More than a week removed from Super Bowl 50, the NFL world is fully in offseason mode, which means a lot of talk about the draft, free agency and what's to come in 2016. With that in mind, time to answer some questions on those topics and plenty of others in this week's Twitter Q&A. As always, thanks to everyone who submitted questions, and apologies if I was unable to get to yours this week.
@BernardYu asks, "Bing a newbie to the team and sport, how much of a change will it be with Beastmode gone?"
A: Understandably there were a lot of questions about the Seahawks' future at running back with Marshawn Lynch posting an apparent retirement announcement on Twitter last week(http://www.seahawks.com/news/2016/02/08/farewell-beast-mode). The most obvious answer to any "what comes next?" question starts with Thomas Rawls, who was very impressive as a rookie filling in for Lynch, eclipsing 100 yards four times in seven starts, including a rookie-record 209-yard performance against San Francisco. But even if Rawls is the likely option to start at running back, that doesn't clear up everything at that position. Christine Michael is a restricted free agent, and Seahawks coach Pete Carroll expressed interest in bringing him back after the season, so he very well could be part of the mix at that position, but his return isn't guaranteed. Fred Jackson is a free agent, so his status is uncertain. If he isn't back, the Seahawks would likely need at least one more back next season even if Michael is on the team. Expect the Seahawks to add to that position group between now and camp, perhaps through free agency, and almost certainly through the draft and/or undrafted free agent signings. Even if Rawls has an edge when it comes to the starting job, the battle for playing time and roster spots should be a very interesting one to watch.
@JMichaelMack asks, "Can we really have a power run game again with Jimmy Graham at tight end?"
A: Heading into the Week 12 game against Pittsburgh in which Jimmy Graham suffered a season-ending knee injury, the Seahawks were averaging an NFL-best 148.6 rushing yards per game. The week before, they rushed for a season-best 255 yards with Graham in the lineup, with Rawls accounting for 209 of them. So yes, while Graham is better known for his pass-catching abilities than he is for his blocking (and he did show improvement in that area), the Seahawks have and can run the ball very effectively with Graham at tight end.
@weekapaug009 asks, "Tips for expecting parents… specifically, how do I maintain my Sundays of solace with the Seahawks as a dad?"
A: Short answer: you don't. Alternative answer No. 1: Have a job that requires being at the game (hey, it works for me). Alternative answer No. 2: Be very good to your wife/partner between now and when football season rolls around (you should and probably will do this anyway), especially during these non-football weekends, then you'll have a better chance at getting a little free time on Seahawks game days. Alternative answer No. 3: Just watch the game with your baby. You'll be distracted and miss a few things, but you're still watching football while also getting credit for putting in father-child bonding time. This is how I justified watching a lot of Champions League soccer during the time I took off for paternity leave.
@dalzell_connor asks, "What can/should we expect in Year 2 from Thomas Rawls, Tyler Lockett, Frank Clark and Tye Smith? Any other rookies we should be keeping an eye on?
A: Rawls and Lockett were both big parts of Seattle's offense, and should likely only be better/more involved next year. Clark had three sacks last year, all in the second half of the season, and one more in the playoffs, and should only see his role increase next year. As for cornerback Tye Smith and the rest of the rookie class, there weren't a lot of chances at playing time, but the Seahawks still see a lot of potential in players who you might not have seen much of last year. In particular, there could be opportunities for playing time on the offensive line, especially if the Seahawks lose anyone in free agency (Russell Okung and J.R. Sweezy are both unrestricted free agents), which is a good way to segue into this question…
@A_Walk145 asks, "Do the Seahawks give Mark Glowinski a better look this offseason?"
A: Glowinski, a fourth-round pick out of West Virginia, started one game this season for an injured Sweezy and held up pretty well. If Sweezy were to sign elsewhere, Glowinski would certainly be a candidate to replace him, but even if everyone is back, Glowinski and other young linemen such as 2015 picks Kristjan Sokoli or Terry Poole could compete for playing time. How that would all shake out remains to be seen, but as has been evident in the past, offensive line coach Tom Cable and company aren't afraid to try different things out in search of the best line combination.
@stretchjohnsen asks, "Which backup DBs have most impressed the coaches: Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Trovon Reed, Mohammed Seisay, Tye Smith, George Farmer, etc?"
A: It's tough to say who has impressed coaches the most because coaches aren't often asked about players who aren't playing in games, and therefore don't discuss them much to the media, but as a whole, the Seahawks are excited about the potential of the young defensive backs on their roster. Carroll talked about the cornerbacks who didn't play much this season—a group that includes Tharold Simon—and their potential to contribute going forward, and seemed genuinely excited about their potential.
@Sarah_Seattle12 asks, "How important is chemistry in an NFL team's success as opposed to just talent?"
A: In a league where a salary cap ensures a certain level of parity, plenty of things can make the difference between winning and losing, ranging from coaching to injuries to, yes, chemistry. That was evident just last season when the Seahawks struggled for various reasons, then turned things around thanks in part to their ability to discover what Carroll described as a "marvelous chemistry."
It might seem like a team should be able to transition easily from one year of success to another, but as Carroll described late in the season, every season brings new challenges when it comes to finding a team's chemistry.
"There's a lot of stuff that goes into that, a lot of different people, a lot of different feelings and leadership on the team, the leadership by the coaches," Carroll said in December. "A lot of things have to come together and get right. You have to get rid of the problems and the issues. People are trying to achieve. Everybody's working hard, everybody wants to do well. Nobody's trying to hold back or anything. It has to find a balance and there's a harmony to it that's finally tuned. It's like tuning in on the radio dial. You've got to get it right. It's a big challenge. It's what everybody's seeking as they go through these seasons. You can see it. Look what happened to Kansas City, look how they've turned it around and got going, and put together a great year and a great run. It finally hits, and you try to hold on to it as long as you can."
@legume_duprix asks, "What's the deal with airplane food?"
A: Did I include this question mostly for the Ralph Wiggum picture? You bet I did. But to answer the question, I'd have to say airplane food has improved a lot in recent years despite its reputation. Will you get the best meal of your life on a plane? Not likely, but I had plenty of enjoyable meals on our Delta flights to and from games last season.
Also, I see what you did there with your Twitter handle.
@debi_ohh asks, "What was your favorite game the Seahawks have played in the past?"
A: For sheer craziness, nothing will probably ever top the NFC championship game victory over the Packers last year, but I might have actually enjoyed covering the previous NFC championship game even more. In a year when Seattle and San Francisco stood out as the class of the NFC, if not the entire NFL, the Seahawks and 49ers delivered a close, back-and-forth game that was full of big plays down the stretch, a game that ended with Richard Sherman making one of the iconic plays in franchise history to send Seattle to Super Bowl XLVIII.
@jrdelossantos27 asks, "What is the Hawks' number one priority this offseason?"
A: Both Carroll and general manager John Schneider have said since the season ended that one of their top goals is to keep as much of the team intact as they can. With 17 players set to become unrestricted or restricted free agents next month, the Seahawks will have their work cut out for them to do that, and while they'll try to keep the team together as best as they can, they also realize returning an entire roster is impossible from one year to the next, so the goal will be to find players who can help the team through the draft and free agency.
If you're asking about a specific position group as a priority, it's probably safe to say, based on Carroll and Schneider's postseason comments, that the offensive line is one area they'd like to bolster. To its credit, the line showed significant improvement in the second half of the season, but Carroll referred to that position group as "still a work in progress" in his year-end press conference.
@DiamondTimelord asks, "When are the Seahawks coming to Wembley London?" and @Hammerhawk23 asks, "Any chance the NFL can arrange a trip Down Under for all the Australian Seahawks fans?"
A: Just about every week I do a Q&A, there are question about the Seahawks playing overseas, which is a pretty cool sign of how far-reaching the fanbase is these days. The short answer is that I know nothing of a future trip to play in London or elsewhere—the NFL has already announced its schedule of overseas games for 2016, which includes a game in Mexico City in addition to three games in London—but the more the league expands its reach internationally in terms of games and locations the more likely it seems that the Seahawks, and just about every team, will end up playing in a foreign country somewhere down the road.
@AGarrett90 asks, "With the combine coming up, do you think you could beat Rich Eisen in the 40?"
A: In case you don't know what Aaron is referencing, Rich Eisen of the NFL Network runs a 40-yard dash each year at the NFL scouting combine as part of a fundraising effort for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. As to the question of whether or not I could beat Eisen—he has clocked in at around the 6-second mark in recent years—I'm not sure, but I will say stay tuned… You just might find out in the next couple of weeks.