Top 2019 Seahawks Training Camp Storylines: Who Wins the Backup Quarterback Battle?

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_With Seahawks training camp kicking off later this month, Seahawks.com is taking a look at some of the team’s most intriguing storylines, position battles and players heading into the 2019 season. Today, we look at the competition for the backup quarterback job. We’ll continue Monday with a breakdown of the competition at tight end.    _

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For all the victories, touchdown passes and how-the-heck-did-he-do-that plays, one of the most underrated elements of Russell Wilson’s NFL career has been the quarterback’s availability.

Not only has Wilson started every game of his seven-year career, he never misses practice, and he never showed up on an injury report until 2016 when he was playing through significant knee and ankle injuries. Considering how important quarterback play is in today’s NFL, the importance of being on the field every Sunday is hard to overstate, which is just part of what makes Wilson such a valuable player for the Seahawks.

But as good and as reliable as Wilson has been, teams always need to have a Plan B at quarterback, and once again the Seahawks head into camp with competition for the backup job. Last year’s No. 2 quarterback, Brett Hundley, signed with Arizona this offseason, and the Seahawks signed a pair of interesting candidates to compete for that job: former first-round pick Paxton Lynch, and former New York Jets starter Geno Smith.

It’s way to soon to declare a frontrunner in that battle—Lynch had the advantage of signing earlier, meaning he knew the offense better in offseason workouts, but Smith has considerably more NFL experience—and in all likelihood, the Seahawks will use all four preseason games and every training camp practice to make a decision.

“They've been very competitive,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “They kind of go back and forth. We keep numbers and stuff like that—they’re statting out pretty much on par with each other. Both guys are showing a good arm and the ability to throw the ball down the field. They're move moving well too. Paxton’s got some running in his background from his college days; he took off on a real nice one of the day. I've been really impressed with Geno too. We've seen Geno not quite as much. You can feel the experience from him. He’s handling the huddle, the line of scrimmage, adjustments and stuff like that. He has benefited from his years. So he brings a little bit of savvy that’s nice to have. We haven’t had a guy like that really since Tarvaris (Jackson) that has played quite a bit as a backup, so that’s good.”

Smith and Lynch have traveled different paths in their careers, but both bring talent and varying levels of starting experience to the competition. Smith, a second-round pick in 2013, was a starter for the New York Jets during his first two seasons, but eventually lost his starting job, initially due to injury, before spending the last two seasons as a backup with the New York Giants and Los Angeles Chargers. Lynch, meanwhile, was a first-round pick in 2016—interestingly enough, he was selected with a pick that originally belonged to the Seahawks before Denver traded up to use that pick on Lynch—and he started two games in 2016 and two in 2017.

Whoever wins the job will be Seattle’s fourth different backup in past four seasons following Tarvaris Jackson holding that role from 2013 to 2015. That position represents a spot on roster the Seahawks hope to not need on gameday, but one they also know can end up being pivotal. 

“It has been fun to work with both of those guys, that’s kind of my baby—I love developing quarterbacks, I love watching them,” offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said. “Paxton’s got a bigtime live arm, he really does. For a big guy he’s really quick and athletic. He picked up the system well. Geno hasn’t been here nearly as long; he’s got a lot of moxie about him, great huddle command, which is cool to see. I think the big thing for them is kind of learning what our standards are, what our expectations are in that room. The first day with Pax was kind of funny, because he came in—he was prepared, but he really wasn’t to the standard that we wanted him to, so we got on him a little bit. But the next day he was buttoned up and ready to go. Same thing with Geno, Geno came in and—if you don’t really know what to expect and how much we put on those guys, it’s hard to know what’s being expected of you. They’ve been terrific so far.”

The Seahawks rookies report back to the Virginia Mason Athletic Center for 2019 Training Camp.

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