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 take a look at the competition at receiver beyond two established veterans. Tomorrow, we'll look at how the team's leadership might evolve following the departure of some big-name veterans.
Over the past three seasons, Doug Baldwin has proven himself to be one of the NFL's elite receivers, leading the NFL in touchdowns in 2015 and making the Pro Bowl each of the past two seasons. Tyler Lockett, meanwhile, has proven himself as a big-play threat both in the return game and as a receiver, and was productive again in 2017 despite playing, by his estimation, at about 75 or 80 percent due to the broken leg that ended his 2016 season. So even with Paul Richardson, a starter last season, leaving in free agency, the Seahawks have two productive and reliable receivers they know they can count on in 2018.
Who will step up beyond those two, however, is something of an unknown for the Seahawks heading into training camp. And that's not necessarily a bad thing—the Seahawks are excited about some of the young receiving talent on their roster—but other than Lockett and Baldwin, every other receiver is either young and relatively inexperienced, or in the case of Brandon Marshall, very accomplished, but coming off of two significant surgeries.
When wondering who other than Baldwin and Lockett could produce for the Seahawks at receiver, Marshall is a good place to start. The 34-year-old is a six-time Pro-Bowler who had eight 1,000-yard receiving seasons in nine years from 2007-2015. At 6-foot-5, 232-pounds, Marshall also has an element of size that is somewhat unique among Seahawks receivers, which contributed to him hauling in 45 touchdowns from 2012-2015.
"If you go back and look at my history, I've always liked having a big guy," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said after Marshall signed with Seattle. "We've always been in search of that guy, but they're hard to find, there aren't many guys like that. Again, we'll see how it works out, but yeah, I like that he brings a different format. You look at Doug and Tyler and David Moore and those guys, they're a little different stature. They have their own style that's unique and special and all that, so we'll see if it fits in."
But while Marshall has been very durable for most of his career, he is coming off an ankle injury that ended his 2017 season early, as well as surgery to correct a lingering toe injury he has dealt with for years. At 34, Marshall knows that "the sentiment around the league is that I'm done, and I get it," and he's eager to prove that sentiment wrong. If Marshall can indeed prove to still be a productive, healthy receiver, he could end up looking like a steal for the Seahawks. But even a healthy Marshall will face stiff competition for playing time from a young group of receivers looking to carve out bigger roles in Seattle's offense.
Amara Darboh, a third-round pick last year, has impressed his coaches in practice, but is now looking to see that translate into more production on gameday. Fellow 2017 draft pick David Moore has also earned rave reviews from Carroll, and after a late-season call-up from the practice squad, he too will be looking to show he's worthy of more playing time.
"This is a crucial camp for these guys," Carroll said of Moore and Darboh. "Last year was their indoctrination and introduction to the NFL. This is a crucial time for them to show that they can make that jump from year one to year two. Amara has been a little bit slowed down, so he hasn't had a chance quite yet to express himself. David has really been getting a lot of opportunities right out of the chutes here. We really have been excited about his overall ability and natural athleticism and his strength and his power that he has. We are doing everything we can to give these guys a great chance to see how far they can take it."
Beyond the receivers already mentioned, the Seahawks also have an intriguing mix of young players competing for playing time and roster spots, a group that includes the speedy Marcus Johnson, who was part of the trade that sent Michael Bennett to Philadelphia; Jaron Brown, who was a big-play threat in Arizona, averaging 15.4 yards per catch last season; Tanner McEvoy, a former undrafted free agent who is heading into his third season; Cyril Grayson Jr., a former track standout who has shown a lot of growth after a year on the practice squad; and 2018 offseason additions Keenan Reynolds, Damore'ea Stringfellow and Caleb Scott.
"The competition in that room is really going to be high," Carroll said. "It's a talented group. There is some youngness to it. Doug and Tyler, they bring an experience that really helps those guys. They have all along. I know they are going to continue to do that. I am really excited to see how this one turns out."
Partnering with the City of Renton and the Renton School District, Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin hosted a family combine this past weekend to support bringing a community center to Renton that will allow area children to enjoy some of the same positive experiences that he had when he was a child at the Southern Youth Sports Association in Pensacola, Florida.