Every day between now and the start of Seahawks training camp, Seahawks.com will take a look at some of the team's most intriguing storylines, position battles and players heading into the 2018 season. Today, we kick things off looking at special teams, where the three specialist jobs—kicker, punter and long snapper—are all up for grabs. Tomorrow, we'll turn our attention to the competition at receiver.
In recent training camps, there hasn't been a lot of mystery surrounding the punting and kicking jobs for the Seahawks. Steven Hauschka was the Seahawks' longtime kicker before leaving in free agency, then Blair Walsh was signed last year and was the team's only kicker in camp. Things have been even more stable at punter, where Jon Ryan has held down that job for nine seasons, making him the last holdover from the previous regime before Pete Carroll and John Schneider took over. Save for a bit of competition at long snapper the past two years, Seattle's three specialist jobs have been all but locked into place by this time of year.
When the Seahawks open camp next week, however, there will be serious competition taking place for all three of those jobs. Ryan is being pushed by rookie Michael Dickson, a fifth-round pick who is considered one of the best punting prospects to come into the league in years; two free-agent signings, Sebastian Janikowski and Jason Myers will battle at kicker; and incumbent long snapper Tyler Ott will have to beat out rookie Tanner Carew to keep his job.
While some might see the selection of a punter in the fifth round as the beginning of the end for Ryan, Carroll and Schneider have been adamant since the day they selected Dickson that those two will battle for the job. Carroll reiterated that fact throughout offseason workouts, and indicated the competition will continue well into the preseason.
"We both love Jon Ryan, so this is all about competition," Schneider said following the draft. "There's been guys that I've drafted. I was with a team that drafted a punter in the third round that completely failed. I was with a team that drafted a kicker that was beat out by a rookie free agent, so it's all about competition."
Carroll has also noted that Ryan has an edge over Dickson as a holder, which is not as insignificant of a factor as some might think considering the importance of that job.
At kicker, Janikowski is the well-known player in the competition, a former first-round pick and Pro Bowler who has been in the league since 2000, but Myers, who spent the past three seasons in Jacksonville, showed off a strong and accurate leg in offseason workouts.
"It's going to be real competitive," Carroll said towards the end of Seattle's offseason workout program. "Seabass missed a couple of days just getting through coming back, and in that it gave Jason a chance to get some extra kicks in there, so that was good for him. But when they're out here battling, they're in it. And the punters too now, they're battling every session that we go. It has been competitive, we've been keeping score and keeping track of everything so that we have really good info to figure it out in time. We don't have to hurry to make these decisions at all. We're blessed to have real experience at both spots, so we'll see how the young guys do and see if they can make a run at it."
Ott first joined the Seahawks as an injury replacement during the 2016 postseason, then won the job in 2017. He had an uneventful 2017 season with the Seahawks—a sign of success at his position—but despite a solid 2017 campaign, he's facing a tough challenge in the form of Carew, the lone long snapper invited to this year's NFL scouting combine.
Take a look back at photos of Sebastian Janikowski's NFL career with the Oakland Raiders as the veteran kicker signs a free-agent deal with the Seattle Seahawks.