Whether Chris Carson or Rashaad Penny wins the tailback job among many questions that will begin to get answers on Thursday.
We know one thing there won’t be to watch when the Seahawks begin training camp Thursday — free safety Earl Thomas.
Thomas is expected to stay away from camp in his attempt to either get a new contract from the Seahawks or a trade out of town.
How long Thomas stays out and how the Seahawks respond looms as the dominant story of training camp.
But it’s far from the only one.
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Here are five other intriguing questions that will begin to be answered as the Seahawks take the field Thursday, in no particular order.
1. So who fills in for Thomas while he’s away?
When Thomas sat out the spring, the usual number one defense featured Bradley McDougald at free safety and Delano Hill at strong safety. Former Rams starter Maurice Alexander — who was out in the spring while recovering from shoulder surgery — figures to get also get a shot at strong safety. And the Seahawks will undoubtedly also look to see if any combinations with McDougald at strong safety — namely, pairing him with Tedric Thompson at free safety – might work.
For now, the Seahawks seem content to go with the players they have on their roster, eager to see if 2017 draft picks Hill and Thompson can fulfill the potential the team saw in them.
But should that faith not be reinforced, and Thomas’ holdout truly continues into the season — as some think it could given the current stalemate — the Seahawks would figure to explore other options that might be available (Eric Reid?) as the regular season nears.
2. Can Brandon Marshall turn back time?
The Seahawks signed Marshall — who ranks 23rd all time in NFL history in receiving yards– to a low-risk one-year deal in May.
But they have yet to see him on the field in any real capacity as he did little in the spring because he was rehabbing ankle and toe injuries.
The question, once Marshall gets healthy, is whether he can still be productive at age 34. The Seahawks aren’t expecting a 100-catch season — of which Marshall has six in his career. What they will mostly be looking for is to see if the 6-4, 229-pounder can be a reliable red zone and third down target.
3. How quickly will the kicking jobs be settled?
The Seahawks haven’t had any real competition for their kicking jobs since 2011. Now, they have intriguing battles for both: Sebastian Janikowski and Jason Myers for the place kicking position and Michael Dickson and Jon Ryan for punting.
Coach Pete Carroll said in the spring that each could be extended competitions — it’s worth remembering that there is only one cutdown day now, from 90 to 53, after the final preseason game so there is no real need for a rush to judgment.
Janikowski enters camp the perceived favorite for the kicking job due in part to a $600,000 guarantee in his contract (Myers has no guaranteed money) while Dickson’s status as a fifth-round pick gives him the upper hand on the punting job. But after last season’s placekicking disaster, the Seahawks seem content to let the battles play out and make sure they have the right guy for each spot.
4. Who will win the starting tailback job?
The inevitable emphasis on who gets anointed the starter — likely either Chris Carson or Rashaad Penny — may overshadow the more practical fact that each is sure to see significant action, with the Seahawks exploring ways to get them each on the field at once.
Still, the tailback battle will be heavily scrutinized, especially if Carson — who was atop the depth chart when the spring ended — wins the job. That, however would elicit questions from those who already wonder if it made sense for Seattle to take a tailback in the first round.
The Seahawks would counter that after the injury-driven merry-go-round at the tailback spot since early in the 2015 season, the last thing they are going to fret over is potentially having too many healthy and productive running backs.
If Carson does win the tailback job, though, look for the Seahawks to find other ways to get Penny on the field, be it as a third-down back and also as a returner.
5. How will the offensive line come together?
Those who argue the Seahawks didn’t need to take Penny in the first round point to the offensive line as the biggest issue with Seattle’s running game last season, and the bigger need to address in the offseason.
The Seahawks, though, didn’t do all that much from a personnel standpoint, with D.J. Fluker standing as the most significant acquisition.
Instead, the Seahawks changed coaches, firing Tom Cable and bringing in veteran Mike Solari, who was also Seattle’s OL coach in 2008-09.
Early returns in the spring were promising, as they usually are in the spring.
Still, players seemed enthusiastic about a system that will feature more man blocking and less of Cable’s zone scheme, while Carroll said he thinks continuity and improvement by some of the younger players on the line could result in a significant upgrade in play.
For now, the starting five entering camp are: left tackle Duane Brown, left guard Ethan Pocic, center Justin Britt, Fluker at right guard and Germain Ifedi at right tackle.
But worth watching is the return of George Fant, who a year ago was ticketed for a starting job at left tackle before an ACL injury ended his season. He’s now moving to the right side where he could push Ifedi, a first-round pick in 2016 who enters what looms as a make-or-break season for his Seahawks career.