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The Plan At Cornerback, Drafting A Punter & More In This Week’s Twitter Q&A

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The 2018 NFL draft is now in the books, which for the Seahawks meant adding nine players to the roster, including first-round pick Rashaad Penny, a running back from San Diego State who could be an impact player right away. With the draft in the rearview mirror and offseason workouts underway, it’s time once again to answer questions from you, the fans. As always, thanks to everyone who took the time to ask a question this week, and apologies if I wasn’t able to get to your question this time around.

@Ultimate12th asks, “What is the plan for the starting cornerbacks?”

A: The Seahawks want to be competitive at every spot on the roster, so no starting job is set in stone, but for the sake of this question, we’ll assume that it is at least likely that Shaquill Griffin will hang onto a starting job after an outstanding rookie season. Justin Coleman also had a great first year with the Seahawks as Seattle’s nickel corner, so he is the frontrunner to hold down that spot, so if those two do indeed emerge as starters—in today’s NFL, a nickel corner is more or less a starter even if it’s not a position in base defense—then we’re talking about several interesting options to start opposite Griffin.

The Seahawks re-signed veteran corner Byron Maxwell Tuesday, a player who finished last season as a starter after Richard Sherman was lost to a season-ending injury. Maxwell is by far the most experienced cornerback on the roster, and the 2011 Seahawks draft pick played very well in his return to Seattle after two-plus seasons away, but that doesn’t guarantee that he’ll win the job. Also competing for playing time there will be former 49ers starter Dontae Johnson; a pair of college safeties turned cornerback in Mike Tyson, a 2017 draft choice, and Tre Flowers, who was picked in the fifth-round of this year’s draft; DeAndre Elliott, who missed all of last season with an ankle injury; special teams standout Neiko Thope; and Akeem King, who spent last season on the practice squad.

This early in the offseason, it’s hard not to make Maxwell the favorite out of this group given that he started last season, but it will be particularly interesting to see how far Tyson has come in his transition to corner after spending most of last year on the practice squad, as well as watching how quickly Flowers, who has all the physical attributes Seattle likes in a corner, can adjust to a new position. And don’t rule Thorpe out in this competition either; the Seahawks have had several players over the years, and cornerbacks in particular, who made their mark for a season or two on special teams before eventually earning a bigger role, a group that includes Maxwell and former starting cornerbacks DeShawn Shead and Jeremy Lane.

Sticking with cornerbacks…

@SettingTheEdge asks, “Have the Seahawks focused on a draft strategy of converting mid/late-round and & UDFA safeties to cornerback to get the most from their draft capital?”

A: I’m not sure if this is a trend or just something they happened to do in consecutive years because two players happened to come along in back-to-back drafts who fit the mold. Given that the Seahawks like cornerbacks who are physical and have good height and long arms, it’s not surprising that they have looked at safeties as possible cornerbacks. How well that transition works with Tyson and Flowers might determine how often they go that route in the future. But from a big-picture standpoint, yes, the Seahawks, and other teams, are more willing to take risks, whether that’s with a player’s injury history or with moving him to a new position, with late-round picks, because it can be a good way to get a better athlete in the late rounds.

Seahawks digital media producer @aronyohannes asks, “Who stole Aron Yohannes’ frosted animal cracker cookies during the draft?”

A: A. I still don’t know. B. Even if I did, I’m not a narc. And C. Are you sure you didn’t eat them all yourself?

@weekapaug009 asks, “What can you share about the feeling inside the building after the Griffin pick? Not scouts or coaches, but other folks who work for the team?”

A: Obviously the selection of Shaquem Griffin in the fifth round was anything but a usual third-day pick. For starters, the UCF linebacker has an inspiring story of overcoming obstacles, and on top of that he is twin brothers with Seahawks cornerback Shaquill Griffin. So yes, there was more of a reaction and more excitement to this pick than any third-day pick I’ve seen. From what I saw there wasn’t a standing ovation or tears flowing everywhere or anything like that, but there was definitely more buzz in the building than I’ve seen before, especially for a mid-to-late-round pick.

What’s important to note, however, is that as inspiring as Shaquem Griffin’s story is, and as cool as it is that he’s going to be teammates with his twin brother once again, this was very much a football decision, and going forward he’s going to be treated just like any other rookie.

“He's coming in to play football," Carroll said after the draft. "It's obvious that there will be some following because it's a real life drama. As we always have, we're going to contribute in ways to support these guys through the process. I think it's worthwhile because of the lessons and the teachings that those guys will be able to share and demonstrate. It's a worthwhile story that I'm not going to mind keeping it alive. We're not going to dwell on it, we're not going to spend a bunch of time trying to get something out of it. It's a fantastic story because it's a real life situation. We'll just support it with care and with good consideration and all that. But we've got football (to play) and that’s why he's coming here. He knows that. He's as tuned in of a football player as you can get. But we'll try to not let it get the best of us in any way."

@rhymes_w_ferret asks, “What is Kam Chancellor’s recovery status?”

A: The status of Chancellor, who sustained a season-ending neck injury in last season’s Week 10 win over the Arizona Cardinals, remains unknown at this point. Schneider said prior to the draft that Chancellor will have more tests in late June or early July to determine his status, so until then it’s unlikely we get any new updates.

@KBottom2 asks, “What is the status of Cliff Avril?”

A: Like Chancellor, Avril went on injured reserve with a neck injury last season, and like Chancellor, his status remains unknown. Carroll did not give a specific date for more tests on Avril, but has said in the past that the defensive end will undergo more tests at some point to determine his availability in 2018.

@RAYKation asks, “In honor of Shaquem, who is the most inspiring Seahawks player?”

A: I’m not going to pretend to know every player’s life story well enough to say who is “most inspiring,” and really there’s no right or wrong answer to that question. Maybe this is just recency bias, but hearing Frank Clark talk last week about being homeless as a child and overcoming that was pretty inspiring.

@liad_levi1998 asks, “How good can a punter be for the Seahawks to trade up to get him?” @Rjones3438 also asked about trading up to get a punter.

A: I’ll admit that I was as surprised as anyone that the Seahawks not only drafted punter Michael Dickson in the fifth round, but traded up to do so. After all, Carroll and general manager John Schneider had not drafted a single punter or kicker in their eight previous drafts together. But when it came to Dickson, a consensus All-American and the Ray Guy Award winner, he was just too unique of a talent for the Seahawks to pass on, even if it meant giving up a seventh-round pick to move up to get him. And considering that two more punters went later in the fifth round, the Seahawks’ decision to get their guy when they did seems justified.

“You know, he was just too unique of a player,” Schneider said. “I talked to (Texas coach) Tom Herman, (Dickson was) MVP of a bowl game, and (director of college scouting) Matt Berry had been at the game, and he was the best player on the field by far that night. It’s a rarity when guys stand out like that, and this guy did… He is unique; he can do stuff with the ball that we haven’t seen yet. We’re really intrigued to see how that translates. I’m not like a punter expert. Punters and kickers, it’s like time and distance, but this guy does stuff with the ball that’s amazing.”

On a related note…

@WildJayAppears asks what the Seahawks drafting punter Michael Dickson means for Jon Ryan. @ryan_z_johnson and @wenfont also asked about Jon Ryan and the punting situation.

A: NFL teams don’t carry two punters on the 53-man roster, so as soon as Dickson was picked, the question then became what happens to longtime Seahawks punter Jon Ryan. Both Schneider and Carroll said that, despite using a fifth-rounder on Dickson, nothing has been decided at that spot.

“First of all, we both love Jon Ryan, so this is all about competition,” Schneider said. “There’s been guys that I’ve drafted—I was with a team that drafted a punter in the third round that completely failed. I was with a team that drafted a kicker that was beat out by a rookie free agent, so it’s all about competition.”

Added Carroll: “Jon Ryan is a great football player, we love Jon. This isn’t a statement about that. (Dickson) is just such a unique player. We thought we would add him to the mix and let the games begin and play it out. Jon is up for that, he knows that, and he’s ready for that.”

@ssteacherwalker asks why the Seahawks traded up to get a punter before addressing the offensive line?

A: For starters, the Seahawks don’t look at it as, we’re drafting Dickson before a lineman so we think the offensive line is unimportant. Instead, it’s all about how their draft board looked when it was time to make a decision. If the Seahawks had an offensive linemen they graded higher than Dickson available to them at that point, or if they saw good value in a lineman earlier in the draft, they would have probably pulled the trigger, but sometimes the way a draft falls relative to when a team has picks, it’s hard to address every position.

@TruthisTold2U asks, “Who is the early favorite to start at left guard?”

A: Newly acquired guard D.J. Fluker has been a right side player his entire career, and the indication is that he will be competing at right guard, so if the free-agent addition does win that spot, that could mean Pocic playing on the left side. Pocic started at both guard spots as a rookie and his versatility is one of his biggest strengths, so he should be able to play either spot. Two other names to watch there are Rees Odhiambo, who has experience at left guard and left tackle, and Jordan Roos, who made the team as an undrafted rookie last season.

@NibblesDBun asks, “Which is better, chocolate chip or peanut butter cookies?”

A: Why must these two things be mutually exclusive? If I had to pick one, I’d go chocolate chip, but a chocolate chip peanut butter cookie sounds awfully good too, no?

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