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Seahawks Mailbag: Rookie Receivers, Pass Rush Depth & More

With the NFL draft behind us and rookie minicamp coming up, it’s time once again to open up the mailbag—OK, Twitter mentions—and 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 your question this time around.

@MichaelOHara54 asks, “How many receivers do you think we keep this year? Who is likely to be cut?” On a related note, @Lougheed_E asks, “Do you see us possibly keeping all three receivers we drafted?”

A: In general the Seahawks have usually kept five or six receivers on their roster, so that’s a pretty safe number so start out with. As for who those five or six will be, it’s way, way too soon to start making projections. We don’t know yet the status of Doug Baldwin—more on that in a bit—and we haven’t seen any of Seattle’s rookies take the field, so other than saying Baldwin is a safe bet if he’s healthy, as is Tyler Lockett, I’m not going to try to project anything just yet. And could all three rookie draft picks make the team? Sure, the Seahawks obviously thought highly of all three players to use picks on them, but it’s far from a sure thing.

@TruthisTold2U asks “Too early prediction for breakout player?”

A: You’re right that it’s too early, but what else do we have to do in late April than speculate about the future, right? On offense, I’ll go with running back Rashaad Penny, who showed a ton of potential as a rookie, averaging a team-best 4.9 yards per carry while rushing for 419 yards and two scores, but whose opportunities were somewhat limited both by injuries and by the fact that Chris Carson is tough to take off the field when he’s playing so well. And while I don’t expect Carson to regress, Mike Davis’ departure in free agency should open up more chances for Penny to shine, and if he builds off what he did with his limited touches last year, he could be in for a big 2019.

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said earlier this offseason that he’s expecting Carson and Penny to form “a one-two-punch, and I don’t know who’s one and who’s two.” Carroll went on to say of Penny, “Rashaad did a really good job. He got banged up a little bit and it kind of slowed his start. But once he got going, he showed the explosiveness and the speed and the dynamics. Those two guys, they’re good football players and we love what they bring. They’re not the same, their running styles are different, but there’s plenty of room for both of those guys, so I’m excited for both of them.”

On the other side of the ball, I’ll point to a few members of the 2018 rookie class. Cornerback Tre Flowers started 15 games as a rookie at right cornerback, so his role can’t increase, but given that he was a converted college safety adjusting to a new position while also adjusting to his first year in the NFL, it’s hard to imagine he won’t take a big leap in his second season even after impressing as a rookie.

On the defensive line, there are plenty of opportunities following the trade of Frank Clark and Shamar Stephen’s departure in free agency, and two second-year players who could step into big roles and thrive are Jacob Martin and Poona Ford. While Martin, a sixth-round pick, is listed as a linebacker, he’ll get plenty of opportunity as an edge rusher. And after recording 3.0 sacks in the second half of last season, as well as four tackles in Seattle’s playoff loss at Dallas, the Seahawks see him as a player who could really contribute this year. Another 2018 rookie, defensive tackle Poona Ford, also finished the year strong, and with Stephen moving on, Ford will have a chance to compete for a starting role.

“I’m pretty excited about what Jacob Martin did,” Carroll said at the NFL annual meetings in March. “If you guys check his stats, you’ll see Jacob Martin’s pressure percentage was really up there with elite players in a limited role. As a matter of fact, I saw Jacob the other day, he looks great, working hard to keep—he lost weight during the season, trimmed down more than we would like him to. I think if he can maintain his weight around 245, right in that area, I think it’s going to make a difference. But he had a very effective year, three sacks and a really good looking percentage of pressures, I think 15-something, which is right up there with really good players. So we’re thinking we give him more opportunities. He’s got a great motor, he plays like crazy on the field... We’ll see how he does, but he should be better than last year.”

On Ford, Carroll said, “Poona really did a nice job. We’re really fired up about him. Maybe we were a little conservative in playing him early but the more we played him the better he played and the more we saw. He’s a really active football player, great instincts, his ability to run sideline to sideline, he was demonstrating that. So we’re fired up. He’s going to play in the rotation with the first guys. We’re excited about that.”

@The_blakeshow88 asks, “How big of an impact will DK Metcalf have his rookie year?” And @RoosaEddie asks, “Do you think DK Metcalf could be a starter from the start of the season?”

A: Could Metcalf earn a starting job? Of course he can, Carroll is always willing to let rookies compete with veterans for starting spots, and as Carroll highlighted after Seattle drafted Metcalf, the receiver out of Mississippi provides a combination of size and speed that no one else on the team can offer. All of that being said, however, it’s worth remembering that receiver can be a tough position to adjust to for NFL rookies, so we can’t just assume Metcalf will come in and immediately live up to his significant potential. While there are exceptions, such as Baldwin, who led the team in catches and receiving yards as a rookie, a lot of rookies take a year or two to really settle into the NFL.

@MarcSheehan006 asks, “Will Shaquem Griffin get a shot as a pass-rushing LB/DE hybrid?”

A: Carroll has mentioned twice this offseason—once at the league meetings and again after the first day of the draft—that they need to look at ways to use Griffin as a pass-rusher. While he is undersized by pass-rusher standards, he thrived in that role at UCF, so the Seahawks will try to find way to get him involved, though that may come more as a blitzing linebacker than as an edge-rusher.

“We plan on working with Shaquem more so in his pressure stuff and getting him off the edge,” Carroll said after Day 1 of the draft. “It was too much we thought last year to mix that with him, but that has been definitely part of the conversation. He was a very effective rusher in college, mostly as a blitzer, but he has such speed, we’ll want to check it out for sure and make sure we understand if he could fit in.”

During the NFL annual meetings in March, Carroll said when asked about Griffin as a pass-rusher, “We need to see more. He didn’t get enough opportunities even in practice as we look back. Just because he had a knack for it, we need to uncover that, make sure we know what we’ve got.”

@Ken_Bellevue asks, “When does rookie minicamp start?”

A: Rookies will arrive later this week, then take the field Friday for a three-day minicamp. In addition to Seattle’s draft class, undrafted rookie free-agent signings, as well as a decent-sized group of tryout players will participate.

@Omar81545189 asks, “What do the Seahawks plan on doing to improve the pass rush?

A: The trade that sent Frank Clark to Kansas City helped set the Seahawks up for the future, but it does leave them without their best pass-rusher from last season. And while no one player will be expected to replace Clark’s 13.0 sacks, they have plans in place to bolster that group. For starters, they added L.J. Collier in the first round, a defensive end who Carroll said “is a lot like Michael Bennett” in his makeup and skillset.

“He has the versatility and the style and the penetration ability, he’s really slippery,” Carroll said. “He has terrific pass-rush makeup.”

But Collier won’t be asked to upgrade Seattle’s pass-rush on his own. Carroll is also counting on several returning players, as well as free-agent signing Cassius Marsh, to help in that department as well.

“We need to see Rasheem (Green) come to life, and Quinton Jefferson continue to play well and move up,” Carroll said. “The emergence last year of Jacob Martin—he was a very effective pass rusher for us in the limited time we gave him—we’re counting on him to grow. Cassius Marsh re-joined us for the same purpose. So we’re focusing on this thing.”

Carroll and Schneider both also hinted strongly after the third day of the draft that the Seahawks will add help in free agency as well, as a number of veteran pass-rushers remain unsigned. 

“We’re very much involved with what’s coming up next,” Carroll said. “We’re not done. We’ve got work to do, and we’re excited about what’s coming up. You guys will see in time.”

Added Schneider, “We talk about those phases of free agency. There’s basically like three or four different phases, and we’re basically now heading into phase three.”

@Kreby24 asks “Is the Seahawks organization concerned about Doug Baldwin’s future in the NFL?”

A: Asked on Friday night about an ESPN report that said Doug Baldwin might have to retire due to injuries, both Carroll and Schneider acknowledged that, while nothing was decided yet, that was a consideration, so of course they’re concerned about his future. Until more definitive information comes from Baldwin, however, those two are not going to speculate beyond that.

“He has been an extraordinary part of this program since we’ve been here,” Carroll said. “He has given us everything he has had, been a great competitor and player and all that. We believe in him so much and trust in him so much that wherever this goes, we’re going to support him forever. He has been a great contributor in so many ways, not just on the team but in the community and everything else. He has been awesome. So we’ll see what happens, and he’s working through it, and we’re going to follow Doug on this one.”

@ArabaellaZucce1 asks, “I’m planning a trip to the US next year for Christmas/NYE and Seattle is on our list. As an Aussie based Seahawks fan, other than trying to get to a game, what things should we see or do?”

A: It’s tough to narrow this down without knowing what you like, if you’re coming with friends, with family, etc., but to name a few things…

It’s cliché, but any first-time trip to Seattle should include a stop at Pike Place Market. Even if you’re staying downtown, explore some of Seattle’s other neighborhoods like Ballard or Capitol Hill for food and nightlife. The Ballard Locks are also an interesting feat in engineering to check out. For a uniquely Seattle museum experience, the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP) is a really cool experience with a lot of Seattle music tie-ins. If you’re fan of wine and/or beer, Seattle has plenty of breweries and wineries to check out. To get out of town a bit without a long drive, you can take a ferry to Bainbridge Island and explore the little town of Winslow.

If the weather’s not terrible, get outside, even if it’s within the city for a walk on Alki beach or at Seward Park. Heck, go for a walk on Alki even if the weather is terrible and watch waves crash onto the beach. There’s also good skiing to be had that time of year within a couple hours of the city if that’s something you’re into.

@KBottom2 asks, “When does training camp start and how many dates will be open to the public?”

A: While exact training camp dates have not yet been set, late July is a safe bet, based on an August 8 preseason opener. Teams are allowed to open camp 15 days before their preseason opener, which likely means the Seahawks will get started late in the fourth week of July. As for open dates, that is usually announced sometime in June, but I don’t have the details yet. In general, about a dozen or so practices are open, so expect something similar. Stay tuned to Seahawks.com for more details.

Photos from the Seattle Seahawks' voluntary offseason workout program on Tuesday, April 30, 2019 at Renton's Virginia Mason Athletic Center.

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