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Seahawks ready, still hungry, as training camp opens this week
Didn’t we just get back from New Jersey and the Seahawks’ stunningly impressive romp over the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII?
The obvious answer: No. What seems like a just-a-few-weeks-ago accomplishment actually happened almost six months ago. But the collective feeling around Virginia Mason Athletic Center as the Seahawks prepare to open training camp this week is: How did we get to this point so quickly? The coaches returned from their hiatus Monday morning. The players report Thursday, when they’ll have physicals and a meeting. The first practice is set for Friday morning.
It will be the 39th training camp in franchise history, and the sixth along the shores of Lake Washington in Renton. But it also will be unlike any of the previous training camps – which have been held at Eastern Washington University in Cheney (1976-85 and 1997-2007), in Kirkland (1986-96 and 2007-08) and at VMAC – because the Seahawks never have opened camp as the defending Super Bowl champions.
“Right now, I definitely believe we’re further ahead,” Pro Bowl quarterback Russell Wilson said recently. “It’s exciting. You have an itch because you know how to do it at a very high level. And the best part about it is we can continue to do it better.”
As for the media expectations, Peter King has listed the Seahawks at No. 1 in the first Fine Fifteen of his weekly “Monday Morning Quarterback” opus at SI.com.
But King’s pre-camp rankings also illustrated just how difficult a repeat will be. Eight of the Seahawks’ opponents in 2014 also made the Fine Fifteen, and will account for 11 of the team’s 16 regular-season games because each of the Seahawks’ NFC West rivals are ranked among the Top 11 – the San Francisco 49ers are No. 3, St. Louis Rams at No. 10 and Arizona Cardinals at No. 11.
The Seahawks play the 49ers in Weeks 13 and 15; the Rams in Weeks 7 and 17; and the Cardinals in Weeks 12 and 16. That’s five games against opponents from the best division in football in the final six weeks of the regular season.
Also on tap, and in King’s Fine Fifteen: Green Bay Packers (No. 2), the Seahawks’ opponent in their opener at CenturyLink Field on Sept. 4; a rematch with the Broncos (No. 6) at CenturyLink on Sept. 21; a Week 14 trip to Philadelphia for a game against the Eagles (No. 8); a Week 2 matchup with the Chargers (No. 12) in San Diego; and a Week 8 trip to Carolina to play the Panthers (No. 14).
If, as they say, you have to beat the best to be the best, then the Seahawks are playing a Super Bowl-caliber schedule as they look to defend the first Super Bowl title in franchise history.
For that to happen, here are three other things that need to happen during training camp and the preseason:
James Carpenter must become a road-grader of a blocker at left guard – This is an important season for the team’s first-round pick from the 2011 NFL Draft. With Carpenter plagued by injuries during his first two seasons and a part-time starter last season, the club declined to exercise his option for 2015. So this is a contract year for Carpenter, who is lighter (by 15 pounds) and says he’s feeling better than he has since high school.
But it all starts with Carpenter starting, and being the overpowering blocker the coaches envision.
“Consistency, consistency, consistency, consistency,” line coach Tom Cable said when asked what he saw from Carpenter during the offseason program and minicamp. “When you’re healthy and you’re confident and you’re in better shape, all those things add up to give you the best chance to be consistent.
“That’s what we’re seeing out there. We’re seeing the kind of player we had hoped for, and we’re seeing it every day. So that’s cool.”
The best man wins the right tackle spot – With Breno Giacomini now with the New York Jets, second-year man Michael Bowie and second-round draft choice Justin Britt will compete to be the starter.
Bowie, a seventh-round pick last year, started seven games as a rookie when Giacomini was out with a knee injury. But he was inactive for five of the six regular-season games after Giacomini returned. So rather than being his job to lose, Bowie will have to win the spot – and do it against Britt, who only seemed to get better as the offseason progressed.
“He gets it,” Cable said of Britt. “Nothing is too big for him. He really has a good background and he’s ready for something like this. He’s been in the right kind of environments and he’s doing really well.”
Contain complacency – This should not only go without saying, it probably doesn’t even need to be said. Not if you looked into the eyes of All-Pro free safety Earl Thomas, All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman and versatile receiver Doug Baldwin. They signed new contracts or extensions this offseason, but talked about their primary What’s Next? focus being recapturing what it was that allowed the Seahawks to win their first Super Bowl.
While the players aren’t talking about the C-word, or even how to compensate for the leadership that has been lost in Red Bryant (released and signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars) and Michael Robinson (considering retirement), the media is.
In the search for nits to pick, these seem to be the pick of the litter for a still-young, still-talented, still-deep team that already knows what it takes to get to – and win – a Super Bowl.
What’s next? We’re all about to find out.