Seahawks Mailbag: Defensive Scheme Changes? Running Back Depth, Beer & More

You had Seahawks questions; we have answers. 

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Seahawks defensive back Ugo Amadi tries to intercept a tipped pass in the fourth quarter, but the ball was knocked away by Carolina’s Christian McCaffrey resulting in an incomplete pass.

Greetings everybody, it's time once again to dive into the mailbag and answer some questions from you, the fans. As always, thanks to everyone who asked questions this week, and apologies if I couldn't get to yours this time around.

Sonny J. Sandretto from Kennewick asks "Now that we have Carlos Hyde at running back, does Marshawn Lynch fit into the team?" Shermain Carlisle from Georgia also asked about Lynch.

A: First, this wasn't specifically in the question, but let's dive into the recent addition of Hyde, who is coming off of a 1,070-yard season with the Texans last year. Hyde gives the Seahawks a productive veteran to add to a talented backfield that includes Chris Carson, Rashaad Penny, Travis Homer and 2020 fourth-round pick DeeJay Dallas. On the surface, that's a really crowded group, but it's worth remembering that Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said earlier this offseason that Penny could very well end up starting the year on the physically unable to perform list because of the knee injury that landed him on injured reserve late last season. Carson, who also finished the year on injured reserve with a hip injury, is expected to be ready for the start of the season, but Carroll noted he might not do much in the preseason. If Penny and Carson are unavailable or limited in training camp, the Seahawks would have been thin and very inexperienced at running back prior to adding Hyde. And as recent seasons have shown, including last year when Penny, Carson and C.J. Prosise all finished the year on IR, running back depth is very important late in a season.

So what does that all mean for Lynch? Both Lynch and Seahawks general manager John Schneider have left the door open to a return, but neither made it sound like anything was close to imminent (more details on this topic can be found in our previous mailbag). The addition of a veteran back like Hyde would seemingly lower the odds of Lynch or any other back being added in the near future, but you can never rule anything out entirely, especially if injuries again created issues during the season. The Seahawks obviously can't offer Lynch a part-time contract that only covers December or whatever—that's not how NFL contracts work—but that doesn't mean the two sides can't keep the door open should a need arise.

@raeth94 asks, "What can we expect from L.J. Collier this season?"

A: The Seahawks are hopeful that the answer to this question is quite a bit more. Collier's rookie campaign got off to a tough start due to an unusual ankle injury that caused him to miss all of the preseason, and as Schneider has noted this offseason, nearly caused the 2019 first-round pick to go on injured reserve. While Collier did make it back for the regular season, he was behind due to the prolonged absence, and never really made his mark, appearing in 11 games while having a hard time breaking into the defensive line rotation. 

With Quinton Jefferson moving on in free agency and with Jadeveon Clowney currently a free agent, there will be one if not two starting jobs up for grabs on the D-line, and the Seahawks very much expect Collier to step into a much bigger role, whether in a starting role or as a regular member of the line rotation. 

"We are expecting him to play a good deal, be competitive guy for the starting spot for the 5-technique spot, and all the rest," Carroll said at the NFL Scouting Combine

Said Schneider, "He's a powerful rusher, he's got great hands, he can rush inside, he can rush outside. He can rush the five (technique), rush the three. We're excited."

My co-worker @grahamkins asks, "Have you tried the Manny's cans yet?"

A: If you missed the big news, Georgetown Brewing Company recently began canning Manny's Pale Ale, the brewery's flagship beer, for the first time, doing so to raise money for nonprofits that support food and beverage industry workers affected by the COVID-19 crisis. And to answer the question, no, I haven't gotten my hands on the cans yet, but I assure you I will at some point before this limited run comes to an end and they go back to selling Manny's only in growlers and kegs. Fortunately, I can still find Bodhizafa and Johnny Utah, two of my favorites from Georgetown that I actually like better than Manny's, in cans all over the Seattle area, including in my refrigerator.

@stumcgue asks, "Do you think the Seahawks will change the scheme defensively with more defensive backs this season?"

A: I'm guessing this is a question about whether or not the Seahawks will play less base defense and more nickel in 2020 after being unusually base-heavy, by modern NFL standards at least, in 2019. 

The Seahawks haven't been on the field yet this year, so there have been no clues on a practice field, so we won't know the answer to this until training camp at the earliest, and likely until the regular season begins—particularly if the Seahawks plan on making any significant changes that they wouldn't want to give away in the preseason. When talking about needing to see improvements from his defense during his end-of-season press conference, Carroll said they'll look at everything, from personnel to scheme to coaching, so changes are possible. But it's also worth noting that Carroll has mentioned on a few occasions that the numbers back up their decision to play a lot of base-heavy defense last year. And if you don't want to take his word for it, dive into Sheil Kapadia's "football nerd's" guide to the Seahawks at The Athletic. Using the metric of expected points added (EPA), Kapadia points out that the Seahawks were actually better defending the pass out of base defense than in nickel, which would seem counterintuitive, but backs up what Carroll said about his 2019 team. 

All of that being said, if second-year defensive back Ugo Amadi, who took over the nickel role late in the season, or someone else really steps up and impresses in that spot, or if the Seahawks want to use more of the three-safety looks they went to in 2017 with Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor and Bradley McDougald, it's entirely possible that their base defense percentages come down some. But again, the odds are good we won't get a real feel for any schematic changes until the regular season is underway.

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Diego Dominguez from Moraga, California, asks, "Is there a chance the Seahawks will re-sign Jadeveon Clowney?" @Nbfd0024 also asked about Clowney.

A: A chance? Sure there's a chance. How good of one? Only he and perhaps a few people in the organization (I'm most definitely not one of them) can answer that. Clowney said earlier this month on Houston's Fox 26 that the Seahawks are still an option—"I love Seattle when I was there this past year," he said—and Carroll and Schneider have both said the door is still open, but the fact that a deal didn't get done early in free agency did mean the Seahawks couldn't wait to make other moves, such as signing pass-rushers Bruce Irvin and Benson Mayowa. Between those two signings and the selections of Darrell Taylor and Alton Robinson in this year's draft, the Seahawks are excited about the depth they've added at defensive end, but that doesn't mean the door is necessarily closed on a Clowney return as well.

@kmasterman asks "Did Coco beat you on the driving range?"

A: For those of you who have better things to do than pay attention to my tweets—which, let's face it, is pretty much every single one of you—I posted a picture of my 5-year-old daughter at the driving range last night.

And if by "beat me" you mean hog all the balls so I barely got to hit any, then yes, she dominated. More importantly, she had a lot of fun at her first driving-range session, so hopefully I can turn her into a big fan of golf, which in turn might mean getting to actually play a little bit, something I've done very little of since having kids.

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