Here's a look at how five key position battles for the Seahawks heading into training camp may shake out.
Though having a veteran defense and returnees at a number of key spots means many of the Seahawks’ positions are set entering training camp, a few remain in question.
Here is a review of five position battles that are particularly intriguing as the Seahawks begin practice Sunday, with my guess on who will emerge as the winner.
STARTING TAILBACK: With C.J. Prosise likely ticketed primarily for a role as the third-down and two-minute back and other specialty situations, this looms as a two-man battle between former Green Bay standout Eddie Lacy and Thomas Rawls.
As detailed in an earlier camp-countdown story, the team probably won’t put a priority on naming a starter or clearly defining roles as much as fans (and especially fantasy players) might wish, with the Seahawks hoping to have two healthy tailbacks and lots of options.
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But either Rawls or Lacy figures to take the first snap of the season, and the bet here is Rawls, who enters training camp healthy and having had a complete offseason of work after an injury-filled 2016 offseason and season. Rawls also has more experience in the Seahawks’ system.
But as for who will get the most carries this season? The Seahawks figure to let them “Always Compete” on that one.
RIGHT CORNEREBACK: With last year’s starter, DeShawn Shead, likely to begin camp on the PUP (Physically Unable to Perform) list, the Seahawks will have a competition for the corner spot opposite Richard Sherman. Veteran Jeremy Lane is the leader but will have to fend off third-round draft pick Shaquill Griffin and Neiko Thorpe, a special-teams standout last season who was signed to a two-year contract in the offseason and will get a long look.
One likely scenario is that Lane wins the job but also remains as the nickelback in passing situations, meaning Griffin or Thorpe comes in to play the right-corner spot. Lane had some struggles last season in his first year after signing a four-year, $23 million contract but earned raves from coaches for his work in the offseason. And with the team having already guaranteed his base salary of $4 million, he’ll be given every chance to be the starter until Shead returns. So consider Lane the favorite.
STRONG-SIDE LINEBACKER: Mike Morgan held this role much of last season but was not re-signed. And this spot was not a huge priority for Seattle in the offseason because this position comes off the field when the team was in the nickel formation, meaning Seattle uses a strong-side linebacker no more than around 30 percent of the time.
Veteran Michael Wilhoite was signed as a free agent in the offseason and appears to be the frontrunner, but he did little in the offseason program due to injury. Terence Garvin, another free-agent addition, also will compete. But the job appears to be Wilhoite’s to lose.
LEFT TACKLE: George Fant ended last season as the starter and remained there throughout the offseason, with coaches saying a year in the system and having added about 25 pounds should make him better suited to handle the position.
But Seattle also signed free agent Luke Joeckel to a one-year, $8 million contract. And though the Seahawks might prefer that he win the left-guard spot — which they appear to feel could be his best role — Joeckel will get a long look at left tackle as well. One caveat is that he is coming off MCL and ACL surgery last October, and he could be limited early in camp.
For now, I’ll go with Fant staying at left tackle given the team’s apparent enthusiasm for Joeckel at left guard.
RIGHT TACKLE: Germain Ifedi, the Seahawks’ first-round draft pick in 2016, is the leader for this spot. He has been moved back to tackle after playing last season at right guard. Ifedi played primarily tackle at Texas A&M, and Seattle coaches say that might be his best position, especially now that he has gotten his feet wet in the NFL.
The Seahawks showed some confidence in Ifedi by not bothering to retain restricted free agent Garry Gilliam, who signed with San Francisco after ending last season as the starter at right tackle.
But Ifedi will have to fend off 2017 second-round pick Ethan Pocic, who will start camp playing right guard and right tackle.
My view is that Ifedi’s experience gives him the edge, as does the fact that the Seahawks aren’t likely to want to relegate a first-round pick a year ago to a backup role in his second season.