The NFL's slow season continues, so while we wait for training camp to begin at the end of the month, let's at least talk football even if we can't watch any (well, the CFL is in-season if you really need a fix, or are a fan of rouges or waggles). As always, thanks to everyone who submitted questions this week, and apologies if I wasn't able to get to yours this time around.
@RAYKation asks, "Wilson, Newton or Luck?"
A: I'm assuming this is a question about who's the better quarterback between the three, or who you'd rather have on your team, which are tough questions to answer. If you're asking for a listing by height, however, that's easier: Cam Newton, Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson. But in all seriousness, I've never been a big fan of the idea that we have to pick between great quarterbacks and definitively say who is best four or five years into what will likely be very long careers. In particular, I really don't like the idea that praising, say, Luck, is a perceived as shot at someone like Wilson, requiring a defense of Wilson that includes pointing out every flaw in Luck's game; or that Cam Newton winning the MVP after a great season in which hs team went 15-1 is somehow a sign of disrespect to Wilson, who also had a great season.
If you're a fan of efficiency measures such as passer rating or yards per attempt, Wilson gets the nod, while some volume numbers favor Luck, who has been asked to throw a lot more frequently early in his career. Wilson has a ring already, while Newton has an MVP award on his résumé, but you can still find plenty of talent evaluators who probably see the most upside in Luck. In other words, all have done very impressive things so far in their career, and all likely will be debated as the best of their generation for years to come. Let's go ahead and hold off on trying to rank them until their careers are over, however, and instead just appreciate that three very talented quarterbacks are entering their primes at the same time, and that if you're a fan of one of those teams, you get to watch that player lead your team on Sundays. Having been around Wilson for his entire NFL career and witnessed the amazing things he can do on the field, I'd be hard pressed to say the Seahawks could be in better hands going forward, but I'd also be willing to bet that people who closely follow the Panthers and Colts would say the same thing about Newton and Luck.
@WassellSeattle asks, "John, what is this Pokemon thing?" @Zeke013 asks, "Who is going to start at center this year, Blastoise, Weedle, Bedrill or Pikachu?" @IsaacPeterson55 asks, "Is it true that you can train JigglyPuff at the NW Gate of CenturyLink Field?" @ImTheSaiyanGod asks, "How many Pokemon have you caught?" @dillsdot253 asks, "Where can I find Snorlax, John?" And @ByTimBooth asks, "Who would make a better Pokemon character—Bob Condotta, Jayson Jenks or yourself?"
A: Well I walked right into that one, didn't I? But in all honesty, I have no idea what this latest trend is all about. Maybe I'm too old, or too out of touch with current trends, but yeah, none of those tweets made any sense to me. Though I hear it's getting people on their feet and outside, so that's a good thing, I suppose. And actually, I'll go ahead and answer the last one of those—it's Jenks, definitely Jenks.
@legume_duprix asks, "What's Thomas Rawls' nickname?"
A: Well, it would appear he's good with a Thomas the Train/Thomas the Tank Engine-related nickname based on this Instagram post:
@Dsmithyama253 asks, "What is Seattle doing to bolster the offensive line? Also have we found a replacement for Bruce Irvin?"
A: David's going for a two-for-one, but both are frequently-asked questions lately, so we'll go ahead and address both. First, when it comes to Irvin, we're really talking about replacing two roles, not just one. In addition to starting at strongside linebacker, Irvin also played a big role as a pass-rusher in the nickel defense. When it comes the pass-rush role, the Seahawks could go a number of ways, including using Chris Clemons, who re-signed this offseason. It's also a safe bet that Frank Clark will have a bigger role in his second season, and Cassius Marsh is another option there.
Marsh also factors in at strongside linebacker, having played there some in offseason workouts this year. He's competing with veteran Mike Morgan, converted defensive back Eric Pinkins, and even Kevin Pierre-Louis, who up to this point has primarily been a weakside linebacker. That battle at strongside linebacker is one Seahawks coach Pete Carroll pointed to as one to watch in training camp.
As for the offensive line, while additional moves certainly can happen between now and September, most of the bolstering already happened in the form of free-agent signings J'Marcus Webb and Bradley Sowell and draft picks Germain Ifedi, Rees Odhiambo and Joey Hunt. How that all shakes out in terms of forming a starting five will likely be one the most talked-about topics in camp.
A number of you asked about how Justin Britt will fit in at center, or about where the rookies fit in, or about Kristjan Sokoli's role, or other specifics, and for now I'll just lump that all together and give you an unsatisfying answer of wait and see. Based on what we've seen so far, the most likely starting line appears to be, from left to right, Garry Gilliam, Mark Glowinski, Justin Britt or Patrick Lewis, Ifedi and Webb. But as anyone paying attention to this team knows, you can't rule anything out when it comes to this coaching staff. After all, who saw Britt moving to guard midway through camp last year? So I'm not ignoring your more specific questions, it's just too soon to give a meaningful answer.
@TruthisToldd2U asks, "Should we anticipate Richard Sherman shadowing top receivers more and more this year? Do you anticipate that leading to more takeaways?"
A: As well as Sherman played last season matching up with the likes of Antonio Brown, A.J. Green and Dez Bryant, and as much flexibility as Jeremy Lane and DeShawn Shead have demonstrated, I'd say it's a safe bet that Sherman will again move around this season at times to match up with top receivers. Whether that specifically leads to more turnovers is hard to say, though theoretically Sherman, who has great ball skills, should get more chances at picks when covering an opponent's top target. Overall, I'd say the Seahawks will get those numbers up if only because their takeaway numbers fell off a bit the last two years from a league-best 39 in 2013 to 24 in 2014 and 23 last year, and I think this year's defense is just too good not to reverse that trend.
@scohenPI asks, "I was at Seapine Brewing yesterday, but you weren't. What gives?"
Thanks for the invite, Stephen. Also, the way I see it, there's a fine line between, "How cute, a daddy-daughter date at a brewery," and "Dude, that guy brings his baby to a brewery a lot," and I'd rather not cross that line. Maybe next time though.
@kyhawks32 asks, "Do you think the Hawks will run a lot of two-tight end sets with Jimmy Graham being used like a receiver?"
A: The Seahawks have always tried to incorporate a lot of two-tight end sets into their offense, and yes, when everyone is healthy I'd guess you'll see a pretty good amount of those sets. One of offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell's strengths is mixing things up from a formation standpoint, so I don't think they'll constantly go with one look, but with rookie Nick Vannett expected to play the more traditional Y, or in-line tight end position, there's a good chance you'll see more of Graham or Luke Willson split out away from the line.
@HTD_38 asks, "What are the odds of Deshon Foxx making the team, either on the practice squad or the roster?"
A: As Carroll brought up at the end of offseason workouts, receiver is one of the positions that figures to be very competitive in training camp, particularly when it comes to the battle for playing time and roster spots behind Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse and Tyler Lockett. Foxx is very much a part of the mix in that competition along with players like Kasen Williams, Kevin Smith, Paul Richardson, Douglas McNeil III and rookie Kenny Lawler. There isn't room on the roster for all of those players, so Foxx and everyone else will have their work cut out for them. Even if Foxx, who flashed at times in offseason workouts, comes up short in that competition, he would have a good chance of landing on the practice squad, where he spent time last season.