Seattle Seahawks

Despite stability, Seahawks enter camp with questions

Quarterback Trevone Boykin (2) signals as rehabbing tight end Jimmy Graham catches a ball at a Seahawks spring workout in Renton. The team is preparing for the possibility that Boykin, an undrafted rookie, will be its No. 2 QB this season.
Quarterback Trevone Boykin (2) signals as rehabbing tight end Jimmy Graham catches a ball at a Seahawks spring workout in Renton. The team is preparing for the possibility that Boykin, an undrafted rookie, will be its No. 2 QB this season. The Associated Press

Michael Bennett was expected to show up for training camp as promised.

Every member of the Seahawks’ core that has played in two of the past three Super Bowls is signed beyond this season. That includes Bennett, last year’s Pro Bowl defensive end. He’s been unhappy for more than a year about his contract but has been reporting when required.

Coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider are re-signed to stay together through at least 2019.

So the NFL should just skip these preliminaries and send Seattle straight into a fifth consecutive postseason, if not into Super Bowl 51 in February, right?

It all seems nearly perfect — and, remarkably, for this tumultuous league — stable for the Seahawks entering Saturday’s first practice of training camp.

Oh, except for that offensive line that may have new starters in all five positions.

Except for the question of when recuperating tight end Jimmy Graham and running back Thomas Rawls will be back on the field. And what Seattle’s backfield will look like with a retired Marshawn Lynch not in it for the first time since the start of the 2010 season.

Except for who is going to replace the departed Bruce Irvin at strong-side (“Sam”) linebacker.

And for whether rookie second-round draft choice Jarran Reed can begin to approach the effectiveness that Brandon Mebane had as the base for Seattle’s league-best run defense.

Mebane left for San Diego in March after nine years as the Seahawks’ bedrock nose tackle. He devoured blockers and freed Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, Kam Chancellor and friends to make tackles.

There’s also the matter of who will emerge as the cornerback opposite three-time All-Pro Richard Sherman for important passing downs.

And of whether Seattle truly feels comfortable with undrafted rookie Trevone Boykin as its quarterback if Russell Wilson does something he’s never done in his first four seasons: get hurt enough to miss a practice, let alone a game.

Those are the Seahawks’ most pressing issues over the next five weeks, 22 practices and four exhibition games of this preseason.

“We’ve got some stuff going on here,” Carroll said.

The most important of that stuff is on the offensive line. Last year’s O-line allowed Wilson to get sacked 31 times in the first seven games, then rallied late.

Veteran line coach Tom Cable is trying out Justin Britt as the new center. Britt struggled as a rookie in 2014 at right tackle and last season at left guard. The coaches know what they have in Patrick Lewis after he started the last half of the 2015 season at center. Seattle drafted Joey Hunt in the sixth round in May, and Cable says Hunt is in the competition at center, too.

The right side of the line is much bigger with 6-7, 331-pound J’Marcus Webb arriving from Oakland to play tackle and first-round pick Germain Ifedi (6-5, 325 pounds, with a seven-foot wingspan) as the new guard.

Left guard is a battle between 2015 draft pick Mark Glowinski and Bradley Sowell, a five-year veteran signed from Arizona. Sowell also can play tackle.

Left tackle, the key blocker on the backside of a right-handed quarterback, is Garry Gilliam’s job to lose. Gilliam was Seattle’s starting right tackle last season. He went undrafted in 2014 after playing 3 1/2 seasons at Penn State as a tight end.

The Seahawks were deciding Friday whether to put Graham or Rawls, or both, on the physically-unable-to-perform list to begin training camp. Rawls is seven months and three weeks removed from breaking his ankle and tearing ligaments in it. If they start on the PUP list, they could return to practice at any time this preseason. Carroll and Schneider say they expect both players to start in the opening game Sept. 11 against Miami.

Rawls became the heir to Lynch last season when he became the first undrafted rookie in NFL history to rush for at least 160 yards in two games. The Seahawks drafted Notre Dame’s C.J. Prosise to be their new third-down back to catch passes, plus Alex Collins from Arkansas and Zac Brooks from Clemson.

Advertised as a bullish runner, Collins impressed his new team in May and June with his receiving and open-field moves. He might get more opportunities than most rookie fifth-round picks do.

“The running-back thing, as young as it is, it’s going to be a great spot to watch. There’s a lot of diversity there in the styles that the guys bring,” Carroll said. “I’m really excited about that one.”

The Seahawks have been spoiled at quarterback by Wilson’s ability to avoid injury. But odds and the iffy offensive line make continuing to rely on that akin to tempting fate. The team had been talking to Tarvaris Jackson’s agent about the veteran possibly backing up Wilson for the fifth consecutive season. Then Jackson was arrested in Florida last month and charged with allegedly pointing a loaded gun at a woman believed to be his wife.

Asked on Thursday about Jackson, Schneider sounded like he was preparing for the possibility that Boykin will be his No. 2 QB this season.

“I sent a note to his (Jackson’s) representative after the incident. Other than that, I haven’t heard much,” Schneider said.

The general manager said he’s on the lookout for another veteran quarterback to possibly sign this preseason.

At tight end behind Graham, Seattle drafted Nick Vannett. He impressed coaches with blocking and catching.

The Seahawks signed Brandon Williams, 28, from Carolina in the offseason. He spent much of minicamps in May and June on the first unit — with Graham recovering from the ruptured patellar tendon he suffered in November.

“You guys don’t know much about us picking him up, but … we’re very fortunate to get him,” Carroll said of Williams. “He’s a very good special teamer, but he’ll add to that (tight-end) comp.”

The defense last season became the first since the 1950s Cleveland Browns to lead the NFL in fewest points allowed for four consecutive years. It returns nine of the 11 starters.

Carroll says “the ‘Sam’ linebacker spot is going to be a really good one to watch. That’s going to be wide open to see what happens.”

The coach has said that if the team had to play real games now, Mike Morgan would start at outside linebacker. He’s been a special-teams mainstay for the past six seasons.

“He’s just ahead of the other guys,” Carroll said.

Those other guys are Cassius Marsh, whom Seattle drafted in the fourth round out of UCLA in 2014 to be a defensive end, former safety Eric Pinkins and Kevin Pierre-Louis, another of the team’s fourth-round picks two years ago.

Perhaps no player on defense has more to gain — or lose — this preseason than Tharold Simon. The promising cornerback is in the fourth and final season of his rookie contract. At 6 feet 3 and 202 pounds, Simon has the length and physicality that Carroll loves in cover corners. But the coach hasn’t loved Simon’s injuries and, in the rare times he’s played, penalties.

“It’s my time,” Simon posted on Twitter this week.

Seattle re-signed Jeremy Lane this offseason to a four-year, $23 million contract. He is likely to begin games as the cornerback opposite Sherman. But the defense is best with Lane inside as the nickel back on passing downs.

That leaves a cornerback job on third downs for Simon, 2015 part-time starter DeShawn Shead, Marcus Burley or perhaps Brandon Browner in his return-to-Seattle season.

Gregg Bell: @gbellseattle

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