The Seahawks are a week into 2022 training camp, and with players enjoying a day off on Thursday, that makes this a great time to open up the mailbag and answer some questions from you, the fans. And remember, in addition to sending me questions via twitter (@johnpboyle) you can also submit them at Seahawks.com/mailbag As always, thanks to everyone who asked questions this week, and apologies if I couldn't get to your question this time around.
@Seahawks_Freak asks, "Do you see Drew Lock being the opening day starter?" Several others also asked about the quarterback competition.
A: I see Drew Lock or Geno Smith being the opening day starter.
OK, that's a really lame answer, but in all honesty, I don't have a good feeling either way at all—and I don't think anyone else knows either—who will be the starting quarterback. As has been well documented, Geno Smith has gotten most of the first-team work so far and has to be considered the leader in that race a week into camp, but the Seahawks are still more than five weeks away from their opener and have three preseason games to play, so Lock is going to get his chances to show what he can do. The way Pete Carroll and John Schneider have talked about Lock, they definitely see him as a player who is capable of playing well and winning games in the NFL, but they also like what they've seen from Smith a lot, both in practice and in limited chances to play as Russell Wilson's backup.
Until Lock starts getting more time with the starters, we'll have to consider Smith the leader in that battle, but my hunch is it'll be a tight competition that won't be decided until late in camp or perhaps even in the week leading up to the season opener.
@offnightworm asks, "Is Kenneth Walker getting snaps with the first-team offense?"
A: Smith has been getting plenty of work with the starters, though Rashaad Penny is the first back up when the No. 1 offense takes the field. When it comes to the reporting of starting lineups, you tend to see more on the offensive line or quarterback or cornerback because those are, for the most part, positions that stay on the field all the time, thereby making the starting designation that much more significant. When it comes to a position like running back or receiver, however, those players are constantly rotating in camp, so even if he's not the starter, Walker will get first-team work and will no doubt have a role in the offense even if Penny is getting the most touches. And for what it's worth, Walker has looked really, really good in camp as a runner, and has also shown off pass-catching ability that wasn't considered a strength of his coming out of college given how infrequently he was used as a pass-catcher in college.
@kahleel01777522 asks, "How has Boye Mafe been playing?"
A: If you've been reading our practice observations, a lot has been focused on players at positions like quarterback, receiver and defensive back, and that's usually the case early in camp when players aren't in pads, making it much easier for skill position players to stand out.
So don't take a lack of info on Mafe or any other player who plays near the line of scrimmage to mean they aren't playing well. Mafe's athleticism has definitely flashed throughout camp, and in fact on the first day of padded practice, he looked really good in pass-rushing drills that pitted him in one-on-one battles with the tackles.
It's going to take games to really assess how Mafe has been playing, but even a week into camp it's fair to say coaches are very excited about what he can bring to the defense.
@wyatt_wb40 asks, "Which rookie is progressing the best?"
A: Continuing with the theme of questions about rookies…
As mentioned earlier, Walker has looked really good early and very much looks the part of someone ready to contribute to the offense immediately, and Mafe has also flashed plenty of pass-rush ability. First-round pick Charles Cross has done nothing to suggest he isn't ready to take over at left tackle immediately, and he definitely lives up to the "Sweet Feet" nickname he earned in college, though like Mafe, Cross and the rest of the offensive line are only now starting to get to show what they can really do now that pads are on.
But if I had to single out one rookie who has stood out the most so far, I might have to go with cornerback Coby Bryant, who just continues to make play after play in every practice. And yes, Tyler Lockett got the better of Bryant on a couple of plays late in Wednesday's practice, but there's no shame in being beat by one of the best receivers in the league, and prior to those plays, instances of Bryant getting beat are very hard to come up with. It's almost as if the player who won the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation's top defensive back is in fact a very good defensive back who might be a lot better than his status as a fourth-round pick would indicate.
@stumcgue asks, "Is the offense looking bad or is the defense looking good?"
A: Let me preface this by saying it was submitted before reports of Wednesday's practice, which featured a much better performance on offense, were being put out, and yes, the defense definitely has gotten the better of the offense a few times early in camp, most notably on Monday when it was a pretty dominant day for the defense.
And as for this question, that is always a tough one to answer until an offense or defense gets to face off against other opponents. And while the offense definitely can and should get better, I will say that so far, I'm more discouraged by the defensive success than I am discouraged by any perceived struggles on offense.
The Seahawks made a lot of changes on defense, both in terms of scheme with new coaches leading the way, and personnel, and that unit has looked very good early on. Most encouraging has been the play of the cornerbacks where four players—Sidney Jones IV, Artie Burns, Coby Bryant and Tariq Woolen—all look like legitimate candidates for starting jobs, and that's before Tre Brown, who showed a lot of promise as a rookie, returns from the PUP list. And the cornerbacks standing out is a big reason why I think what we're seeing is indeed growth from the defense more than it is struggles from the offense. Players like the aforementioned cornerbacks are making plays while guarding some really good receivers, led by DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, and that translates to success no matter who is throwing the ball. Do the Seahawks need Drew Lock and Geno Smith get better? Of course, and both made some of their best throws of camp on Wednesday, but has the defense had a hand in creating some of those struggles with strong play? Absolutely.
Jon Ingalls from Coeur d'Alene, Idaho asks, "Is there a better team culture than the Seattle Seahawks? Yeah, we can gripe about this move or that draft choice, but for decades we've been blessed with an enviable all-star organization top to bottom. From the classy send off for K.J. to the highlighting of Tyler Lockett's community involvement, it's clear the organization promotes winning and character."
A: First off, let me clarify that this is very much a real question from Jon and no, we didn't pay him to submit it. And I'm putting this question in the mailbag not just because Jon is being very kind, but also because he touches on an element of Seattle's success that is hard to quantify, and as a result too often ignored.
Yes, talent absolutely matters and Xs and Os are very important as well, but another very real factor in the Seahawks' success under Pete Carroll and John Schneider has been the culture they have built in Seattle. Players who have played for other teams have said over the years how different things feel in Seattle, and while it's impossible to fully quantify, it matters when a player loves the environment he's in, it matter when Carroll empowers players to be themselves, it matters when players feel like, as K.J. Wright detailed in his retirement press conference, his head coach cared about him as a man and the things that were happening outside of football. Add to all of the ways Carroll instills confidence in his players, and the way he gets them to compete at everything, and you have a formula for helping teams get the most out of their talent year after year. Again, talent matters, but a lot of talented teams are good for a year or two followed by struggles, but since Carroll and Schneider got to Seattle, no team outside of New England has been able sustain success like the Seahawks, and the culture those two built plays a big role in that.
And all of that is a big reason why so many people who are close to the team are expecting a lot more success out of the 2022 Seahawks than outside observers might be expecting.
Carol Wisp from Issaquah asks if the Seahawks should tank to draft a quarterback next year?
A: No, absolutely not.
For starters, the idea of tanking for better draft picks goes against everything Pete Carroll and John Schneider stand for, not to mention it's insulting to the players on the team to suggest that future draft picks matter more than their desire to win right now.
Yes, the Seahawks made some significant changes in the offseason, including trading away Russell Wilson, but no matter the outside perception, I assure you that Carroll and company believe very strongly in this team's ability to win games. For as long as he has coached football, Carroll has believed in having a balanced team that plays complementary football, meaning it can find ways to win with its plays on offense, defense and special teams. So while the big storyline in training camp will of course be the quarterback competition, the success of the team isn't going to ride solely on the play of Geno Smith or Drew Lock. Yes, that position is a very important one and good quarterback play is imperative, but the way Carroll sees it, the Seahawks will win by helping those players out with the elite weapons around them and with a strong running game and with what looks to be an improved defense and with a special teams unit that has been among the NFL's best in recent years.
And lastly, the whole concept that getting a top pick is more important than anything that happens this season just doesn't hold up in a sport like football. Yes, in the NBA a once-in-a-generation talent can, almost by himself, change the fate of a franchise, but if you tear a team apart in the name of getting a good pick then go out and draft a great quarterback, you're setting that player up to fail if he doesn't have a good team around him.
If you go back and ask any young player who was on the 2010 Seahawks and still around for the playoff years that followed, they'll tell you that the experience of making the playoffs, even with a 7-9 record, and playing two postseason games, did far more for the team's rebuilding effort than a better pick would have had they missed the postseason. And even in 2011 when the Seahawks missed the playoffs, they were a feisty competitive team that finished strong to jumpstart the success that would follow throughout the rest of the decade.
So no, tanking doesn't make sense for a Seahawks team that has a lot of talent all over the field, and that, even with a change at quarterback, plans to very much be in contention for the postseason.
Steve Grappo from Seattle asks, "How are players on PUP affected by the final cutdown to 53 players? Are they still eligible to play? What is the benefit of the PUP designation?"
A: Players who are on the physically unable to perform list heading into training camp—the result of a football-related injury that kept them from passing a physical—are eligible to return at any time during practice, and often times it can happen quickly, as was the case with rookie outside linebacker Tyreke Smith, who is already back in action after opening camp on PUP.
Things change if a player is on the PUP list when rosters are trimmed down to 53 players, at which point that player has to miss at least four games before they can return to action. As for the benefit of that designation, it allows a player who isn't healthy to start the season not taking up a spot on the 53-man roster and still return to action without being on injured reserve. That was an even bigger distinction before players could be activated off of injured reserve, but there's still value in having a player on PUP vs. IR because the league does limit the number of players who can return from injured reserve, while any number of players who start camp on PUP can return. One important difference between the two to remember, however, is that a player has to open camp on the PUP list to be on it when the season starts—players can't be put on it after the fact if they sustain an injury in camp or during the season, or if they aggravate an old injury.
Practice #6 of Training Camp was not one to miss as players did not hold back on either side of the ball when it came to making a play for their team.