The Seattle Seahawks opened training camp on Saturday and they’ll have 13 practices at the VMAC there, plus those four preseason games, to determine who will be on the final 53-man roster, plus who will be starting and what the depth order looks like. Here are eight of the most important battles to keep an eye on.
Tye Smith vs. Marcus Burley:
The Seahawks take pride in their ability to acquire defensive back gems in the later rounds of the draft. After trading a sixth round pick to acquire him from the Colts two years ago, Burley has had a solid if unspectacular run with Seattle as a depth nickel corner.
Smith, entering his second season, is a breakout candidate favorite among some Seahawks analysts. The sophomore year is generally when cornerbacks hit their stride, so it will be interesting to see how Smith performs during training camp.
Corner depth is of the utmost importance and both players have a chance to make the 53-man roster. With an established corps of Richard Sherman, Jeremy Lane, Tharold Simon and DeShawn Shead, it is paramount that these players showcase the apex of their ability. If one of them plays head and shoulders above the other through camp, the loser will likely be sent packing.
Patrick Lewis vs. Justin Britt
The competition at center is intriguing considering the fact that Britt has switched to his third position in as many years. Lewis, despite inconsistency, has a high winning percentage in games that he has started over the last few years. Rookie Joey Hunt could factor into the battle, but as of now the challenge lies between Britt and Lewis.
Britt currently has a hold on the first team reps, but a strong showing from Lewis could change that. It was puzzling that Lewis couldn’t beat out Drew Nowak last year in training camp, so take this battle with a grain of salt, since it might not make a whole lot of sense as it progresses.
Jordan Hill vs. Quinton Jefferson
Reports from early practices indicate that the most disruptive rookie defensive tackle thus far hasn’t been Jarran Reed – it has been Jefferson. The Maryland product has seen snaps from all over the defensive line and looks to factor into the pass-rushing rotation.
Jordan Hill has shown flashes of dominance, specifically his 5.5 sacks over the last six games of 2014. Unfortunately, he has not been able to sustain that level of impact for long stretches. Entering a contract year, motivation has never been higher for Hill, especially with Jefferson nipping at his heels.
If Hill can’t elevate his disruption consistency, look for Jefferson to steal a portion of his snaps in 2016.
Trevone Boykin vs. the Competition
Heading into training camp, the idea was that Boykin would be the first option to replace Tarvaris Jackson as backup quarterback. Recent word from John Schneider indicates that the Seahawks will take a look at veteran signal callers on the free agent market.
This is a win-win situation. If Boykin can beat out the veteran options that the front office brings in, the opposition will hopefully help elevate his game to a level that we know he can eventually reach. If an older quarterback makes a splash, then we have a veteran presence hedging Russell Wilson, which could end up being more valuable in the short term.
Either way, it will be fascinating to see how Boykin responds to the pressure of competition and what Seattle decides to do at the end of the preseason.
Paul Richardson vs. Injuries
It is no secret that injuries have ended both of Richardson’s NFL seasons. Despite his labeling as a ‘glass man’ of sorts, Richardson himself claims to be completely healthy heading into the new season. He has also put in a ton of offseason work with Wilson to improve chemistry and timing.
Unfortunately, Stephen Cohen of Seattle PI recently stated on Seaside Chats that Richardson strained his hamstring a bit in practices earlier in the month. The seriousness of this muscle aggravation is unknown at this time. As has been evident for years, P-Rich’s potential is sky high. If he can stay on the field for the entirety of training camp, it will be interesting to see if he cuts into Jermaine Kearse’s snaps at all.
Tyvis Powell vs. Kelcie McCray’s Versatility
Despite going undrafted, a hulking beast named Powell looks to have a massive amount of potential as a backup strong safety. Unfortunately for him, 2015 backup Kelcie McCray has played extremely well in relief of Kam Chancellor.
Reports from practices indicate that McCray has been taking snaps at free safety as well. If McCray can demonstrate his versatility and make moves at the free safety position, it could push Steven Terrell off of the roster and give Powell a shot to make the team as the backup strong safety.
Training camp will reveal whether or not McCray’s positional flexibility will allow for this scenario to occur.
Ryan Robinson vs. David Perkins
Pass-rushers are extremely valuable, no matter where they come from. Seattle has brought undrafted defensive ends onto their roster before (such as Benson Mayowa) and they aren’t afraid to do it again. Likely all that prevented Robinson from making the 2015 squad was a torn Achilles tendon. The Seahawks are very high on his potential if he is healthy during camp.
Perkins, a rookie free agent, looks to make an impression also. Jared Stanger put together a montage of Perkins’ pass-rushing film on Twitter recently and the guy is a technical savant. Check this out.
This outside-inside-outside move looks borderline unstoppable. It will be entertaining to see if he can utilize these moves against NFL competition.
There’s no telling whether Robinson or Perkins will make the Seattle roster. Hopefully, they can showcase the full extent of their abilities at training camp. It will be loads of fun watching these two pass-rushers compete against each other over the next month.
Thomas Rawls and Jimmy Graham vs. Time
Unfortunately, Rawls and Graham won’t be participating at the outset of training camp. The Seahawks coaching staff has decided to place them on the Physically Unable to Perform list to begin the preseason.
This seems to be just a precautionary measure. Rawls has stated that he feels ready to go and Pete Carroll had previously said that Graham was ahead of Rawls in terms of a recovery timetable. Fortunately, Pete understands that you don’t just throw two star players back into the mix immediately after recovering from season-ending injuries. The risk of re-injury is too high.
The biggest storyline throughout training camp has to be the battle between these titans and time. We all want to see Rawls and Jimmy G back out on the VMAC turf again. We’re just going to have to wait a bit longer.
Hopefully not too long.