It's time once again to open the mailbag and answer questions from you, the fans. As always, thanks to everyone who asked questions this week, and apologies if I wasn't able to get to your question this time around.
@FreeMarketsFan asks, "Is the drafting of Rashaad Penny a sign that Chris Carson's injury isn't healing as planned, or is Penny just that special?"
A: Definitely the latter. Chris Carson, who won the starting job as a rookie, only to sustain a season-ending injury in Week 4, nearly made it back at the end of last season. He's healthy now and taking part in voluntary offseason workouts, and he'll definitely be a factor in the competition at running back when training camp begins.
But even if the Seahawks like Carson, as well as the likes of Mike Davis and C.J. Prosise, they still took Penny in the first round because in the San Diego State back, they see a very special player capable of helping them reach one of head coach Pete Carroll's stated offseason goals: improving the running game.
Seahawks running backs have struggled to stay healthy over the past three seasons, so even if the Seahawks like who they had on the roster already, it's no surprise that they'd want to get deeper there, especially when they did so by getting the player who led the nation in rushing last season. When Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and John Schneider talked about Penny after drafting him, two of the attributes they kept coming back to were his explosiveness and also his durability.
On a related note…
@gnarlyraddad asks, "Who do you think will start at running back in Week 1?"
A: Can I answer this one in late August? In all seriousness, it's simply too soon to make anyone the favorite in this battle. Yes, Penny is a first-round pick and a very talented prospect, but he still has to prove he can get the job done at the NFL level. Carson, meanwhile, needs to build off what he did to win the job last year while showing he can stay healthy. And Prosise has shown tremendous upside when healthy, but his first two seasons have been a struggle in terms of availability. And let's not discount Mike Davis' chances either. Davis played well last season after being promoted off the practice squad, and he also was able to stay healthy through the end of the season, which is no small feat given the run of injuries at that position dating back to 2015.
One thing that's important to remember in this discussion is that if the Seahawks succeed in their goal to improve the running game, there will be enough caries for multiple backs to make their mark, regardless of who wins the starting role.
@joeybadxss asks, 'Who do you think our starting D-line will consist of?"
A: Again, it's way too early to know this for sure, but what we do know for certain is that the starting defensive line will be quite a bit different with three of four starters from last year moving on—Michael Bennett via trade, Sheldon Richardson via free agency and Cliff Avril because of injury.
Given that Frank Clark took over a starting role for Avril last season, he should be considered a leading candidate to start at one end spot. The other one could go a couple of ways, but Dion Jordan has a good chance given how well he played late last season. It can sometimes be hard for rookies to make an immediate impact on the defensive line, but third-round pick Rasheem Green could certainly factor into the competition for a starting job, or at the very least a significant role in the rotation.
At defensive tackle, Jarran Reed is the lone returning starter on the D-line, so he's got a good chance to keep that role. As for who starts in the middle next to him, Carroll and Schneider described free-agent addition Shamar Stephen as the type of big-bodied interior linemen they like in their base defense, so he could be the guy there, but there's a number of other options, including Nazair Jones, who showed promise as a rookie, and Tom Johnson, another free-agent signing.
It's worth keeping in mind that with the line, the "starting" group isn't necessarily the four players who will play the most snaps in any given game. If the Seahawks play a lot of base defense in one game, then a big run-stopper like Stephen might play a lot, whereas if they're in nickel a lot, players like Johnson and Jones, who are known more as interior pass-rushers, could play more. Another option will be for versatile ends such as Green to spend more time playing inside, allowing another pass-rusher to see the field more. Also factoring into this conversation is Barkevious Mingo, who will get a chance to win the starting job at strongside linebacker, but will also be a pass-rusher off the edge in sub-packages.
@FauxPauxFaux asks, "Will the defensive scheme change away from base?"
A: I'd argue it already has for the Seahawks and pretty much every NFL team. While Seattle's base defense (four defensive linemen, three linebackers, four defensive backs) is still important, particularly when facing run-heavy offenses, the Seahawks, like the rest of the league, play more nickel (five defensive backs with two linebackers) than base defense because the NFL has become a pass-first league.
@CamKillaCam7 asks, "How does Ken Norton's approach differ from previous defensive coordinators?"
A: When talking about Seattle's defense, it's important to remember that Carroll, a longtime defensive assistant and defensive coordinator before becoming a head coach, has a big hand in Seattle's defense, so regardless of changes at defensive coordinator, Seattle's defense will look relatively similar from year to year as long as Carroll is in charge of things.
That being said, Carroll gives his assistants the freedom to put their own touch on things, so this year's defense won't be a carbon copy of last year's, just as things adjusted slightly from Gus Bradley to Dan Quinn to Kris Richard. If anything, the most noticeable change might just be in the way Ken Norton Jr. makes his presence felt. Not that Seattle's previous defensive coordinators weren't energetic themselves, but Norton, a former All-Pro linebacker and the son of a former heavyweight champ, brings a unique level of intensity to Seattle's sidelines.
During last weekend's minicamp, Carroll noted that Norton, "was barking at them Day 1, from the meetings on throughout. It's really fun to have him back, I love his spirit. He brings so much for the players and he has so much to offer these young guys. It's a natural connection we're lucky to have."
@UnintendedMax asks, "Is the O-line fixed?" @kingston_v5 also ask about the offensive line.
A: While the Seahawks didn't address the line heavily in the draft—they used a fifth-round pick on Ohio State tackle Jamarco Jones—they are counting on that unit to get better in 2018.
One of the biggest changes comes not in on-field personnel, but in a change on the coaching staff with Mike Solari taking over as offensive line coach this offseason. The Seahawks are expecting Solari to make a difference, and the hope is that free-agent signing D.J. Fluker can help them upgrade at guard, but perhaps more than any change, the Seahawks are counting on continuity to be what makes a difference on their line.
While there will be competition at multiple spots during camp, the Seahawks could potentially head into 2018 with four starters back from last year's line: left tackle Duane Brown, guard Ethan Pocic (likely at left guard if Fluker wins the job at right guard, his natural position), center Justin Britt and right tackle Germain Ifedi. Again, there will be competition at some of those spots, but if those four do start, that would represent a level of offensive-line continuity that the Seahawks haven't had in years, and offensive line is a position group where continuity is very valuable.
"This is the best we've been in some time," Carroll said of the line earlier this offseason. "A little quietly it's emerging that it's a very good group and it's going to be one that we're going to look forward to seeing some real progress made… It hasn't been mentioned that much, but we feel like we have continuity. We haven't said that in so many years, but we feel like we have some continuity on the offensive line, so we're looking forward to it."
@bill_schwener asks, "Any news on Kam Chancellor?"
A: Nothing new this week on Chancellor, who missed the final seven games of the 2017 season with a neck injury. While a decision was made on Cliff Avril last week, it's still wait-and-see on Chancellor. Seahawks general manager John Schneider said last month that Chancellor will have more tests this summer that will give more clarity on his status for 2018. Chancellor also said as much in an Instagram post, writing "after this exam, God will direct me on which way to go."
@Cou_Rouge_1 asks, "Is it Carmel or caramel?"
A: If you're asking about the candy or sauce, caramel. But if you mean the city near Indianapolis or the by-the-sea city in Monterey County, then it's Carmel. If you're asking my preference, give me a trip to Cali over the sweets.
Photos from Phase 2 of the Seahawks' 2018 offseason workout program on May 8, 2018 at Virginia Mason Athletic Center.