The Seahawks, and the rest of the NFL, are in the midst of training camp after, as left tackle Duane Brown put it, "a very weird offseason."
The COVID-19 pandemic eliminated organized team activities and minicamps, delayed the start of on-field work at training camp, and caused the preseason to be canceled. That "very weird offseason" is less than ideal for any group trying to get ready for the season, but it has the potential to be particularly difficult for an offensive line that will feature at least three new starters.
But while the Seahawks are making a lot of change at a position group that benefits from continuity more than most, Brown, one of the longest-tenured linemen on the team, likes what he has seen even as the Seahawks try to sort out replacing their center, right guard and right tackle from last season.
"O-line is all about camaraderie and chemistry, and not having access to build that throughout a typical offseason, for us to come together and perform the way we have over the last week or so, it's been really good," Brown said. "Guys are really stepping up. I think Damien Lewis is going to be a baller. He's looked really good. Brandon Shell's looked really good, B.J. Finney, Cedric (Ogbuehi), just a lot of guys. Everyone has filled in and done a great job, and I think the potential that we have is really good. We just have to keep going."
Brown's comment on Lewis, who is the early favorite to earn the starting job at right guard as a rookie, echo what Seahawks coach Pete Carroll has been saying early in camp about the third-round pick out of LSU. Shell, who was signed in free agency this offseason, is also drawing rave reviews from Carroll at right tackle, while Finny, another free-agent addition, is battling for the center job, competing with Ethan Pocic. Ogbuehi, another free-agent signing, has also impressed Carroll, though he's currently behind Brown and Shell at tackle.
"We've got good quality depth, and I can't tell you what the story is going to be," Carroll said of the offensive line competitions. "The center spot with Pocic, and you'll see Kyle Fuller as well as B.J., it's going to be a wide-open competition, we're going to let those guys go. We'll try to settle this sooner than later for the continuity purposes. The center spot is rotating right now as a starter, and what you'll see as we go through this and it's going to be open, and it couldn't make football better, that's as good as it gets."
Despite his experience and impressive resume, Brown tried to step back somewhat and defer to other veteran teammates a bit when he arrived in 2017, and do his leading more by example. But as the team around him has gotten younger, minus longtime leaders like Russell Wilson, Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright, Brown understands that his leadership has taken on new importance.
"I just embrace it every year, try to add something to it, and do a little bit more," Brown said of his leadership. "And this year has been more pivotal. Again, we have so many new faces in our room. We have a young team, and we haven't had the typical offseason. So the leadership aspect, that role for me has grown some and I'm embracing it, and it's been great so far."
In addition to giving his thoughts on some of the offseason additions, Brown also talked about some of the newcomers on the defense line that have impressed him in practice.
"Benson, he's really, really good," Brown said. "I knew he was good, I played against him when he was in Dallas, a lot of quickness. Bruce Irvin, he's really good. The rookie, Alton Robinson has done some really good things. We have a solid group up front at defensive end, and I told our guys, be appreciative that we have some good rushers, because it's good to have that competition. It's better to have really, really hard competition in practice to try to make it easier on Sunday. So we have a lot of guys and they play with great effort, great energy, and it's been really good so far."
And while Brown has been impressed with what he has seen from his new teammates on both sides of the ball, his coach continues to marvel at what the Pro-Bowl left tackle has brought to the team since arriving in a midseason trade in 2017.
"He's a unique leader; he's just a unique person," Carroll said. "He's really got his act together. He's really serious about his craft. He's got a really good brain just figuring things out in the world, and got a good perspective and all. You ask him anything and he just can handle himself really well. He's got good skills in how to deal with people, communicating his good sense and awareness. I go to him all the time asking him questions about how things are going, 'What's the tempo like? Does it feel good? Are we are we doing the right stuff to get the best out of us?' I mean, I lean on him all the time, and it's because I just think he has such a good perspective and all, so he's very valuable to us."
Photos from the 7th practice of Seahawks 2020 Training Camp, held on Thursday, August 20 at Renton's Virginia Mason Athletic Center. Seahawks Training Camp is presented by Safeway.