Lost amid all -- and I do mean ALL -- the noise over when or if Russell Wilson signs a contract extension this year is a more fundamental concern: Who will be blocking for him this season?
Finding the five starters on the offensive line remains the Seahawks' most important task in training camp this summer, at least on the field. Line coach Tom Cable said last month he thinks that's going to happen sooner rather than later once camp begins July 31 in Renton.
I came across this advanced statistic from Pro Football Focus a couple weeks ago, and it confirmed in numbers what our eyes have told us for the last two seasons: Wilson has "faced pressure" on 43.2 percent of his dropbacks in his career that began in 2012. That is more than any other quarterback over that span.
Want to know why the Seahawks threw fewer times than anyone last season (454 passes)? Want to know why offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell spent much of last season conducting bubble-screen-palooza first to Percy Harvin and then to every other wide receiver as Seattle's offense stayed inconsistent for much of the season? Start with the lack of even a hint of consistent pass protection.
Jimmy Graham is now in the offense as a potentially lethal receiving weapon down the middle of the field. But he might as well be Tony Moeaki if Wilson doesn't get the time to let him run down the hashmarks before the QB has to throw.
That is why I'll again be focusing on the offensive line's position battles throughout camp.
Russell Okung is locked in for now at left tackle, but the Seahawks seem likely to give second-year man Garry Gilliam for more practice snaps there with the first team as the season goes on. That's because Okung, who has battled injuries and penalties in recent seasons, is in the final year of his contract that is paying him $4.8 million this season with a salary-cap hit of $7,280,000. Alvin Bailey can also play left tackle.
At left guard Bailey got on the coaches' good side by reporting to offseason OTAs and minicamps 20 pounds lighter. They rewarded him with the inside track to replacing James Carpenter as the starter; Seattle's former No. 1 draft choice left in March on a free-agent contract with the New York Jets. Rookie Terry Poole, a left tackle at San Diego State, was the No. 2 left guard this spring for the Seahawks. And Lemuel Jeanpierre can play the position, as he did during the team's final minicamp last month.
Jeanpierre appeared to be the likely 2015 starter at center replacing two-time Pro Bowler Max Unger, whom Seattle sent to New Orleans in March's trade to get Graham. Jeanpierre had been getting the early OTA and minicamp reps with the first team in a nod to his five years backing up Unger. But last month Cable explored on the practice field what options he may have beyond him. Drew Nowak, a practice-squad guard in 2014, was the first-team center for much of the mandatory minicamp in June.
Cable hinted he may already have a starter in mind, and he may settle on one by the third exhibition game Aug. 29 at San Diego. Look for Jeanpierre to get the job at least initially because of his experience in Cable's zone-blocking and protection-audible system.
Patrick Lewis, a part-time starter for the injured Unger after Seattle got him off Cleveland's practice squad in October, is also an option here. So is longshot Kristjan Sokoli.
The rookie sixth-round pick was a defensive tackle at the University of Buffalo until Cable approached Sokoli in April just before the draft and asked if him he'd be willing to try center in the NFL. What was the kid from Albania going to say? No?
Cable is investing a lot of time and effort into making the quick, athletic Sokoli a center and perhaps a guard.
At right guard I've been impressed from the first day of rookie minicamp with Mark Glowinski from West Virginia. Very quick; he is one of Seattle's fastest lineman getting outside on sweeps and screens. But J.R. Sweezy remains the starter -- at least for now. Cable's successful convert from college defensive tackle is entering the final season of his contract at a base pay of $1,542,000.
Right tackle remains Justin Britt's. He won the starting role in the 2014 training camp as a rookie and started all last season there. He was slow at times against top, speed edge rushers, and Glowinski played the position for two years in junior college. But expect Britt to be at right tackle on Sept. 13 when the Seahawks open the season at St. Louis.