The Seahawks enjoyed a day off Tuesday, the day that also marks the official end of training camp. That little break in the week means it's time once again to open up the mail bag and answer questions from you, the fans. As always, thanks to everyone who took the time to submit questions this week, and my apologies if I couldn't get to yours this time around.
@djentle_jake asks, "How's the running back depth chart shaking out so far? What will the pass rush look like with young players after losing Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett?"
A: Both in practice and the preseason opener, Chris Carson has been the first back up, followed by Rashaad Penny, so it's probably fair to say that they're running No. 1 and 2 right now. Beyond that, we've seen a lot from Mike Davis, J.D. McKissic and C.J. Prosise, though Prosise is currently sidelined with an injury, and backs are rotated in practice too often to say that there's a clear-cut pecking order beyond Carson and Penny. Regardless of how the depth chart stands right now, the important thing is that the Seahawks are really excited about the overall depth and talent of that group.
As for the pass rush, it's safe to call that one of the bigger question marks heading into camp, particularly with Dion Jordan on the physically unable to perform list and Frank Clark limited until recently because of offseason wrist surgery. The silver lining in the absence of those two, however, has been the emergence of players filling in for them, a group that includes returning players Branden Jackson and Marcus Smith, rookies Rasheem Green and Jacob Martin, and free-agent addition Barkevious Mingo. An encouraging sign in Thursday's preseason opener was that Seattle got three sacks while playing without Jordan and Clark: 1.5 from Green, one from Mingo and half a sack from Martin.
"I was pretty happy about Rasheem, he got loose a couple of times, and Mingo was involved, and Jacob Martin," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said following Thursday's game. "Those were guys that we really needed to see. They're all additions to our team, and they looked like they could show a spark in the pass rush game and I thought they definitely did."
@KBottom asks, "Who on the roster is going to make the biggest impact, besides Russell Wilson?"
A: Obviously we won't know for sure until the end of the season, but if I'm trying to predict now who that would be, I'd go with Bobby Wagner, who is probably the most obvious choice. Wagner is not only one of the game's best defensive players, he's also a leader on a defense that is going through something of a transition with several starters moving on in the offseason. The Seahawks still have a lot of talent on their defense even with those departures, but the importance of Wagner and fellow linebacker K.J. Wright only seems magnified this year.
On offense, beyond Wilson I'd point to Doug Baldwin and Duane Brown as players who will be crucial to the team for both their skill on the field and their leadership.
@ShambolicSherpa asks, "What was your favorite candy as a child? What about now?"
A: Not sure they were necessarily my favorites, but a couple that stand out from my childhood are Charleston Chew and Mamba. These days, I'm a dark chocolate fan, as Jill at our front desk can attest from my stops at her candy jar.
@nathan_bailey3 asks "Who do you think will win the special teams competitions?"
A: I honestly still don't have a great feel for it, if only because kickers Sebastian Janikowski and Jason Myers and punters Jon Ryan and Michael Dickson have all looked good so far in practices and preseason games. I don't think I'm alone in saying the punter competition is particularly conflicting. On one hand, Michael Dickson is a really intriguing prospect who can do some pretty cool things kicking a football—who doesn't want to see more drop-kick onside kicks? But on the other hand, Ryan is the longest-tenured player on the team, a fan favorite, a very funny human being, and was a big part of one of the most memorable plays in franchise history, not to mention still pretty darn good at his job based on what we've seen this summer. Ryan also owns a baseball team and likes beer, two more plusses in my book. Also, his comedian wife Sarah Colonna is hilarious and an occasional contributor to these Q&As. So yeah, I'm conflicted on that one.
@DonnieJonester1 asks, "How does coach Pete Carroll deal with all the penalties?"
A: If you're referring to the 12 penalties for 98 yards that Seattle had in last week's preseason opener, I don't think you should be overly concerned about that total, because many of those penalties came in the second half with second-and third-team units on the field. But if your concern is about penalties from a big-picture standpoint, then Carroll too is concerned after what he saw last season when Seattle was the most penalized team in the league, calling it, "probably my biggest regret" of the 2017 season.
Carroll wants his teams to play hard and aggressively, so he has always been willing to allow for some penalties, and it hasn't always hurt his teams—the Seahawks led the NFL in penalties in 2013 and 2014 while going to consecutive Super Bowls—but there's a difference between a player getting flagged for perhaps being a bit too physical in pass defense than, say, a pre-snap penalty by an offensive or defensive lineman. And last year Carroll saw too much of the latter as his team missed the postseason for the first time since 2011.
"A major issue, probably my biggest regret this season, is how the penalties factored into our season," Carroll said in his year-end press conference. "We've been in this situation before and we've been able to overcome the issues, and our style of play, it didn't affect us dramatically, but this year it was more of a factor. Our margin (for error) wasn't as such that we could endure it as well, and that's a major aspect of us to change. I'm clear on how I'm going to go about that, and it's going to start way back with the first day, April 16. We'll make a change there and it has to happen."
Carroll has not been asked since then about those changes since making that statement, so we haven't heard specifics of the plan for 2018, but it's safe to say that cutting down on penalties remains a focus this year. One example that is worth noting is that right tackle Germain Ifedi, who was the most penalized player in the league last year, was temporarily pulled from the starting lineup during the team's "mock game" after being flagged for a pair of penalties, and Carroll said he was "real disappointed" to see those penalties.
"We've just got to put big spaces between those mistakes," Carroll said a few days later. "It was a problem last year. There isn't any question about it. I don't mind making it noted to him however we need to do it. We've got to get this done. He's capable of being a terrific player and part of it is he's got to play really sharp and clean and get rid of that stuff."
@yo_ger asks, "How many times a year do you go to the market to catch a fish?"
A: Assuming this means going to the Pike Place Market (quick snobby-local aside: it's Pike, not Pikes or Pike's, OK?) to catch fish from the famous fish throwers who show up on every single nationally televised sporting event taking place in Seattle, the answer is zero. Don't get me wrong, I love going to the market, it's definitely not just for tourists—amazing food options, flowers are fresh and cheap, great people watching, etc. But the aforementioned fish throwers tend to be very busy and popular, so when I buy fish, I do so elsewhere.
@e_hammond asks, "Do you think Poona Ford can make the team?"
A: Can he? Of course. The Seahawks have a history of undrafted players not just making the team, but being important players during the Pete Carroll/John Schneider era. But will Ford end up being that player? It's too soon to say. Coaches have been impressed with the defensive tackle out of Texas—Carroll called him "really active" and "very instinctive" earlier in camp—but the Seahawks are also pretty excited about the rotation of players they have at defensive tackle, a group that includes Jarran Reed, Nazair Jones, Quinton Jefferson and free-agent signings Tom Johnson and Shamar Stephen. Ford certainly has a chance, but he'll have to play well over the next three preseason games and in practice to earn a spot on the roster come September.