It's Q&A time once again, folks. In this week's mailbag, we cover topics ranging from the secondary to the rookie class to Marshawn Lynch's retirement to horse racing (sort of). As always, thanks to everyone who submitted questions this week, and apologies if I wasn't able to get to yours this time around.
@conradkrueger16 asks, "Will the addition of a healthy Jeremy Lane and reacquired Brandon Browner bring the LOB back to its 2013 form?"
A: Seahawks coach Pete Carroll is excited about the depth and versatility he has to work with in his secondary, thanks to, among other things, Lane's health, Browner's return, DeShawn Shead's development in 2015, Tharold Simon's health and more.
"We have, really, as good of flexibility as we've ever had," Carroll said earlier in OTAs. "Kelcie (McCray) also adds to that, Kelcie is a very versatile safety too. This is really as strong as I've felt we've gone into this portion of the year with versatility. The competition is really going to be on. We'll hopefully be able to situate that—Kris will get it all squared away—so we can take advantage of that. It does give us choices, matchup wise, if it all stays somewhat the same, so that's a real positive."
Whether or not this year's secondary can live up to the standard set by the 2013 group, however, remains to be seen. Only time will tell how this year's depth compares to that team's—we didn't know back then that Ron Parker would go on to be a productive player in Kansas City, or that Shead would develop into a starting-caliber cornerback, or that Lane and Byron Maxwell would become the players they have become—and matching that team's accomplishments would be very, very difficult. In helping the Seahawks to their first Super Bowl championship, Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Browner, Maxwell and company were part of a defense that led the NFL in points and yards allowed, passing yards allowed, takeaways, interceptions and opponent passer rating. That last stat, while not a complete representation of passing defense, does help show how incredibly difficult the Seahawks were to throw against. Opposing quarterbacks had just a 63.4 passer rating against the Seahawks in 2013, the lowest in the NFL since 2009. The gap between No. 1 and No. 2 in opponent passer rating that season was 10.8 points, the same gap between No. 2 and No. 19.
So yes, the 2016 Seahawks could have a very good secondary, possibly the best in the NFL, but topping the 2013 team will be a very big challenge.
@TablerDotCom asks, "Which rookie has stood out to you most at OTAs?"
A: First a disclaimer before answering this question. The Seahawks used five picks, including their first two, on offensive and defensive linemen, and in OTAs, it's very, very difficult for a lineman to make a big impression in a practice without contact or pads. So while first-round pick Germain Ifedi has a good chance to be Seattle's starting right guard, and second-rounder Jarran Reed figures to be a big part of the D-line rotation, neither has necessarily "flashed" a lot other than the fact that they fit the part from a physical standpoint. This is all a way of saying that the players who impress the most this time of year won't necessarily have the biggest impact in the regular season, and vice versa.
With that out of the way, a couple of rookies come to mind. Receiver Kenny Lawler, the seventh-round pick out of Cal who was the star of the rookie minicamp, continues to impress with his hands, while tight end Nick Vannett is looking like somebody who will contribute as a pass catcher and not just a blocker. The running backs have also been impressive, particularly C.J. Prosise for his speed and elusiveness, and Alex Collins, who looks like someone who will very much compete for carries in the backfield.
And on a related note…
@jbabington13 asks, "Could Alex Collins become the No. 2 back behind Rawls, beating out Prosise and Christine Michael? How many running backs do you think we keep on the 53-man roster?"
A: First, let's use this question to clear something up. Collins can be both the No. 2 back behind Rawls without being in competition for Prosise for playing time. The Seahawks view the third-down back as a very specific and important role, and all signs point to Prosise having that role. If Rawls and Collins end up being 1-2 on the depth chart as the first- and second-down back, so to speak—though don't count Michael out in that battle—Prosise would still have a significant role in the offense in passing situations and in the hurry up offense, similar to how the Seahawks used Fred Jackson last season.
@JoshHarris1997 asks, "Is Marshawn Lynch coming back?"
A: Let's see what he has to say about that topic...
@Speefypeef asks, "Based on the offseason, which player looks most poised to have a breakout year?" and @cooperharris34 asks, "Who is looking better than expected?"
A: These are related questions so we'll roll them into one answer. In addition to the rookies mentioned above, the Seahawks have a number of players who could be big contributors this year after having more limited roles in the past. Carroll was asked earlier in OTAs about players who have come back for offseason workouts looking like they have improved from a physical standpoint, and he singled out Tye Smith, Justin Britt, Mark Glowinski and Frank Clark. Seeing as only one of those players (Britt) was a starter last season, that leaves plenty several breakout candidates if any of those players can turn physical improvement into better play.
I'd also throw Tharold Simon's name into the mix for breakout candidates considering he has starting experience under his belt. Based on how he finished last season, how he looks in offseason workouts, and the pass-rush opportunity created by Bruce Irvin's departure, I'd say Clark has a very good chance to make a big leap in 2016.
@Ryfoooo asks, "Who do you think is poised to put up bigger numbers this year, Jermaine Kearse or Tyler Lockett?"
A: Very, very tough question to answer because both players finished last season playing very well, and both figure to factor prominently in Seattle's offense in 2016. Over his final five games last season, Lockett caught 23 passes for 318 yards and three touchdowns, then added 110 yards and a touchdown on four catches in the postseason. Kearse, meanwhile, caught 20 passes for 256 yards and two scores in the final four games of last season, then had 14 catches in the playoffs for 128 yards and two touchdowns.
While Kearse and Baldwin were the starters last season, Lockett played almost as many snaps in any given game, especially later in the season, and it's very likely that will be the case again this year, so it's too close to call who will have the bigger year between Kearse and Lockett in 2016. (And yes, I'm aware that I didn't actually answer the question, sorry).
@stretchjohnsen asks, "Pete Carroll and Doug Baldwin have each praised the improvement of 6-foot-3 receiver Douglas McNeil. Does he have a good shot at making the roster?"
A: McNeil, who spent part of last season on Seattle's practice squad, playing both corner and receiver, has gotten his coaches' and teammates' attention this offseason. McNeil brings an element of size that the Seahawks don't have a lot of at receiver, but he's still going to have to put together an impressive camp and preseason to make the team. After all, the Seahawks return not just Kearse, Lockett and Baldwin, but also Paul Richardson, who is back from injury, Kasen Williams and Kevin Smith, who were both on the roster ahead of McNeil last season, and they drafted another receiver, Kenny Lawler, in the seventh round.
@cobalttash asks, "How are Thomas Rawls and Jimmy Graham recovering from their injuries?"
A: There's nothing new on either players since Carroll's last update two weeks ago. And while it's completely understandable that fans want injury updates on those two, the reality of the situation is that there likely isn't going to be a detailed timeline on either player until they return to practice. Carroll isn't going to put a timeline on an injured player this long before the season starts, so until we get closer to September, don't expect to see many details on either's recover other than comments similar to the ones Carroll made two weeks ago saying, "Those guys are both making really good progress. Thomas is running and Jimmy is back to running on the field for the first time in the last couple days, which is great. He's made terrific progress and both of those guys' attitudes are really good. They're really positive about making it. So it's a long haul for those guys and we feel for them because they want to be part of it like everyone else, but they're doing a great job of going through what they need to do."
@JimHawley5 asks, "One year ago today, American Pharoah won the first Triple Crown in 37 years. Of which Seahawks player does he most remind you?" Hawley went on to add that the right candidate would combine speed, stamina, competitiveness and a friendly, laid-back personality, while being a future Hall of Famer (is that all?).
A: Hmmm. I'm getting hung up on the laid-back part, because a lot of the players who check the other boxes aren't necessarily laid back—Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman come to mind. While it's way, way too early to call him a future Hall of Famer, I'd say Tyler Lockett checks the rest of those boxes. Bobby Wagner would also be a good choice, not just for his speed at middle linebacker, but also his stamina—he's on the field for every defensive play in most games—and he's pretty laid back, at least off the field.
Photos from the eighth of nine Organized Team Activities (OTAs) that the Seahawks held at Renton's Virginia Mason Athletic Center on Tuesday, June 7.