Happy Wednesday everyone. Seahawks training camp is now just a little over two weeks away, and to help you (and us) kill the time between now and then, it's time once again to open up the mailbag and answer questions from you, the fans. As always, thanks to all who asked questions this week, and my apologies if I couldn't get to your question this time around.
@BellCowBack asks, "Do the Seahawks have an analytics department?
A: While the Seahawks don't have a department specifically labeled "analytics" they do, like many NFL teams, rely on data analytics to try to find an edge. Two of the people leading the way for Seattle in that area are director of research and development Patrick Ward and research analyst Brian Eayrs.
From Ward, "We use data analytics as part of the decision making process across multiple questions that come up within football operations. Such analysis has helped provide objective feedback in the areas of team tactics, player personnel, and sports science analytics centered around player health and well-being."
Eayrs added that having a front office that is open to new ideas helps their work, saying, "The top decision makers in football operations are also very open to new analysis and ideas—which is obviously a big part of moving things forward."
An interesting side note, Eayrs is the son of longtime Vikings and Packers employee Mike Eayrs, who is something of a pioneer in the field of football analytics. When Pete Carroll was a young assistant with the Vikings under Bud Grant in the 1980s, he saw a presentation made to Vikings assistants by Mike Eayrs, and had a hand in convincing the team to bring Eayrs on board to work for the team. Early in his tenure with the Seahawks, Carroll reached out to the elder Eayrs about expanding his team's use of analytics, and Mike Eayrs put Carroll in touch with his son, Brian, who at the time was working for STATS, LLC.
"On a regular basis, we reference Brian's work, his ability to take a deeper look at different situations and variables we throw together when we think there might be something to it," Carroll said in 2016. "Then he has his way of researching it and really kind of extrapolating all the stuff. He throws a lot of stuff by us that we can't use, and there's a lot of stuff that we can use. He has been instrumental.
"I would be really uncomfortable without him. Knowing I have him there to look up some harebrained thing I think I see, then he can figure out a way to research it and kind of quantify it, he is extremely valuable to us."
@nallen64 asks, "How soon are the Seahawks looking to solidify their starting five on the offensive line?
A: This is an interesting question because, with a new offensive line coach, Mike Solari, and offensive coordinator, Brian Schottenheimer, taking over this year, it's hard to predict how they'll do things in camp. In past years we've seen quite a bit of shuffling along the line in certain training camps, but that was under different coaches. And as much as Carroll values competition, he has also talked on a few occasions about how much the line could benefit from continuity in 2018 because of the potential to return four starters from last year—tackles Duane Brown and Germain Ifedi, guard Ethan Pocic and center Justin Britt. That's not to say those four have jobs locked down, but it appears based on what we saw in offseason workouts that those four, along with free-agent addition D.J. Fluker, will be given a chance to work together and try to establish that continuity, which can be so valuable for that position group. That being said, don't count out the likes of George Fant, Jordan Roos, Rees Odhiambo and others to push for starting jobs.
@HolliWinters asks, "Who takes care of Turf the dog?"
A: As many Seahawks fans know, a very good boy named Turf spends most of his days at the Seahawks practice facility, enjoying a giant yard that has to make all his other four-legged friends jealous. Turf actually belongs to Sergio Pedroza, the team's field & grounds manager, but he has many, many friends at the VMAC happy to keep him company on any given day.
On a related note, Turf was featured on the Animal Planet show Animal Cribs last season. You can watch the full episode right here.
@rgudyka asks, "Which tight end will start the regular season?"
A: Given the nature of the position, it's entirely possible the Seahawks could open the 2018 season with two tight ends on the field, and given the different skill sets of different tight ends, the Seahawks likely view that position as having more than one starter, so to speak. The Seahawks drafted Will Dissly because they saw him as the best blocking tight end in the draft, so he certainly could have a big role. Ed Dickson, a veteran free-agent addition, has shown during his career that he can be a productive pass catcher as well as a quality blocker, so he could fit the mold of a more versatile tight end used in multiple situations. Nick Vannett, meanwhile, is a player the Seahawks are hoping can make a leap in his third season, and like both Dissly and Dickson, the Seahawks see the former third-round pick as a player who can contribute both in the running game and as a pass-catcher.
All of this is a long way of me saying I really have no idea at this point. I think it's going to be a pretty wide open competition for playing time between those three, with Tyrone Swoopes, a former college quarterback and an athlete with a lot of upside, joining the competition as something of a wild card.
@gnarlyraddad asks, "What players do you think will step up the most this year? For example, Nick Vannett, Jaron Brown, Delano Hill, etc."
A: With the Seahawks making some significant changes to the roster this season, there will be room for players to step into bigger roles on both sides of the ball, as this question notes. The Seahawks are very high on Delano Hill, a third-round pick in 2017, so if he can get on the field depending on what happens at safety, he could definitely be a breakout candidate. Even if he didn't end up with a starting role, the Seahawks showed last year with Bradley McDougald a willingness to play more three-safety or "big nickel" packages, so Hill could earn more playing time in 2018 whether he starts or not. There's definitely room for a receiver to earn playing time following the free agency departure of Paul Richardson, be it Brown, Amara Darboh, David Moore, veteran free-agent signing Brandon Marshall or trade acquisition Marcus Johnson. And as we discussed in the previous question, there's every opportunity for Vannett to earn more playing time this season with Jimmy Graham and Luke Willson leaving in free agency.
I think there could also be a group of younger players who were already starters/regular contributors who are poised to make a leap, with a few possibilities being, in no particular order, Shaquill Griffin, Frank Clark, Jarran Reed, Ethan Pocic, Germain Ifedi, Chris Carson, Nazair Jones and McDougald. And if he can stay healthy, Dion Jordan will have a great opportunity to play a big role at defensive end and build off of a strong finish to 2017.
@tompage asks, "(Brian Schottenheimer) is our new play caller, what differences will there be in the play calling?"
A: For obvious reasons, the Seahawks aren't going to divulge in the offseason how their offense might look different come September, but a change in offensive coordinator, as well as offensive line coach, will inevitably lead to some changes to the offense.
"There's some different scheme stuff that we're doing and some different principle," Carroll said last month.
Schottenheimer noted earlier this offseason that trying to completely overhaul the offense wouldn't make a lot of sense on a team with, among other things, an established quarterback, and said, "It's probably 70 percent of what they've done here and then maybe 30 percent of ideas from (new offensive line coach Mike Solari) and myself and some of the new guys."
Schottenheimer is also on board with Carroll's plan to get back to running the ball more, so look for more of that than you saw in 2017.
Another big part of the Schottenheimer hire is having, as Carroll put it, "leadership coming from one voice" on offense. Previously the offense was a collaboration between coordinator Darrell Bevell and offensive line coach/assistant head coach Tom Cable, and while those two helped produce some very impressive results during the most successful run in franchise history, Carroll wants to see how his offense, and Wilson in particular, will respond to one voice calling the shots on offense.
English Seahawks fan @DanCohen17, as well as @TheAdamClifford asked, prior to the conclusion of Wednesday's World Cup semifinal, if football is coming home.
A: Sadly for our English fans, football is not coming home. It's going to either Croatia or France. For those who have no idea what we're talking about…
@lemiericle asks, "Doesn't the fact that Steve Largent never wore receiver gloves make him the all-time greatest hands in the NFL?"
A: I'm not sure there's a way to truly determine the single greatest set of hands in NFL history, and plenty of receivers from Largent's era (and earlier) also played without gloves and had success, but disclaimers aside, I doubt you'll get a lot of arguments for putting Largent in that "greatest hands" conversation. If you watch any of Largent's highlight videos, you'll see him making full-extension diving catches that would be difficult even with today's gloves, which greatly aid in catching the ball, let alone bare-handed. Largent had a lot of traits that made him an all-time great and the Seahawks' first Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee, and his hands are definitely on that list.
@UnintendedMax asks, "What is Eddie Vedder singing in Yellow Ledbetter?"
A: Pearl Jam is my favorite band and Yellow Ledbetter is one of my all-time favorite songs, yet I still had to laugh at this question, because, yes, Vedder mumbles the lyrics quite a bit in this (and many other) songs. Confusing things more is that the words have been known to change from performance to performance in what has become one of the band's most popular live songs. Anyway, it's a beautiful song regardless of the lyrics, so let's just end this Q&A the same way Pearl Jam ends so many of their concerts, with Yellow Ledbetter.