(Note: This story was originally published in the May 26th edition of Hawk Mail. To subscribe to Hawk Mail, click here)
Organized Team Activities kicked off this week, the next stage in the offseason workout schedule that will wrap up with a mandatory minicamp in mid-June. Most roster decisions won't be made for several months, and starting jobs won't be won anytime soon, but these workouts are an important step in what the Seahawks hope will be a championship offseason.
Prior to the draft, we took a look at where the roster stood before the Seahawks added a 2016 class of rookies, and now it's time to revisit the roster, position-by-position, now that the Seahawks have added reinforcements through the draft and undrafted rookie free agency.
Quarterback: Russell Wilson is the starter, that much is known heading into 2016, but who will win the backup job behind Wilson is yet to be determined. The Seahawks didn't draft a quarterback, but they did sign TCU's Trevone Boykin right after the draft and also added former Skyline High School star Jake Heaps, who is a year removed from going undrafted (Heaps spent time with the Jets in training camp last season). For now at least, those two are battling for the backup job, though the Seahawks could still add another quarterback to the competition, including Tarvaris Jackson, Wilson's backup for the past three seasons, who is still available as a free agent.
Running back/fullback: This will perhaps be the most changed position group from a year earlier—the offensive line is also in contention for that title—with the Seahawks drafting three backs and with Marshawn Lynch retiring. Thomas Rawls, who is recovering the ankle injury that cut short his breakout rookie season, is back, as is Christine Michael, who helped revitalize his career in his second tenure with the Seahawks. Beyond those two, however, the backfield will look a lot different in training camp and into the 2016 season. The Seahawks added C.J. Prosise, Alex Collins and Zac Brooks in the draft, three talented backs who bring their own unique talents to the mix. Prosise figures to step into the third-down role held by Fred Jackson last season, but his background as a receiver could lead to the Seahawks expanding that role. Collins showed he can be a productive lead back, rushing for more than 1,000 yards for three straight seasons at Arkansas, while Brooks is another multi-talent back with a receiving background. It's going to be tough for all five of those players to win roster spots, so this will be a competitive position group in training camp.
At fullback, the Seahawks are looking at two undrafted rookies who played defensive line in college, Washington's Taniela Tupou and Florida Atlantic's Brandin Bryant. Former USC running back Tre Madden, another undrafted rookie, will also get a look at fullback. Brandon Cottom, who spent time on Seattle's practice squad last season, is listed as a tight end, but will also do fullback work, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said.
Receiver: The Seahawks have a very good top three coming back in the form of Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse and Tyler Lockett, but the battle for playing time and roster spots behind those three will be tightly contested. Paul Richardson, who missed most of last season with injuries, is back and looking to show why the Seahawks used a second-round pick on him in 2014. Kasen Williams and Kevin Smith, who both worked their way from the practice squad to the active roster last year, will only be better with another year of experience under their belt, while seventh-round pick Kenny Lawler is coming off a spectacular rookie minicamp.
Tight end: Like receiver, the Seahawks return a lot of talent at tight end, but also added a potential impact player in the draft. While Jimmy Graham and Luke Willson are expected to be the two big pass-catching threats at tight end, the Seahawks are excited about the addition of third-round pick Nick Vannett, who is more of a true "Y" tight end that can block at the line of scrimmage. And don't forget about Cooper Helfet, who has been a reliable contributor over the past two seasons.
Offensive line: The Seahawks used three draft picks, including their first-rounder, on offensive linemen hoping to upgrade and add depth to a line that lost two starters in free agency. Germain Ifedi, the No. 31 overall pick, has a good chance to start right away at right guard, though he'll have competition there, while third-round pick Rees Odhiambo will compete with Mark Glowinski at left guard and sixth-round pick Joey Hunt will battle with Justin Britt, Patrick Lewis and Kristjan Sokoli at center.
Interestingly, if Lewis doesn't win the center job, the Seahawks will have a different starter at every line position in 2016 because Garry Gilliam, last year's starting right tackle, is moving the left side, while Britt, last year's left guard, made the move to center.
Defensive line: Three of four starters from last season—ends Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett and tackle Ahtyba Rubin are back—but the line beyond that could look quite a bit different. Second-round pick Jarran Reed will have a good chance to replace Brandon Mebane in the starting lineup, while fifth-round pick Quinton Jefferson will be looking to carve out a role for himself as an interior pass rusher with the versatility to play multiple positions along the line.
Frank Clark, last year's second-round pick, is expected to take on a bigger role in 2016, perhaps taking over some of the pass-rushing snaps played by Bruce Irvin last year. Chris Clemons is also back after two years in Jacksonville to add to the pass-rushing mix. Cassius Marsh could factor into the pass-rush rotation as well, and he also might see time at strongside linebacker with Irvin gone, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. And don't sleep on some lesser-known names, whether it's Ryan Robinson, who was playing very well in offseason workouts last year before suffering an Achilles injury, or undrafted rookies like Montese Overton and David Perkins. The Seahawks also signed Sealver Siliga, a big, run-stopping defensive tackle who could help make up for the loss of Mebane, and Jordan Hill, a former third-round pick, has the talent to make a big impact if he is able to stay healthy.
The Seahawks held the first of nine Organized Team Activities (OTAs) on Monday, May 23, marking the first time the offense has gone against the defense this offseason.
Linebacker: In Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright, the Seahawks have two of the best in the league at their respective positions, but Seattle did lose strongside linebacker Bruce Irvin in free agency. That loss is at least somewhat mitigated by the fact that one linebacker comes of the field frequently in nickel packages, but the Seahawks still need a replacement for Irvin's linebacker snaps—Irvin was also a big part of the pass-rush, but those snaps will likely be replaced by a defensive end, not a linebacker—when they do want to have their base defense on the field. Mike Morgan re-signed this offseason and is an option there, as is Marsh if he is able to make that transition. The Seahawks also signed two rookie free agent linebackers, Steve Longa and Pete Robertson, as well Khairi Fortt, a former fourth-round pick.
An interesting subplot related to this position group is the notion that a third linebacker could be needed less going forward if the Seahawks want to get more defensive backs on the field. Carroll mentioned in a recent radio interview that the Seahawks could play more dime defense (six defensive backs) this season, and while the usual concern in dime is vulnerability against the run, the Seahawks could theoretically go dime and still have good size thanks to big, physical defensive backs like Kam Chancellor (6-3, 225), Brandon Browner (6-4, 220) and DeShawn Shead (6-2, 212).
Secondary: The Seahawks didn't draft a single defensive back, but they did add three rookies after the draft: safety Tyvis Powell, and cornerbacks DeAndre Elliott and Jamal Marshall. One reason the Seahawks didn't draft defensive backs is that they saw there was value to be had in those undrafted free agents, but also because they like the depth already on the roster. Jeremy Lane's re-signing, along with DeShawn Shead's emergence in 2015, give the Seahawks more flexibility at corner than they have had in past years, while Marcus Burley, Tharold Simon and plenty of others represent solid depth options.
One of the more interesting storylines in offseason workouts and camp will be how the Seahawks decide to use Browner, a former starting cornerback here who re-signed this offseason after spending the past two seasons in New England and New Orleans. Carroll said Browner could be used as a safety in 2016, and also as an extra defensive back in nickel and dime packages who can match up in the slot and on tight ends. What that all will look like remains to be seen, but the Seahawks could get more creative and diverse with their secondary looks in 2016 than they have in the past under Carroll.
The Seahawks held the second of nine Organized Team Activities (OTAs) on Tuesday, May 24 at Renton's Virginia Mason Athletic Center.