The Seahawks are back at it this week for their veteran minicamp, the last official team workouts before training camp kicks off later this summer. This three-day camp is just the latest part of the long process the Seahawks and every team goes through in preparing for the regular season, and it's part of an offseason that has been very encouraging in the eyes of Seahawks coach Pete Carroll.
"Across the board the competition is really on it," Carroll said earlier this month during Organized Team Activities. "I think this should be the most competitive (training) camp we've had, depth-wise, and that's just a tribute to what happened in the draft and the guys coming back off of injuries and the guys we have been able to acquire. It should be a really hard-nosed tough camp for us."
Two weeks ago, we took a look at five things to watch in OTAs, so in an effort to avoid redundancy, here are five different things to watch in this week's minicamp:
1. A mostly healthy and deep group at running back.
At this time last year, presumed-starter Thomas Rawls was still recovering from a broken ankle and was unable to take part in offseason workouts. Rookie running back C.J. Prosise also battled injuries in the preseason and training camp, making it hard to get a good feel for what the running back group might look like in 2016.
This time around, Rawls and Prosise are fully healthy, as is second-year back Alex Collins, who came on strong late in the season. The Seahawks also added former Pro-Bowl back Eddie Lacy, who is not at full speed yet because of an ankle injury, but who has been able to do limited work this offseason. With all of those players, rookie Chris Carson and a few other backs all in the mix, running back should be a very competitive spot, both in terms of earning carries at the top of the depth chart, and for the final couple of roster spots at that position.
"The running back spot, we're getting to know Eddie as he's working, and fortunately he has been able to work at a good tempo so we can see him," Carroll said during OTAs. "Getting C.J. back to full speed — remember, C.J. was never really full-go the whole time — he looks terrific. And Thomas is back to full speed again. He just barely made it back to us last year. So that spot, with Alex, and I'm really interested to see Chris Carson when he gets his chance too, so that group's competitive."
2. Receiver depth.
In addition to running back, Carroll spoke excitedly about the competition that should unfold at receiver, where a number of talented players are battling for playing time and roster spots behind veterans like Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, Tyler Lockett and Paul Richardson.
"The receiver spot, we've got some really exciting guys there who are competing," Carroll said. "The new guys have already made an impression that they fit in the competitive opportunity."
That group of new guys includes a pair of draft picks, Amara Darboh and David Moore, as well as a few undrafted rookies, including former LSU standout Cyril Grayson Jr., who has made a good early impression after signing with the team in March, giving him a head start on the rest of the rookie class. Second-year players Kenny Lawler and Tanner McEvoy will also be in the mix.
"It's a great group of guys," Baldwin said last week. "Again, John [Schneider] and Pete [Carroll] do a great job of bringing people in to compete and push the older guys and to push and compete with the younger guys as well. They've done a fantastic job. I think this group, specifically, speaks to the type of players that we like in our receiver room and that is the hard-nosed guys who don't come in with a lot of hype around them but they go out there and they do what they have to do. They're the tunnel workers, if you will. The dirty workers. So I appreciate the guys that we got in because they work hard."
3. The competition at strongside linebacker.
While the Seahawks have a pair of Pro Bowlers at two of their linebacker spots, Bobby Wagner in the middle and K.J. Wright at weakside linebacker, there's currently an opening in the starting lineup. And while strongside linebacker isn't quite a full-time position — the amount of nickel defense Seattle plays means a lot of two-linebacker formations — it is still an important part of Seattle's defense. Two candidates for that job that Carroll mentioned during OTAs are a pair of veteran free agent additions, Michael Wilhoite and Terence Garvin.
"The linebacker spot is the most competitive it has been," Carroll said. "Michael Wilhoite coming in, he's an experienced player who can play for us. He can play Mike, Will or Sam, that's a really big boost to us. Terence Garvin has looked really good at the Sam position. He was a DB coming out of college, so he's got good coverage skills that we're looking for in that position, as well as enough size and strength to play on the edge. He's battling it out with Mike Wilhoite right now there, that's a really good competitive spot."
4. The battle at backup quarterback.
Early in OTAs, Carroll mentioned that the Seahawks were still looking at quarterback options because Trevone Boykin, last year's backup behind Russell Wilson, "continues to need to be pushed."
Not long after Carroll said that, the Seahawks signed veteran quarterback Austin Davis last week hoping he can give Boykin a good run for the No. 2 job. While Boykin has the benefit of spending a year in Seattle's offense, Davis has significantly more NFL playing time under his belt having started eight games over the past five seasons.
The Seahawks won't be in a hurry to settle that backup spot, and Carroll has indicated that keeping three quarterbacks is a consideration this season after seeing Wilson battle injuries last year, so Davis and Boykin should have plenty of time and opportunities to show what they can do.
5. The continued progress of a pair of Pro-Bowl safeties.
One of the pleasant surprises of this month's OTAs had more to do with players simply being on the field than anything in particular they were doing.
"The guys we thought might be more slowed up at this time are really out there able to get enough work that they're feeling some continuity and getting the work load," Carroll said.
That group included a pair of free agent additions who are recovering from 2016 injuries, Lacy and offensive lineman Luke Joeckel, as well as receiver and return specialist Tyler Lockett. Also doing more than Carroll might have expected was safety Kam Chancellor, who had both ankles cleaned up this offseason. Then there's Chancellor's partner at safety, Earl Thomas, about whom Carroll sounded the most excited.
"He's working a lot more than what we thought he would do at this time," Carroll said. "… Probably the guy who jumped out to most of all the guys to me was Earl. When we came into work on Tuesday, he was able to get a lot of reps and was working at top speed. He was really fired up about it, too, because he wasn't quite sure himself how far he could go. So he's making good progress. There will be no question about him being ready to go when we get back to (training) camp."
Regardless of how much or how little players like Thomas and Chancellor do in this minicamp, the progress they have shown thus far is encouraging.
The Seahawks held their seventh and final set of Organized Team Activities on Friday, June 9 at Renton's Virginia Mason Athletic Center.