(Photo courtesy Jane Gershovich)
I was first introduced to Soundgarden sometime in sixth grade, first by the striking guitar riff that kicks off "Rusty Cage," then by a distinctive voice that was unlike anything I'd heard before, and as it would turn out, would never hear matched over the next three decades. For music fans of a certain age, or for Seattleites who grew up surrounded by the grunge scene of the early 1990s, bands like Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Nirvana and Alice in Chains were the soundtrack of a childhood or adolescence, so you'll have to forgive me if this week's previously-scheduled Seahawks mailbag goes off topic so we can remember Cornell and what he meant to a city and to fans of his music. Any fan of Soundgarden, Audioslave or Temple of the Dog no doubt has their favorite memories of his work. For me, it was seeing Temple of the Dog at the Paramount Theatre last fall, and in particular, the music made by Cornell's voice and Mike McCready's 1959 Stratocaster—two instruments that are iconic parts of Seattle's music history—play off of each other during "Reach Down."
Anyway, none of this has much to do with the Seahawks, other than tangentially—a Seattle native, Cornell was a Seahawks fan, and Soundgarden performed outside CenturyLink Field as part of the NFL Kickoff in 2014—but it just felt like an appropriate use of this space today. That being said, plenty of you had football questions, so rather than just spend the entire day listening to Soundgarden and Temple of the Dog music, let's dive into those, with some music, much of it suggested by you guys, scattered amongst this week's answers. As always, thanks for everyone who asked a question this week, and apologies if I didn't get to yours this time around.
We'll start with @YawnTotten's Soundgarden-themed question: "Which roster questions are still Superunknown?"
A:With free agency slowing down and the draft now over, the roster won't change a ton until cuts start happening at the end of the summer—though further additions are bound to happen. So there aren't a ton of unknowns left in terms of who will be added, but there is still plenty to sort out between now and September when it comes to trimming the roster to 53 players and figuring out starting jobs.
As for the most "Superunknown," I'd have to go with the offensive line. The Seahawks like the talent they have there, both in terms of returning players who should make big improvements this year, and in the players they added like free agents Luke Joeckel and Oday Aboushi, as well as draft picks Ethan Pocic and Justin Senior and undrafted rookie Jordan Roos.
But while offensive line coach Tom Cable likes what he has to work with, it's hard to say right now what the line will look like in September.
And that's a nice transition to our next question, but first, a break to appreciate a popular song off of Superunknown.
@TruthisTold2U asks "Who are the favorites to start on the offensive line?"
A: The short answer is that it's way too soon to answer this, but what we do know as of now, based on what Cable, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider have said at various times this offseason, is some of the possible options at each position.
Based on how well he played last year in his move to center, it's pretty safe to assume Justin Britt will remain at that spot, but there are at least a couple of options at every other position. On the left side of the line, Joeckel and Rees Odhiambo are options at both guard and tackle, while George Fant will battle to hold onto the starting job at left tackle. On the right side, Mark Glowinski and Aboushi will battle at right guard, while Germain Ifedi and Pocic will compete at right tackle. And don't rule Ifedi out at right guard either seeing as he played there last year, but as of now, the Seahawks want to see what he can do at tackle. Also, based on the way Carroll raved about Roos, he could be a factor at guard as well.
@JamilDeanTriaa asks, "Which rookies do you predict will start at the beginning of the season?"
A:It's going to be tough for rookies to earn starting jobs given the overall depth on the roster, but there are a few starting spots open where rookies will compete. As mentioned above, Pocic, a second-round pick, will compete at right tackle, and given his versatility, he could be an option elsewhere as well if it becomes clear Ifedi is going to win that starting job. With DeShawn Shead recovering from a serious knee injury, there is likely an opening at right cornerback to start the season, and while veterans like Jeremy Lane and Neiko Thorpe are strong options there, third-round pick Shaquill Griffin is another rookie with a chance to compete for a starting job.
Beyond those spots, it's hard, as of now at least, to see a rookie winning a starting job, but that's not to say rookies won't contribute right away at positions where players rotate such as defensive line and receiver.
@DaGraw11 asks, "How much playing time would you expect Malik McDowell to get in year one?"
A:As mentioned above, there will be rookies who will contribute even if they aren't starters, and second-round pick Malik McDowell very well could fall into that category. Even if McDowell doesn't crack the starting lineup on a talented defensive line, he figures to have a big role. Carroll has talked about McDowell playing both five-technique defensive end as well as three-technique defensive tackle in pass-rush situations. Given how much nickel defense NFL teams play these days, he could see a lot of playing time as an interior rusher if the Seahawks like what he can do there, and if he occasionally spells Michael Bennett at end on top of that role, that could add up to a lot of snaps over the course of the season. It's also worth remembering that prior to last season, Carroll lamented a bit the fact that they didn't play Frank Clark more as a rookie, so that's a mistake they probably won't make again with McDowell if they think he can handle a significant role.
@TechnicalGoddes asks, "Do rookies still have to carry everyone else's gear?"
A: While rookie hazing has been toned down from what it was a few decades ago, veterans do still like to put rookies in their place from time to time. And yes, carrying gear off the field is one common way of doing that. What's most fun is if there is only one rookie at a position group with a lot of players, because that player will inevitably end up walking off the field during training camp carrying multiple helmets and shoulder pads.
@emilioctru and @NatalieAndJer04 asked about the backup quarterback spot, and in particular if anyone else will be added to the mix.
A:The Seahawks have Trevone Boykin, last year's backup, and Jake Heaps currently on the roster behind Russell Wilson, but they may not be done there. Carroll mentioned earlier this week on 710 ESPN Seattle that the Seahawks will look at veteran options still on the market, and yes, that includes a couple of well-known former starters who are still available.
"We're always looking at whatever's available," Carroll said. "We're looking keep it competitive there too. Trevone did nice job for us last year, but we're still looking, as we always will… We're looking at everybody, really. We really are. We've been tracking everything that's going on. We've got cap and roster issues and stuff like that that we're still trying to make sure we manage properly, but quite frankly, yes, we're looking at all those guys."
@brycetacoma asks, "Who is going to be this year's undrafted rookie free agent to make an impact?"
A:This question also falls into the too-soon-to-tell category, but one name Carroll has brought up a couple of times is Roos, so keep an eye on him as the offseason progresses. Beyond that, we'll just have to wait and see who emerges, but it is pretty safe to assume someone will indeed emerge from that undrafted rookie class. Last season, the Seahawks opened the year with a league-high 24 undrafted players on their 53-man roster, including seven rookies, and by late in the season that number was up to 27.
@steve33jones asks, "Where's the kicker competition? I thought they'd bring in some competition?"
A:Steve is right in that Carroll did say the Seahawks will have competition for Blair Walsh for the kicking job, and as of now Walsh is the only kicker on the roster. But the Seahawks did recently have another kicker on the roster before releasing John Lunsford, so they are making Walsh compete for the job. And it's also pretty likely they'll bring in another kicker before or during training camp, so nothing is settled just yet, but Walsh is a very accomplished kicker with a strong leg, so he's going to be tough to beat for that job.
@nMallis253 asks, "Who will be the kick returner/punt returner if Tyler Lockett isn't ready coming off a significant injury?"
A:While Tyler Lockett is expected back for the start of the season after breaking his leg in Week 16, it is fair to wonder if he'll be returning both kicks and punts right away. And if the Seahawks do decide to ease him back into things, they have a few players on the roster with limited return experience, including Paul Richardson and Doug Baldwin on kickoffs and Richard Sherman on punts. It's too early to know which rookies have a chance to compete there, but given the speed of some of the defensive backs and receivers Seattle drafted, options could emerge from that group as well. He has a long ways to go to make the team, but undrafted rookie Speedy Noil was a very good returner in college. Fellow rookie Cyril Grayson Jr., another player with a lot of work to do to make the team, could also be an intriguing option given his All-American track speed, but as someone who hasn't played organized football since high school, he has a lot of catching up to do.
@kibbykibbykibby asks, "Which player do you expect a bounce-back year from, or who is a player that will exceed expectations?"
A:Obviously there can be some overlaps in those two questions. As for exceeding expectations, I'm going to go with the offensive line as a group rather than a single player. That unit struggled at times, and has been the subject of a lot of criticism, some of it fair, some of it not. Given the experience gained by rookies Germain Ifedi and George Fant, as well as Mark Glowinski, who was a first-year starter, and Justin Britt, who was in his first year at center, that group would have been better in 2017 without adding anyone, but the Seahawks did add help, including a couple of quality free-agent pickups and a second-round pick. As detailed earlier in this Q&A, it's way too soon to guess what this line will look like come September, but it should be quite a bit better once the dust settles.
As for a bounce-back, I'll go with Thomas Rawls, who has had terrible injury luck his first two seasons, but who when healthy has shown the ability to be a force in the running game. Another strong candidate is receiver Jermaine Kearse, who has acknowledged that last year was a tough one for him. Kearse did a lot of things to help the offense that didn't show up in his stats, but he's also motivated to show that what was a down year for him statistically was just a small bump in the road for what has been an impressive career for a player who came to Seattle as an undrafted rookie in 2012. Another candidate for a big bounce-back season is Luke Willson, who was limited to 11 games because of injuries, leading to his least-productive season in terms of numbers.