With Seahawks training camp kicking off this week, Seahawks.com has spent the last two weeks taking a look at some of the team's most intriguing storylines, position battles and players heading into the 2019 season. Today, we wrap things up looking at a rookie class the Seahawks hope can make big contributions right away.
The Seahawks will hold their first practice of training camp on Thursday morning, but for this year's rookie class, camp began last week when the 11 members of the 2019 draft class and 10 undrafted rookies reported for physicals and workouts beginning on July 17.
That's a change for the Seahawks under Pete Carroll and John Schneider, who in previous years have had rookies report on the same day or one day before veterans, not a full week before as was the case this year.
"We wanted to do it to give them a runway to prepare for camp," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Tuesday. "We feel like if we can make sure they're physically ready after the six-week break, that we can have a better shot of making them physically prepared for the workload that they're going to get, instead of entrusting it upon them—with the thought of we're going to hopefully keep them healthy. It'll help them stay a little bit healthier getting through the rigors of camp. The first couple of weeks of camp are always really taxing, so we're hoping that we've spread out the burden of that by giving them a chance to get going. As well as, we're counting on these guys to help us, and we want to get them a mental jump too, so they've had a number of days here to add into the prep."
While as Carroll notes, the Seahawks are counting on this rookie class to contribute, the decision to have rookies report early wasn't necessarily a reflection of increased expectations on this year's rookie class, but rather one made to try to maximize their preparation with player health in mind.
"It does have to do with health, keeping guys fit and all that," Carroll said. "Really, just seeing the burden of the six weeks (off), it's such a deterrent to getting ready for football, because we can't orchestrate what they're doing. So this is to give them a runway to help them get going."
And with that extra one-week runway, this year's rookies will take the field Thursday looking to show that they can help the team in 2019. And while every rookie's role will be different, there are several members of the 2019 draft class who have a good chance to contribute right away, beginning with the first player Seattle selected last April, defensive end L.J. Collier.
With the Seahawks trading Frank Clark prior to the draft, Collier, the 29th overall pick out of TCU, has a very good shot to earn a significant role in the defensive line rotation and perhaps a starting job.
After Collier, the rookie with perhaps the clearest path to playing time and a possible starting role is second-round pick DK Metcalf, though he'll have to battle with veterans Jaron Brown and David Moore, among others to crack the starting lineup. While Tyler Lockett is all but a lock to be Seattle's No. 1 receiver, Metcalf, Brown, Moore and others are all competing for starting jobs and significant playing time.
Two more draft picks will compete for spots at receiver, Gary Jennings and John Ursua, the latter figuring to factor into the competition at slot receiver in particular.
Sticking with the offense, sixth-round pick Travis Homer will likely compete to be the third-down back, a battle that will also include C.J. Prosise. Guard Phil Haynes, a fourth-round pick would appear to be facing an uphill battle to unseat veterans D.J. Fluker or Mike Iupati, but should be a valuable backup, which is always important on the offensive line—the Seahawks had five players start at least one game at guard last season—who can also be a big part of the future.
On the other side of the ball, second-round pick Marquise Blair will compete at strong safety, and even if he can't unseat a veteran for a starting role, Seattle's willingness to use more three-safety packages over the past two seasons means there could be a role for him on defense even if he doesn't win a starting job. Linebackers Cody Barton and Ben Burr-Kirven have impressed coaches and teammates in offseason workouts, but with Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright and Mychal Kendricks on the roster, it'll be tough to earn immediate playing time on defense if everyone is healthy. Even so, those two, along with Blair and fellow safety Ugo Amadi, are all expected to play big roles on special teams. As for Amadi, who is listed as a free safety, he'll also get a look in the nickel role, and could also be an option at punt return if the Seahawks want to take some of the special teams work load off of Lockett. Defensive tackle Demarcus Christmas will compete for a spot in the defensive line rotation, and with Carroll's preference to have a deep rotation, there's room for plenty of linemen to have significant roles.
And of course you can never count out the undrafted rookies. Nearly every season, one or more undrafted players make the team and make big contributions. The most famous example is Doug Baldwin, who led the team in receiving as a rookie and went on to become one of the best receivers in franchise history. But in addition to Baldwin, numerous undrafted players have won roster spots and eventual starting jobs or significant roles, a list that includes receiver Jermaine Kearse, defensive back DeShawn Shead, running back Thomas Rawls, tackles Garry Gilliam and George Fant, and 2018 UDFA Poona Ford, a player who has a good shot to win a starting job at defensive tackle this year.
"It's the same as always, we're just hoping to find guys who can help us," Carroll said of the expectations for this year's rookie class. "We just happen to have more shots this time around, so we're excited about it. They're just added opportunities. It's going to make the camp really competitive. We're going to give them a lot of opportunities to show where they fit and where they can add to it. They'll get a lot of playtime in preseason in particular, we're going to go for it with these guys and see how far they can go."
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The Seahawks rookies report back to the Virginia Mason Athletic Center for 2019 Training Camp.