By John Boyle
With training camp kicking off Friday, the Seahawks are about to be the talk of the town once again (though the Mariners and Sounders are both doing enough to keep us paying attention into the fall). Sure, the regular season is still more than a month away, but training camp begins in earnest the preparation for a 2014 season that will come with more hype and expectations than anything we’ve seen around these parts. Funny how a Super Bowl victory will do that to a team.
We’ll have a two-part training camp preview running Thursday and Friday in The Herald, but if you can’t wait until then, we’ll get things going in the blog.
First off, a look at some of the offensive storylines to keep an eye on when things get going this weekend.
Will Marshawn Lynch show up, and assuming he eventually does, does anything change this year?
The Seahawks’ running back is reportedly unhappy with his contract, and was going to skip last month’s mandatory minicamp right up until he didn’t. If Lynch is serious about getting a new deal for 2014, that could mean a holdout to start camp, though his decision to show up for minicamp seems to indicate he’s willing to negotiate while still participating.
Even if Lynch did decide to hold out, presumably he’ll show up and some point and be in Seattle’s 2014 plans (he’s not going to pass on his $5.5 million salary, or even a significant portion of that in the form of game checks knowing he’s heading into the late stages of his career). So then the question is whether or not Lynch’s role changes any in 2014.
At 28, Lynch hasn’t shown signs of slowing down, but he also has carried the ball more than 900 times in the past three seasons, not including Seattle’s five postseason games. That’s a big workload, especially for someone who runs as physically as Lynch does, so even if he’s running as well as ever, the Seahawks may see it wise to reduce his workload a bit this season.
Doing that would also create opportunities for Christine Michael, Seattle’s 2013 second-round pick for whom the team has very high hopes. Michael barely played last season, but Carroll and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell have raved about the progress the running back has made since last year, so it’s hard to imagine him not having an increased role this season. Quite possibly, that increased role could come from a slightly reduced role for Lynch. That’s not so say Lynch won’t still be Seattle’s top back, but perhaps he carries 250-270 times instead of 300.
Oh, and if you’re at training camp and Lynch is there but not doing much, don’t panic. Lynch has barely played in the preseason in the past, and Carroll has made it clear that they’ll rest Lynch plenty this preseason to keep him fresh for the regular season.
What receivers will make the team?
The Seahawks will keep five, maybe six receivers on the 53-man roster, and that means, barring injury, some very tough decisions have to be made.
Percy Harvin, Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse and second-round pick Paul Richardson all seem like safe bets, if not locks, to make the team, but if only one or two more players are going to make the team, that means players like fourth-round pick Kevin Norwood, Ricardo Lockette or former starter Sidney Rice could be on the outside looking in when final cuts are made.
Rice is coming back from ACL surgery, and needs to show he can stay healthy if he’s going to beat out a player like Norwood, who was one of Seattle’s most impressive rookies during offseason workouts. Lockette, meanwhile, may be fighting an uphill battle despite contributing to a Super Bowl-winning team last year both on special teams and as a receiver.
This will be a fun group to watch over the next few weeks.
Who’s the starting right tackle?
With Breno Giacomini leaving in free agency, right tackle is one of the few starting positions featuring a wide-open battle on either side of the ball. Michael Bowie, who filled in for an injured Giacomini for part of last season, and who also saw playing time at guard, got the majority of the time with the starters during offseason workouts, but the Seahawks also have high hopes for Justin Britt, a second-round pick out of Missouri.
Don’t expect Pete Carroll and offensive line coach Tom Cable to rush this decision. If they’re willing to rotate left guards for an entire season, they’ll let Bowie and Britt battle throughout camp for the job, and even into the season if necessary.
Who backs up Russell Wilson?
More often than not under Pete Carroll and John Schneider, the Seahawks have kept only two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster, and if they go that direction again in 2014, that means either Tarvaris Jackson or Terrelle Pryor, both starters at times in their careers, could be gone before the season begins.
Jackson, Seattle’s starter in 2011 and Russell Wilson’s backup last year, is the favorite in this battle. He knows the offense, is very well respected in Seattle’s locker room, especially for the way he played through a torn pectoral muscle for much of the 2011 season, and quite frankly, he was just a lot better than Pryor in offseason workouts, or at least the ones open to the media.
Pryor, however, is an intriguing prospect and freakishly gifted athlete, and while Seattle didn’t give up much to get him — the 32nd pick of the seventh round — they still had enough interest to go out and get him. Pryor definitely did show improvement as offseason workouts progressed, and as the 2012 battle for the starting job showed, Carroll won’t be afraid to wait to make a decision with his back quarterback.
The talk from Pryor and the Seahawks so far has been that he’s here to play quarterback, but perhaps if he is willing and can carve out a dual role in camp as a quarterback and an occasional receiver/tight end/red zone threat, Seattle would be more likely to keep a third quarterback if it’s someone capable of contributing in multiple ways.
With Russell Wilson in his third year, and with Percy Harvin healthy, will the offense look any different?
Some ask this question wondering if the Seahawks will throw the ball more often, and if you’re approaching it from that angle, the answer is likely no. Sure, the Seahawks could throw the ball a bit more, but their run-to-pass ratio won’t change dramatically unless for some reason the Seahawks find themselves frequently trailing late in games, something that seems unlikely given their talent level, especially on defense.
Carroll believes in a balanced attack, in setting the tone with a physical running game, and that won’t change in 2014.
That being said, the passing game could look a bit different this season, and we’ll start to get hints of what it might look like when camp begins. As we saw in the Super Bowl, Harvin changes things for an offense, and the Seahawks will look to find ways to get him the ball in space, perhaps with more short, quick passes, or on the fly-sweep type runs we saw twice in the Super Bowl. One of the few criticisms of Wilson so far in his career has been that he’s too reliant on scrambling and making plays after things break down, and not as good at making the quick read and getting rid of the ball, but with speedsters like Harvin and Richardson on the field, the quicker passes could be a bigger part of the offense in 2014. And if you need a reminder that Wilson has those throws in his arsenal, just look back at the way he carved up Denver in February, especially in the second half.