With rookie minicamp in the books, and with so many intriguing position battles on the horizon thanks to the addition of this year's rookie class, it's time once again to answer questions from you the fans. As always, thanks to everyone who submitted a question, and apologies if I wasn't able to get to yours this week.
@makaiogillespie asks, "Which of the rookies stood out the most and looks like they could have the biggest impact of the team?" @Adeiphoand @soccer15matt2k also asked about impact rookies.
A: In terms of standing out in rookie minicamp, receiver Kenny Lawler probably is the most obvious choice. The seventh-round pick out of Cal made a number of spectacular catches, showing why the Seahawks were so excited to be able to get him late in the draft. That being said, however, it's worth remembering that players in the trenches have a lot harder of a time standing out in a setting like last weekend's minicamp, which took place without pads, so just because a lineman or linebacker or even a running back didn't stand out, that doesn't mean he won't have a big impact this fall. Conversely, looking great in May doesn't guarantee a big role in the regular season.
Lawler, for example, had a spectacular weekend, but he'll have to battle for playing time in a position group that includes Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, Tyler Lockett, Paul Richardson, Kevin Smith and Kasen Williams. Other players who maybe didn't have as many big moments over the weekend, however, have much clearer paths to playing time and perhaps starting roles in 2016.
Not surprisingly, Seattle's first four picks are all players with a chance to play a lot right away. First-rounder Germain Ifedi will compete at right guard, and while nothing is given, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll is very excited about Ifedi's size and ability, and the fact that Mark Glowinksi is moving to compete at left guard would seem to indicate the Seahawks are making room for Ifedi to start if he's ready to handle it. And the way Carroll and general manager John Schneider have raved about second-round pick Jarran Reed, it would be surprising at this point if the defensive tackle didn't step into the starting lineup with Brandon Mebane having left in free agency.
Seattle's next two picks, running back C.J. Prosise and tight end Nick Vannett, don't necessarily project as immediate starters, but could have significant roles in the offense, with Prosise serving as the third-down back and Vannett as a blocking tight end in two tight-end sets.
With all of these projections, however, please remember that it's only May, and a lot can and will change between now and the start of the season.
@ClarkRucker asks, "What are Trevone Boykin's chances of being the backup QB next year? On the active roster?
A: Boykin, who signed with Seattle as a free agent after the conclusion of the 2016 draft, looks to have a real shot at winning that backup job, though he'll certainly have to compete for it. As of now, Boykin is battling with Jake Heaps, the only other quarterback on the roster, to be Russell Wilson's backup, but there's a good chance another quarterback could be added to the roster before or during training camp to join that competition. Tarvaris Jackson, Wilson's backup the past three seasons, is still a free agent, so he could be back—he didn't re-sign with Seattle until June last offseason—and Jackson would obviously have the advantage in terms of experience and familiarity with the system. That being said, however, Carroll made it pretty clear over the weekend that he likes the idea of having a backup quarterback who is similar to Wilson in terms of style of play.
"His versatility and his style of play is so similar to Russell's," Carroll said Friday. "He's got a big arm, he's a very creative athlete, has great instincts and great vision. His ability to run and make people miss and get out of trouble is very similar to what Russell does. I thought that the opportunity to have both those guys in the same offense it gives us a chance–if it works out, we've got a long ways to go, if it works out—to maintain continuity with one of the backups.
"Tarvaris has been a fantastic kid for us over the years, but they're not in the same style.I love Tarvaris and we'd love to have him back if that's where we go in time, but I think Boykin really is special in that regard that he's so unique and he also is unique in the way that we like to play our quarterback."
As for Boykin's chance of being on the 53-man roster, that could very well be directly tied to his ability to win the No. 2 job. More often than not under Carroll and general manager John Schneider, the Seahawks have carried only two quarterbacks on the roster, though at times they have shown a willingness to go with three.
@MoneyLynch24 asks, "Who's winning the NBA Finals?"
A: Hard not to go with the Golden State Warriors, right? Record-setting season, Steph Curry is back, and they're an easy team to root for. Plus, I don't want to end up on Riley Curry's bad side.
@AGarrett90 asks, "Pete Carroll talked about the Seahawks using some dime packages this coming season. What advantages does that have? Disadvantages?"
A: As Aaron notes, Carroll mentioned on 710 ESPN Seattle earlier this week that the Seahawks could end up using more dime (six defensive backs) packages this season. That was part of Carroll's discussion about Brandon Browner and how the former starting cornerback could have a hybrid role this season.
It's way, way too early to know what Browner's role will look like, but in terms of playing more dime, the obvious advantage is that an extra defensive back helps in coverage. The disadvantage is that having six defensive backs means having only one linebacker on the field or three defensive linemen, both of which can make a team more vulnerable to the run. The Seahawks, however, would hope that having big, physical defensive backs such as Browner, Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman and DeShawn Shead could mitigate the loss of an extra front-seven player if a team were to run against a dime package.
On a somewhat related note, @JaredStanger asks, "Which cornerback is in the pole position to start opposite Sherm?"
A: While you can't rule out the possibility of somebody like Tharold Simon having a great camp and winning a job, right now my hunch is that the Seahawks would start 2016 similar to how they ended last season at cornerback, with Jeremy Lane and Shead splitting time both at right cornerback and in the nickel role. Carroll has said repeatedly how much he likes the flexibility both of those players give the defense, which is why I'd hesitate to name one the likely starter outside and call one the nickel. Again, just speculating here, but a scenario where the two split inside and outside duties, depending on matchups, seems like a very real possibility.
@FieldGulls asks, "Who are the starting lineups?"
A: Nice try, Danny. As Pete Carroll said after rookie minicamp "It's so early…. We have no helmets on, we are in Phase 2 and we're snapping the ball against nobody. Nobody's out here, it's just totally on air." So yeah, even if Carroll wanted to give out his starting lineup four months before the start of the season, he couldn't really do so now, because coaches still have a lot to figure out between now and September.
@_BVM asks, "How many 280-plus-pound fullbacks do we have kicking around. Are we set on having a Will Tukuafu-type on the 53?"
A: Right now the Seahawks have two very large players listed as fullbacks on their roster, both of whom played defensive tackle in college: University of Washington product Taniela Tupou (6-foot-1, 284 pounds) and Florida International's Brandin Bryant (6-2, 289). As was the case with Will Tukuafu last year, having a big fullback with a D-line background not only adds a very physical element to the run game, it provides depth at defensive line should injuries become an issue, essentially freeing up a roster spot somewhere else. The Seahawks are also looking at former USC running back Tre Madden at fullback, so they could go with a more traditional player at that spot, but don't be surprise if the Seahawks once again go big at fullback in 2016.
@haaenson asks, "Would Alex Collins or Pete Carroll win an Irish dance competition?"
Yes, Carroll did show off his dance skills at minicamp over the weekend…
But I'm going to have to pick Collins, who actually has some training.
@Superdonaldo asks, "What does the center position look like now that Justin Britt, Joey Hunt and Patrick Lewis are competing?" And @djdjjohn99 asks, "How does the offensive line look?"
A: There are understandably a lot of questions about Seattle's line with so many changes expected in 2016. As this story from Tony Drovetto notes, the Seahawks could have a different starter at every position this season with two holdovers from last year's line, Britt and Garry Gilliam, both changing positions.
Starting with center, Lewis is the returning starter and played well last year, but is far from certain to keep his job. The Seahawks are trying Britt there, his third position in as many years, and his familiarity with the scheme and offensive line coach Tom Cable is a plus. Hunt is the first college center the Seahawks have drafted under Carroll and Schneider, and though a bit undersized, is a player they really like, so you can't count him out even if center is a hard position for a rookie to adjust to, and the Seahawks are also still intrigued about Kristjan Sokoli's upside given his athletic ability.
As for the rest of the line, Gilliam seems to be the front-runner at left tackle, though he'll have to hold off Bradley Sowell, while Mark Glowinski and rookie Rees Odhiambo will be in the competition at left guard. First-round pick Germain Ifedi seems to be the front-runner at right guard, though again, he'll have to compete for that spot, and depending on how things shake out at center, Sokoli could factor in at one of the guard spots as well. Free-agent signing J'Marcus Webb looks like the likely starter at right tackle, but Terry Poole, among others, will try to push him for that spot.
@DavidWilson17 asks, "What does the running back depth chart look like going into the preseason?" @DashRedarYT asks, "Is Rawls still the choice for starting running back?" And @poketheswirl asks, "Do the Seahawks plan on keeping five running backs? What position will be left thin if so?"
A: Assuming Rawls is healthy for the start of the season, and Carroll and Schneider have given no indication he won't be, he would figure to have a leg up on the competition considering how well he played last year. But with Christine Michael back, and with the Seahawks drafting three running backs, there is sure to be a fierce competition in camp for playing time and for carries. Prosise should be the third-down back, while Collins and Michael could be battling for carries behind Rawls—or perhaps the No. 1 job in camp if Rawls isn't ready for preseason games. Zac Brooks, meanwhile, has some similar traits to Prosise having also played receiver in the past, Carroll noted, so he could also factor into that third-down role. All five running backs making the roster in addition to a fullback is probably unlikely, so the competition will be a fun one to watch in August.
In terms of numbers, five running backs (assuming we're including the fullback in that number) isn't unheard of, especially for a team that wants to run the ball as much as the Seahawks. Keeping that many backs could mean five receivers instead of six, or nine offensive linemen instead of 10, but five backs is definitely doable, and the Seahawks have carried that many in the past.
As mentioned in the fullback answer earlier, there are ways to create an "extra" roster spot with versatility, so if the Seahawks really want to carry four running backs and a fullback, they could make it work, especially if that fullback can play defensive line. Shead's ability to play safety and corner is another way the Seahawks can have roster flexibility. But what it often comes down to when it deciding final roster spots at any position is special teams play. Sometimes the battle for a job doesn't come down to one receiver vs. another, or one running back vs. another, it can be a receiver vs. a running back based on who can contribute more on special teams.
The first day of Seahawks Rookie Minicamp at VMAC was also the first day as a pro for many of these 68 roster hopefuls.