come from whatever team you’re on, you kind of know what to expect year-to-year,” he said. “You come to a new team, it’s a different strength staff, it’s a different training staff, different coaches, meetings are different, everything is different. So you just don’t have the feel for what to expect and how things go.”
But as Brown also noted, every team is experiencing the same thing, and no team is returning its exact lineup from a year ago.
Brown also noted that the Seahawks do return many players who have experience with the team — 11 of the 17 offensive linemen on the current roster were with the Seahawks a year ago — so it’s not as if the entire group is starting over.
“It’ll be interesting to see how it plays out,” Brown said. “But we’re all competitors, we’re all professionals, and we’ll get it done.”