The conclusion of veteran minicamp on Thursday marked the official end of the Seattle Seahawks’ offseason on-field activities, which included rookie minicamp, organized team activities and veteran minicamp. The team won’t get started again until training camp begins in six weeks on a yet-to-be-determined date.
So what did we learn from the offseason activities? Here’s six things:
1. All’s quiet on the labor front — for now
Last year the Seahawks were blindsided when starting strong safety and defensive leader Kam Chancellor, dissatisfied with his contract, held out from training camp. Chancellor eventually returned for Week 3 of the regular season, but the holdout was a disruption throughout training camp, preseason and the first two weeks of the season, and it surely played a role in Seattle’s slow start.
The Seahawks had some contract questions heading into this offseason, too. Chancellor’s situation hasn’t changed, Pro Bowl defensive end Michael Bennett has talked extensively about being underpaid, and Seattle has yet to lock down receiver Doug Baldwin to an extension. But so far those situations haven’t caused any issues. Chancellor has all but said he won’t hold out again, Bennett showed up for minicamp following much speculation, and the team is in active negotiations with Baldwin.
So signs are the Seahawks won’t have to deal with labor strife this year. But remember, Chancellor was a participant in organized team activities and minicamp last year before holding out of training camp, so there’s still a possibility trouble could emerge.
2. The offensive line is beginning to take shape
The Seahawks came into the offseason with all kinds of question marks with regards to the offensive line. Starters Russell Okung and J.R. Sweezy departed via free agency, then Justin Britt was moved from left guard to center. There was a real possibility Seattle would have no starters returning at the same positions they played in 2015.
As OTAs and minicamp progressed the projected first-team unit came into focus. Britt received almost all the first-team snaps at center, so Seattle seems committed to that experiment. Rookie Germain Ifedi received all the first-team looks at right guard, and being a first-round draft pick he’s sure to have plenty of leash. Mark Glowinski and rookie Rees Odhiambo split time as the first-team left guard during OTAs, but Glowinski received the nod at minicamp. Free-agent signing J’Marcus Webb missed all of OTAs because of a calf injury, but once he recovered he slotted in at right tackle during minicamp. And although Garry Gilliam missed all of OTAs and minicamp after undergoing surgery to have a cyst removed from his knee, last year’s starter at right tackle is inked in to start at left tackle this season.
We don’t know whether this configuration will be any good, but at least we now know how the Seahawks are thinking.
3. The battle for strong-side linebacker is up for grabs
One if the biggest holes left by free-agency departures was at strong-side linebacker, as the Seahawks had no obvious candidates to replace Bruce Irvin. It was widely assumed Seattle would address the position either by signing a veteran free agent or through the draft. However, the Seahawks took neither of those routes, meaning the position had to be filled from within.
What OTAs and minicamp showed is that there is no frontrunner in the race. Three different players saw time with the first-team defense, those being Mike Morgan, Cassius Marsh and Eric Pinkins. All three are accompanied by question marks as Morgan has been primarily a special teamer in his five seasons with the Seahawks, Marsh is converting from defensive end, and Pinkins spent most of the previous two seasons on the practice squad.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll described the battle as “wide open.” He said at the end of minicamp that Morgan would start if the team had a game that day because of his experience advantage, but that it wouldn’t be decided until after the team played preseason games.
4. Trevone Boykin is leading the race for backup quarterback
When the draft ended the Seahawks had no backup quarterback. Tarvaris Jackson, the backup the previous two seasons, was not re-signed as a free agent, and Seattle did not select a quarterback in the draft. The Seahawks elected to go with Boykin, a rookie free agent, and Jake Heaps, two years removed from college, as Russell Wilson’s backups during OTAs and minicamp.
Seattle would love for Boykin to win the backup job because the former Big-12 Offensive Player of the Year at TCU plays a similar mobile style to Wilson. Therefore, if anything happened to Wilson the Seahawks wouldn’t have to change their approach.
Boykin struggled at times during OTAs, showing a penchant for holding onto the ball too long. However, he made strides, and by the end of minicamp he separated himself from Heaps and was receiving the vast majority of the second-team reps.
That doesn’t mean Boykin will keep the job. Jackson is still available, and since the Seahawks are in win-now mode it’s questionable whether they’d take the chance of going with an undrafted rookie as the second option at QB. But at this point it’s Boykin’s to lose.
5. The secondary is as flexible as it’s ever been
Seattle’s defense has led the NFL in fewest point allowed for four straight seasons, and at the heart of that has been the Legion of Boom secondary. With Chancellor, free safety Earl Thomas and cornerback Richard Sherman as the core members, the Seahawks secondary became the most feared unit in the league.
But as good as Seattle’s secondary has been, it’s never exhibited the kind of flexibility it showed during OTAs and minicamp. The process started last season with Jeremy Lane and Deshawn Shead both proving they can line up at corner both on the outside and in the slot — with Shead also having the ability to play safety. In addition, Sherman at times was called upon to shadow the opposition’s top receiver or play in the slot, rather than remain exclusively at left corner. The flexibility increased even further this offseason with the return of Brandon Browner via free agency, as the former corner lined up mostly at safety during OTAs and minicamp.
That flexibility should allow the Seahawks to play matchups in a way they haven’t in the past, making things even more difficult for opposing passing attacks.
6. Taniela Tupou is still in the hunt
The Marysville native and Archbishop Murphy High School grad was a longshot to even make it past rookie minicamp. The undrafted rookie received an invitation to attend rookie minicamp with the idea of converting from defensive tackle, the position he played at the University of Washington, to fullback. But Tupou showed enough to get signed and continue through OTAs and minicamp.
Tupou still faces an uphill battle to make the final 53. The Seahawks use their fullback sparingly and will likely keep only one. However, his competition is equally green. By the end of minicamp there were just two other players seeing time at fullback: Brandon Cottom is a second-year player who is listed on the roster as a tight end and spent last season on Seattle’s practice squad, and Tre Madden is a fellow undrafted rookie who was a tailback in college.
The three received roughly an equal number of reps through most of minicamp, though Tupou saw his snaps decline on the final day. Whether that means anything is unknown, but as long as he remains on the roster Tupou still has a chance of making the team.
Check out Nick Patterson’s Seattle Sidelines blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/seattlesidelines, and follow him on Twitter at @NickHPatterson.