Can this really be the 10th season for Pete Carroll as Seattle’s coach, a tenure that now ties him with Mike Holmgren as the longest in team history?
And can this really be Russell Wilson’s eighth season as Seattle’s quarterback and first that he starts with a “3’’ not only on his jersey but at the beginning of his age (he turned 30 last November)?
The answer to each question is yes, if also each uncomfortably reminding us how quickly time passes (even if the Seahawks themselves are sometimes criticized for not passing enough).
Answers to lots of other questions about this season will begin to be determined Thursday when the Seahawks open training camp at the VMAC in Renton.
They are answers that will likewise determine if the 2019 season will mark a continued successful move into the post-Legion of Boom era, or if the reinvention that began in 2018 may need a little more time.
Here are five questions that loom particularly large as training camp begins. Many of these have been bandied about during the offseason but are worth reviewing as another season unfolds, and this time, we are going to offer our best guess at an answer.
Will Bobby Wagner sign a contract extension before the season?
Yes. That’s not based on any information that has leaked of late — this has been a really quiet process so far, in contrast to so many others the Seahawks have had in recent years.
But that quiet may also indicate that things are on what has been the Seahawks’ usual course for these things — getting an extension done right as training camp begins, ala Wagner himself in 2015 and Tyler Lockett and Duane Brown a year ago.
The 10-win season of last season illustrated the Seahawks remain in “win now’’ mode, and it’s hard to see them winning now without Wagner comfortably in the fold, even if that means making him the highest-paid linebacker in NFL history at more $17 million or more a year, as he has stated is his goal.
Who will make up the Seahawks’ starting receiving unit and can anyone replace Doug Baldwin?
While the Seahawks made a heavy investment in the receiving corps in the draft, using three of their 11 picks on the position including DK Metcalf in the second round and Gary Jennings in the fourth, the guess here is that Seattle will start the season leaning on the the veteran trio of Lockett, David Moore and Jaron Brown while they groom the younger players, getting some of them on the field regularly but, at least to start, relying on the vets.
A three-receiver set, recall, was Seattle’s primary offensive formation a year ago. According to NFL stat maven Warren Sharp, Seattle lined up in a three-receiver formation 73 percent of the time a year ago, ahead of the NFL average of 65.
That would seem to mean using Lockett more in the slot to replace since-retired Baldwin.
But it’s likewise worth remembering that won’t really be a new thing for Lockett as he got plenty of use last year in the slot as it was — 457 snaps, according to Pro Football Focus, compared to 496 outside.
Lockett was equally efficient playing inside or out, but was targeted more often when outside — according to PFF he was targeted on just 12.4 percent of his slot snaps, the seventh-lowest-percentage among all receivers.
That may indicate that while the Seahawks will need Lockett to play more in the slot this year, they’d be wise to still take advantage of his big-play ability when lined up outside.
Of more concern may be who can successfully take over Baldwin’s red-zone prowess.
While Lockett scored twice as many TDs last year as Baldwin — 10 to 5 — it was Baldwin to whom Wilson still looked most often when in the red zone. Baldwin had 14 targets in the red zone last year (six more than anyone else on the team), scoring on three, while Lockett had six targets, also scoring on three.
Of Lockett’s 23 career touchdown receptions, just six have come inside the red zone. Baldwin, meanwhile, caught 28 of his 49 TDs inside the red zone.
Expect Lockett to get more targets in the red zone, but other players are also going to have to step up there, with the 6-3, 229-pound Metcalf the most logical of the rookies to contribute heavily.
Will Ziggy Ansah be ready for the start of the regular season?
This one is impossible to answer from the outside just yet, though we’ll know far more this week once the Seahawks open camp.
It’s likely Ansah will start out on the PUP (Physically Unable to Perform) list as the team plays it safe while he continues to recover from shoulder surgery — players can be taken off the preseason PUP list at any time (and don’t be surprised if tight end Will Dissly, recovering from patellar tendon surgery, also starts out on PUP).
While the team is optimistic Ansah — signed to a contract that could pay him up to $9 million with the hope he can replace much of the production lost in the trade of Frank Clark — will be ready, Carroll also hedged when asked that question in June.
“Well, we’ll see,’’ Carroll said. “We’re going to wait…. we’ll just see when camp comes. We’ll take the camp to get it done though, I’m sure. I don’t think we’ll rush him when there won’t be a need to start him up right out of the chutes and we’ll see how it goes in the weeks to follow.”
The Seahawks covered themselves some financially in regards to Ansah’s health — a third of his salary, $3 million, is in the form of per-week bonuses for being on the 53-man and 46-man rosters (or, $93,750 per week for each).
But while that might assure the Seahawks don’t get completely taken to the bank if Ansah isn’t ready for the start of the season, it wouldn’t solve the issue of who rushes the passer.
Who will play safety?
This may be even bigger question than receiver since Seattle would probably like to be able to settle on a set two-man combination as it enters its first year of the Carroll era knowing it won’t have at least one of Earl Thomas or Kam Chancellor as a starter.
What’s certain is that veteran Bradley McDougald will play either free or strong, with the Seahawks picking one of, most logically, three players to fill the other spot — Tedric Thompson, Lano Hill or Marquise Blair.
Blair, though, was put on the PUP list this week, apparently still bothered by a hamstring issue, while Hill didn’t practice during the offseason program while recovering from hip surgery.
Lots to sort out yet. But the Seahawks seemed intrigued by the pairing they saw late last season of McDougald at free safety and Hill at strong, and they may prefer to go that route to start, especially if Blair misses any significant time in training camp.
Who might be the top five most intriguing players to watch and why?
WR DK Metcalf. The hype machine hit overdrive following his rookie minicamp performance. Now to see what he does once the pads go on and he goes against veterans every day.
LB Shaquem Griffin. The team is altering his role some to get him used more as a pass rusher and in coverage, lining up at both weakside and strongside linebacker. But can he make enough of that role in training camp to earn playing time in a crowded and competitive linebacker group?
RB C.J. Prosise. The 2016 third-round pick has one more shot to fulfill the team’s faith in him after missing 32 of 48 games due to injury so far. But if healthy, the open role of third-down/two-minute back may be his for the taking.
RB Rashaad Penny. Penny may never be able to do enough to sway the critics who claim the Seahawks invested too much taking him in the first round — and especially with Chris Carson, who has since emerged as the starter, already on the roster. But Carroll has already talked of liking having a 1-2 punch in the backfield, and they won’t complain if Penny does enough to raise questions about which player should be in which role.
WR Amara Darboh. Looking for an under-the-rader player who can steal a roster spot? Darboh, a third-round pick in 2017 who spent last year on Injured Reserve, might be your man. The influx of new receivers means it won’t be easy. But Darboh showed just enough in OTAs to remind the Seahawks of some of the reasons why they drafted him as highly as they did in the first place.