With Seahawks training camp kicking off next week, Seahawks.com is taking a look at 10 of the most intriguing storylines, position battles and players heading into the 2022 season. Today we look at what looks to be a wide-open competition at cornerback. Check back Friday when we wrap things up with a look at the quarterback competition.
The Seahawks head into the 2022 season having, for the second straight season, lost their starting left cornerback in free agency. They also head into training camp with multiple veterans with starting experience, a second-year player who flashed a lot of potential before a season-ending injury, and two talented rookies.
In other words, cornerback is a very intriguing position heading into training camp.
As was the case a year earlier when Shaquill Griffin left in free agency, the Seahawks secondary took a hit this offseason when D.J. Reed signed with the Jets, but while his play will be missed, the Seahawks definitely won't head into camp feeling like they're lacking in quality options at corner.
Sidney Jones IV, a former second-round pick out of the University of Washington who had a rough start to his career in large part due to injuries, enjoyed his best season last year after returning to Seattle, starting 11 games and playing in 16—both career highs—while recording 10 passes defensed, which was tied for the team lead, and 66 tackles.
Based off of what we saw in offseason workouts, Jones is one of the leading candidates for a starting job heading into camp, having spent most of his time with the No. 1 defense opposite free-agent acquisition Artie Burns. A former first-round pick out of Miami, Burns started six games for the Bears last season and played some of the best football of his five-year career under then Bears defensive coordinator Sean Desai, who is now part of Pete Carroll's coaching staff as the team's associate head coach-defense.
But while those two saw the most work with the starting defense in offseason workouts, they are by no means locked into those starting spots, not with several talented young players pushing them for playing time.
If he can get back in time for the start of training camp or close to it, second-year corner Tre Brown will be a strong candidate for a starting spot. A 2021 fourth-round pick out of Oklahoma, Brown was enjoying a strong camp before being sidelined by a knee injury, then when he got back from that injury, he ended up winning a starting job for three games before a knee injury ended his season.
The Seahawks also used two draft picks on intriguing cornerback prospects, Cincinnati's Coby Bryant, who won the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation's top defensive back, and Texas-San Antonio's Tariq Woolen, a 6-foot-4 corner with incredibly rare athletic traits, as was evident in his NFL Scouting Combine performance that saw him run a 4.26-second 40-yard dash and post a 42-inch vertical leap. Bryant comes in as the more polished player who looks NFL ready right away, much like Brown did a year ago, while Woolen has tons of upside and was the player Carroll described as "probably the flashiest guy” at last month's mandatory minicamp.
So while the Seahawks don't head into training camp with two clear starters at cornerback, they do open camp with what they consider to be a lot of really good options.
"We feel pretty confident that we know what we got," Carroll said earlier in the offseason even before the Seahawks added the two rookie corners. "I know we didn't see a lot of Tre Brown, but we feel like we got a good feel for him. He just did not take any side steps along the way. We had to just believe what we were seeing and give him enough opportunity, so he's there. Sidney coming back. Sidney really developed and his confidence really showed. So we feel strong about what he can do as well. So we'll see how this position continues to grow. Artie Burns is coming in. We've got background on him, we've coached him before with our guys, and he's a premier athlete for the position."
Equally competitive will be the nickel corner spot, a role held down mostly by Ugo Amadi the past two seasons. Amadi competed with Marquise Blair for that role each of the past two camps, with Blair winning the job in 2020 and with the two of them splitting time in 2021, but in both cases Blair's season was cut short due to injury.
This season, the competition will feature not just those two 2019 draft picks, but also veteran Justin Coleman, who returns to Seattle after two seasons in Detroit and one in Miami. Prior to those two stops, Coleman thrived in the nickel role for two seasons in Seattle, playing all 32 games while recording 19 passes defensed, three interceptions, 98 tackles and two defensive touchdowns.
"That's a very competitive spot for Justin to enter into," Carroll said.
Check out photos of Seahawks fourth-round pick Coby Bryant from his 2022 offseason in Seattle. The cornerback out of Cincinnati was selected No. 109 overall in the 2022 NFL Draft.