Seahawks Insider Blog

Key questions entering training camp start with--guess what--the offensive line

Quarterback Russell Wilson will be doing this again starting Saturday when training camp begins at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center in Renton. The team has questions beneath its surface of success and stability.
Quarterback Russell Wilson will be doing this again starting Saturday when training camp begins at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center in Renton. The team has questions beneath its surface of success and stability. Staff photographer

The core players are all under contract beyond this season. So are their leaders. Team owner Paul Allen gave coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider extensions this week through 2019 and ‘21, respectively, that make that atop the top of the league in pay among their peers.

“This this is clearly a top-three, top-five team in terms of ownership in the league,” Schneider said Thursday. “And obviously we’re biased so we would say it’s (number) 1.”

It all seems nearly perfect -- and remarkably, for this tumultuous league – stable for the Seahawks entering Saturday’s first practice of training camp at 10:15 a.m. at team headquarters in Renton.

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 retired Marshawn Lynch not in it for the first time since the start of the 2010 season.

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

And for whether rookie second-round draft choice Jarran Reed can begin to approach the effectiveness 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 allowed Wilson to get sacked 31 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’s 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 with a seven-foot wingspan) as the new guard. Left guard is a battle between 2015 draft pick Mark Glowinski, rookie draft choice Rees Odhiambo and Bradley Sowell, a five-year veteran signed from Arizona. Sowell can also 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 3½ seasons at Penn State – as a tight end.

The Seahawks were still 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 to start the opening game Sept. 11 against Miami.

Rawls became the heir to Lynch last year when he became the first undrafted rookie in NFL history to rush for at least 160 yards in two different 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 may 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 Thursday about Jackson, Schneider sounded like he was preparing for the possibility Boykin will be his No. 2 QB this season.

"I sent a note to his representative after the incident. Other than that, I haven’t heard much," Schneider said.

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

At tight end behind Graham, Seattle drafted Nick Vannett. He impressed coaches with blocking and catching. The Seahawks also signed Brandon Williams, 28, from Carolina in the offseason. He spent much of minicamps in May and June on the first unit with Graham still recovering from the ruptured patellar tendon he got in his knee in late 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 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 if the team had to play real games now Morgan would start at outside linebacker. He’s been a special-teams mainstay for the last six seasons.

"He’s just ahead of the other guys," the coach said.

Those other guys are Cassius Marsh, whom Seattle drafted in the fourth round out of UCLA in 2014 to be 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 – and 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 Carroll loves in cover corners. But the coach hasn’t loved the last three seasons of Simon’s injuries and, in the rare times he’s played, penalties.

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 Seattle-return season.