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Seahawks Mailbag: Offensive Line Competition, Defensive Line Rotations, Positions Of Strength & More

You had Seahawks questions; we have answers. 

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The Seahawks are a week into 2020 training camp, and players have the day off today, which makes this a good time to answer questions from you, the fans. As always, thanks to everyone who asked questions this week, and apologies if I wasn't able to get to yours this time around.

@DekaylinSzn asks, "What position group are you most confident in (besides QB) going into this season?"

A: This is a fun question, and thinking about it made me realize the Seahawks have a lot of position groups you could consider to be strengths of the team. If I had to pick one, I'd probably go with linebacker, where you have a future Hall of Famer leading the way in Bobby Wagner, a Pro-Bowler in K.J. Wright, an exciting young talent in first-round pick Jordyn Brooks, an accomplished vet in Bruce Irvin, and several other young players with upside like Cody Barton, Shaquem Griffin and Ben Burr-Kirven.

There are understandably some questions about both the offensive and defensive lines due in part to turnover. That's not to say those groups won't be good, but rather that there are still questions to answer before we know what they'll look like. But other than those two groups, the Seahawks can feel good about every other position group. On offense, Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf give Russell Wilson an elite pass-catching duo; Chris Carson leads a loaded group of running backs that also includes former first-round pick Rashaad Penny and veteran Carlos Hyde, who's coming off of a 1,000-yard season; and at tight end, the Seahawks have three-time Pro-Bowler Greg Olsen, Will Dissly, Jacob Hollister, Luke Willson and 2020 draft pick Colby Parkinson. And on defense, the addition of Jamal Adams and Quinton Dunbar in offseason trades gives the Seahawks one of the NFL's best secondaries with those two joining Pro-Bowl cornerback Shaquill Griffin, Quandre Diggs, Tre Flowers and second-year players Marquise Blair and Ugo Amadi, who are competing for the nickel job.

@KuhlHawkFan asks, "Without preseason games, have the Seahawks changed their practices to better simulate live games and evaluate players?"

A: Seahawks coach Pete Carroll has been asked about this a couple of times, and indeed the lack of preseason games will present a challenge, particularly when it comes to evaluating young players trying to make their mark. More often than not, the best way for a player on the bubble to stand out is to shine on special teams, and those opportunities best present themselves in preseason games as opposed to practice.

While the Seahawks aren't going to start tackling to the ground in practice every day, Carroll noted that they will find ways to try compensate for the lack of preseason games, including by playing three mock games, starting with one at CenturyLink Field on Saturday. Ultimately, however, it won't be exactly the same and that could hurt some unproven players' ability to make the team, but when it comes to preparing for the regular season, all teams are playing on a level playing field, so it shouldn't create a competitive advantage for particular teams.

@TaylorApfel asks, "Who are the five starting offensive linemen?"

A: As mentioned earlier, there are still questions to answer with the offensive line after three of the five starters from 2019 moved on from last season. It's safe to assume Duane Brown will again be the starter at left tackle, while incumbent left guard Mike Iupati currently looks like the favorite to keep that job, though he'll have to hold off the likes of Phil Haynes and Jordan Simmons. Center looks to be the most wide-open competition as of now, with free-agent addition B.J. Finney splitting first-team reps with Ethan Pocic. At right guard, rookie Damien Lewis looks to be the favorite, though again, the likes of Haynes and Simmons could push him for that job. Free-agent addition Brandon Shell has earned rave reviews from Carroll so far in camp and looks to be the likely choice at right tackle, but Cedric Ogbuehi, another free-agent signing, could factor into that competition. Another name that could emerge at a number of spots, due to his versatility, is Jamarco Jones. As Carroll noted when talking to the media this week, the hope will be to settle on a starting group sooner than later for the sake of continuity, but there are still some competitions to sort out.  

@SeahawksBrasil asks, "Can B.J. Finney play left guard?"

A: As mentioned above, Finney is currently competing for the starting job at center, but yes, he did play both guard spots in addition to center while in Pittsburgh, so if Pocic were to win the starting job at center, Finney would be able to provide depth at a number of positions.

@Ole_Overholser asks, "Why isn't there more buzz about Damien Lewis? What are coaches saying about him?" @KenaiKent also asked about Damien Lewis.

A: I'd argue that, by guard standards at least, Lewis has generated a pretty healthy amount of buzz. Of Seattle's 2020 draft picks, Lewis looks to be the most likely player to be a Week 1 starter, and Carroll has raved about the rookie's play and preparation thus far.

"He's a special football player," Carroll said this week. "He's got a tremendous body for the position—he's got great body mass, and he's really, really powerful. You can see him in positions already, torquing, it shows that he can return to balance really well, which is great for an offensive lineman. He's really smart. He has studied really hard. The guys already can sense that you can count on him to know what's going on, so he's off to a really good start. He moves well on the second level. He's done a nice job already showing us that he can pull and get on the edge. He's done nothing but good stuff so far."

Someone with a very sophomoric sense of humor who was clearly using a fake name from St. Maries Idaho asks, "What's the tight end depth chart look like, and does Luke Willson make the team?"

A: It's hard to see a scenario where Greg Olsen and Will Dissly aren't the top two tight ends to open the season presuming both are healthy, and I don't think it really matters who you want to call the "starter" between those two, because both will play a lot. Beyond that, however, it's hard to say how things will shake out. Jacob Hollister is coming off of a very productive season as a pass-catcher, while Willson is the seasoned vet who is probably the more well-rounded tight end between those two in terms of blocking. Rookie Colby Parkinson is an intriguing player as a big-bodied target, but he's currently injured so he'll be playing catchup whenever he's back, while rookie Stephen Sullivan is probably the most raw player of the group, but also a player with a lot of upside.

The Seahawks aren't going to keep six tight ends, so some tough choices are coming, but for now it's really hard to say what will happen other than predicting that Olsen and Dissly will play a lot.

Paul Chou from Taiwan asks, "Will the NFL play games with no fans in the stadium, or will fans be allowed to watch games."

A: First off, to all of you who have been asking about this topic over the past few months, I apologize for not answering, but it wasn't really my place to speculate and I didn't have any information that the rest of you didn't.

Now, however, we know that the Seahawks will play at least their first three home games without fans. There remains the possibility of having a limited number of fans at games in November and December, but that decision will come at a later date.

Clark Omgren from Bellevue asks, "Who projects to be on the starting defensive line?" @Gabriiielsm, meanwhile asks who will be the defensive linemen in third-down/passing down situations?

A: Like the offensive line, there is still a lot of competition to play out before we know the starting lineup, but unlike the offensive line, the starting designations aren't as important because the Seahawks like to rotate as many as eight or nine defensive linemen during a game. As of now, the most common defensive line in the base defense, with everyone healthy, has been Rasheem Green and Benson Mayowa at end, and Jarran Reed and Poona Ford at defensive tackle, but again, there's a lot to sort out. Carroll has noted that when the Seahawks are in passing situations, the have the ability to have a lot of speed on their line, moving ends like Green, L.J. Collier and Branden Jackson inside and using strongside linebacker Bruce Irvin as an edge rusher. Another speed option in passing situations is using Shaquem Griffin as an edge rusher, something he did late last season. A lot can change between now and Week 1—including the possibility of new players being added—but as of now if the Seahawks had Atlanta facing, say, third-and-5 early in their season opener, I could see the line looking something like Irvin and Mayowa at end, and Reed at tackle along with either Green or Collier. The biggest unknown this early is how rookies Alton Robinson or Darrell Taylor (who is currently not practicing due to a leg injury) will fit into the mix.

Photos from the 4th practice of Seahawks 2020 Training Camp, held on Sunday, August 16 at Renton's Virginia Mason Athletic Center. Seahawks Training Camp is presented by Safeway.

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