The 2016 rookie class arrived at VMAC on Thursday and were fitted for their first practice as Seahawks at Rookie Mini Camp starting Friday.
Seahawks rookies are in town, and on Friday they'll hit the practice field for the first time as NFL players, taking part in this weekend's three-day minicamp. Roster spots won't be decided this weekend, nor will starting jobs be awarded, but this weekend still represents a good chance to make a good first impression for Seattle's 10-man draft class, the 13 undrafted free agent signings and the tryout players who will be on hand.
Back in 2012, the Seahawks weren't necessarily planning on having a three-man quarterback competition in training camp, but after watching Russell Wilson for three days of rookie minicamp, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll declared that the third-round pick would compete with Tarvaris Jackson and Matt Flynn for the starting job, and the rest was history.
So with that in mind, here are five things to keep an eye on at this week's rookie minicamp:
1. Where do the new O-linemen line up?
First-round pick Germain Ifedi, third-rounder Rees Odhiambo and sixth-rounder Joey Hunt will have to compete with veterans if any of them are going to win starting jobs in 2016, and that competition obviously won't begin this weekend. But what will be interesting is to see where Ifedi and Odhiambo line up. Hunt, a college center, was drafted to play that position, so there's not much mystery there, but Carroll and general manager John Schneider said they see Ifedi starting out at right tackle after the draft, but later in the week Carroll mentioned right guard in a radio interview. That's not the Seahawks intentionally sending out mixed messages to confuse people, but rather an indication that the Seahawks see their line as a work in progress with a lot of moving parts that still have to come together. If the best starting five, come September, includes Ifedi at guard, he'll play there, but if the Seahawks feel they're better off with him at tackle, or on the bench, then that's what will happen. As fun as it might be to project lineups four months before the start of the season, nothing is close to being set in stone right now.
In all likelihood, the Seahawks could move Ifedi around a bit between now and the start of the season as they try to find the best combination of players—remember, Seattle's line wasn't set until midway through camp last year. And while Odhiambo was primarily a tackle at Boise State, the Seahawks say they plan to use him at left guard, so this will be the beginning of an adjustment period for him.
2. Just how good is Jarran Reed?
OK, so we really won't know how good Reed is until the season begins, but there will be plenty of eyes on the second-round pick out of Alabama, mostly because Carroll and Schneider couldn't stop gushing about the defensive tackle they called the best run-stopper in the draft. Reed, a player many thought would be a first-round pick, slid into the second round, prompting the Seahawks to trade up in order to acquire him.
The real test for Reed won't come until he goes against veterans in camp in a padded practice, but Seahawks coaches are no doubt excited to get their first on-field work in with their second-round steal.
3. How do the new running backs look?
With Marshawn Lynch retiring, and with three draft picks added to the mix, running back will be one of the most changed position groups on Seattle's roster in 2016. The Seahawks already envision a specific role for C.J. Prosise, a third-round pick out of Notre Dame, hoping he can become a third-down back in the mold of Fred Jackson and Robert Turbin—though Prosise's athleticism and receiver background could allow the Seahawks to expand that role from what it was last year.
Alex Collins, meanwhile, rushed for 1,000-plus yards for three straight seasons at Arkansas, and has the build—5-foot-10, 217 pounds—of a prototypical lead back. Zac Brooks has a lot of athletic ability but didn't get a ton of carries at Clemson. Even with the lack of college production, Brooks was an intriguing enough prospect for the Seahawks to take in the seventh round. Where the backs fit into the rotation won't be determined until Thomas Rawls and Christine Michael are added to the mix, but the three rookies will get a chance to make an early impression on their coaches.
At fullback the Seahawks are going to look at two undrafted free agents this weekend, Schneider said on 710 ESPN Seattle, former USC running back Tre Madden and Florida Atlantic defensive lineman Brandin Bryant.
4. Is Russell Wilson's backup participating in this minicamp?
Tarvaris Jackson, Wilson's backup for the past three seasons, is currently an unrestricted free agent, and while Carroll has expressed the desire to bring Jackson back, there are no guarantees that will happen. So if Jackson doesn't re-sign, who becomes Wilson's backup? At least two candidates will be on the field this weekend, undrafted rookie Trevone Boykin, and former Skyline High School standout Jake Heaps. Boykin, who played at TCU, was one of the top undrafted quarterbacks available and is an exceptional athlete, though like Wilson, a bit undersized by NFL quarterback standards. Heaps, once one of the top high school recruits in the country, went undrafted in 2015 after bouncing around to three colleges, and spent training camp with the New York Jets last year. Those two, plus any tryout players brought into the mix, will get plenty of reps to show what they can do.
5. Will any tryout players make a name for themselves?
Part of the reason NFL teams bring in dozens of tryout players for rookie minicamp is that they just need enough bodies to have a good practice. But when the Seahawks extend an invitation to unsigned players, they don't just see them as practice fodder. Perform well enough this weekend, even as an unsigned player, and Seahawks coaches will notice. Back in 2013, defensive end Benson Mayowa arrived at minicamp as a tryout player, and while Carroll didn't know Mayowa's name, he was impressed by "the kid from Idaho" and Mayowa eventually landed a contract with Seattle, appearing in two games that season. Since signing with Oakland in 2014, Mayowa has appeared in 28 games, starting three while registering 31 tackles and two sacks. Cooper Helfet, who has appeared in 24 games with Seattle, starting four, was a tryout player in 2012, as were tight end Sean McGrath (2012), tight end RaShaun Allen (2014) and defensive tackle T.Y. McGill (2015). And last year at rookie minicamp, a local tryout player, Washington's Kasen Williams, turned some heads, and after spending much of last season on the practice squad, he finished the year on the 53-man roster.