All this mealy mouthed talk of competition is about to be put to the test. In previous seasons, all but a few starters were determined prior to camp. All but a few roster spots were determined before camp. And utility-grade defensive back Jordan Babineaux beating out futility-grade secondary coach Brian Russell qualified as Big News.
Pete Carroll sees competition as a defining quality, a life philosophy. "Always compete!" he insists. But in fair competition, something is at stake and everyone participating in that competition has an equal chance of winning. That is rarely the case in training camp. Starters develop inertia. The business of football must be honored, and higher-paid players are given every chance to retain their spot. Early-round rookies are fast tracked. Basically, competition is a mirage. And so likely will it be for the Seahawks.
A few positions are up for grabs, not because of a mandate for competition, but because no player owns that position. Bad teams have little reason to keep their corps intact, and the Seahawks have undergone historic roster turnover since the end of the 2009 season. I could lump this all into one long post, but then, no one would read it and I would shoot myself in the foot regarding page views*.
2009: Deon Grant
Grant was the first and only major cut by the Seahawks. He played strong safety, and seemingly already miscast in the role, Grant would have been an especially poor fit for Carroll's system. Carroll likes larger, enforcer type strong safeties.
Early favorite: Lawyer Milloy
Pete Carroll inherited Lawyer Milloy after he became thehead coach in 1997. Yes, Milloy is indeed that old. He is the big, tough, leathery, fear-inducing strong safety that Carroll wants, but he's also old, slow and has no future with the team or within the NFL.
The Incumbent: Jordan Babineaux
This is a misnomer. Babineaux played free safety. Jordan does not fit the scheme, was not particularly impressive last season and is likely to revert to backing up Earl Thomas and playing utility defensive back.
The Rookie: Kam Chancellor
Chancellor fits the profile and has the smarts, but the preseason will determine where he lands. He could start. He could end on the practice squad.
The Import: Kevin Ellison
Ellison started three seasons at USC and started nine games as a rookie for San Diego. Then he was caught with a grip of pills, charged with felony possession and released by the Chargers. He is awaiting trial. Dr. House excelled at strong safety at USC, knows the system, and enjoys all the built-in biases towards familiarity, but, apart from being less talented than Chancellor, Eillson might soon be incarcerated. County could seriously limit his range in cover.
The Dark Horse: Jamar Adams
Indeed, Adams has been around since the Carter administration, but he continues to hold on to a roster spot, and, for once, has the right skill set to suit his coach's needs. Adams is a vicious thumper that has never proved his ability to cover. He has the age, experience and skill set to seize this position. Also, he is very likely to be cut.
I am attempting a social experiment over at SB Nation Seattle that will either succeed, drive me nuts or end my sports writing career. Wish me luck!