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Six Competitions Pete Carroll Is Excited To Watch At Seahawks Training Camp

The competition for a roster spot will be on at plenty of positions this summer, and Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll gave an early look at which groups he'll be watching when training camp begins in late July.

When the Seahawks reconvene for training camp six weeks from now at the tail end of July, there will be plenty of position battles that Pete Carroll and the coaching staff will be keeping a close eye on.

At the conclusion of mandatory minicamp on Thursday, Carroll nearly rattled off every position group when asked about which areas he'll be most excited to watch as players compete for roster spots this summer.

"There's a lot of competition all over the field," the Seattle head coach stated. "I could go across the board with it, really. I think it's going to be one of our most competitive camps."

Carroll did divulge a few specific areas of intrigue, though, each of which is laid out for you below.

1. Strongside Linebacker, or 'SAM'

With Bruce Irvin joining the Oakland Raiders in free agency this offseason, strongside linebacker in the Seahawks' base defense is one position the club is looking to fill heading into 2016. Carroll said veteran Mike Morgan, a standout special teams player, has the lead over converted defensive end Cassius Marsh and converted defensive back Eric Pinkins, but the competition remains "wide open" heading into July.

"The SAM linebacker spot is going to be a really good one to watch," Carroll said. "That's going to be wide open to see what happens. Mike Mo brings all the experience and so he would start if we had to start a game today, he's just ahead of the other guys. But both Cassius and Pink have done a great job of battling and those guys are getting a great shot."

Also in the mix is third-year pro Kevin Pierre-Louis, who to this point has seen a majority of his work come at weakside linebacker, where K.J. Wright is the starter.

"That he has the ability to do it," defensive coordinator Kris Richard said of what he's seen from Pierre-Louis at SAM. "The guy runs 4.4, he's extremely powerful, and when he's out there on the field it's like having another [defensive back] because he's so fast."

2. Center

Justin Britt is moving to his third position in three years and as of right now looks to be leading the team's competition at center. But as Carroll put it Thursday, "Nothing's etched in stone at this point" and Britt will continue to compete alongside Patrick Lewis, one of last year's starters at the spot who Carroll called "really solid," and Joey Hunt, a 2016 sixth-round draft pick of the Seahawks.

"He's done a very good job now," Carroll said of Britt. "He's really embraced the role and he's the guy that's been around the most and we hoped he would take the leadership up there making the calls and all that. He's done that. He loves playing the spot. He's looked very, very comfortable, really adds to the pass protection, he's so long and all that he fills up a lot of good space for us. Again, those guys have to get in pads to really see what's happening, but he has totally embraced the opportunity, so it's a really good move."

Hunt, who the Seahawks selected out of TCU, is the smallest of the center trio Carroll mentioned, measuring 6-foot and 299 pounds. But his smarts and college experience at the spot have him in the competition, too.

"Joey had a really, really good offseason with us," Carroll said. "He's a very experienced football player and he's really smart. He's as smart as an offensive lineman can be coming in.

"That position looks much different to us right now than it has. Again, that's going to be a good competition. Those guys are going to battle it out."

3. Tight End

Carroll expects Jimmy Graham to "absolutely" be ready by the start of the regular season, but with the three-time Pro Bowl tight end sidelined rehabbing a knee injury for much of the team's offseason program, other young players at the position received extra opportunities to emerge.

Nick Vannett, a third-round pick of the Seahawks in the 2016 draft, has made quite the impression, surprising the coaches with his natural catching ability after the early talk centered on him helping the team most in the blocking game. 

"The tight end position is going to be fun to see," Carroll said. "Nick Vannett did a great job and with Jimmy out has given the other guys a really good opportunity to do some nice stuff."

Brandon Williams, signed by the Seahawks in free agency this past April, has also been an early standout in Carroll's eyes.

"Brandon Williams has done a really nice job," Carroll said. "You guys don't know much about us picking him up, but he played for Carolina the last few years and we're very fortunate to get him. He's a very good special teamer, but he'll add to that [competition]."

4. Running Back

For the first time since 2011, the Seahawks will enter the regular season without Marshawn Lynch as their starting running back. With "Beast Mode" hanging up his cleats for good, the team will turn to Thomas Rawls, whose rookie year ended early with an ankle injury but is expected to be ready for the regular season. Christine Michael, a 2013 second-round pick by Seattle who re-signed late last season, is also back and will compete for playing time alongside a trio of 2016 draft picks in third-rounder C.J. Prosise, fifth-rounder Alex Collins, and seventh-rounder Zac Brooks. 

"The running back thing, as young as it is, it's going to be a great spot to watch," Carroll said. "There's a lot of diversity there in the styles that the guys bring. I'm really excited about that one."

5. Wide Receiver

It's no secret who the Seahawks' top three receivers are heading into 2016, with Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, and Tyler Lockett leading the way. But behind those three starters is a group of players who Carroll said he'll be keeping close tabs on.

"I'm really fired up about the receiver group and the guys coming back," Carroll said. "Russell [Wilson] has so much confidence in the guys that he's played with and that's great, but that second level of guys that are fighting for this roster spot, there's a bunch of guys that look good and could do some good stuff. So that's another spot."

That "second level of guys" Carroll mentions includes 2014 second-round pick Paul Richardson, who's "off to a great start" this offseason, former University of Washington standouts Kevin Smith and Kasen Williams, rookies last year who started on the practice squad but finished on the 53-man roster, 2016 seventh-round pick Kenny Lawler, and several other young pass catchers including Deshon Foxx, Antwan Goodley, Douglas McNeil III, and Tyler Slavin.

6. Defensive Line

Coaches are quick to caution that NFL offseason programs aren't real football. Workouts are non-contact as players practice without pads wearing shorts, a jersey and a helmet. That limited contact makes it difficult to fully evaluate athletes who play along the line of scrimmage. But through offseason workouts the team came away impressed by the work it could evaluate clearly from the two defensive linemen taken in this year's draft: second-round pick Jarran Reed and fifth-round pick Quinton Jefferson, each of whom Seattle traded up to select.

"On the defensive line with the two new young guys that we drafted, both those guys were very impressive in our offseason to this point," Carroll said. "We won't be able to know until we get them into pads and all, but that spot is going to be real interesting. [Sealver] Siliga coming in too helps us. I'm anxious to see how the thing rolls out."

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