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What they’re saying at Seahawks OTAS ... in 2018

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NFL: Seattle Seahawks-Minicamp Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

It’s June 17 and we’re in one of those awkward spots of the NFL offseason, in the case, between OTAs and training camp, which starts in about six weeks. With those dull moments — which if we’re being honest, does include OTAs, minicamps, practices of all kinds — the media turns to anything that could be spun into a leading story based on events or comments and anything that is an update to a previous leading story.

But the outcome of those stories — the reporting of, the updates on, the speculation on what it will mean as it pertains to actual regular season games — more often than not is nothing more than the hits those stories generated for the media. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

If people didn’t have offseason stories, they wouldn’t have much at all to bridge the gap between their favorite team’s final game of last season and their first of next. That’s the way it used to be and now thanks to the 24-hour news cycle, which only exists because “the people” demanded it exist, there aren’t many days of the year without something to say. But 90% of those stories are mostly there so somebody did have something to say that day.

Teachers and reporters can probably commiserate on salary for the most part, but at least teachers get a summer break.

As of the 2019 offseason, there have been plenty of stories to keep your mind focused on the Seahawks and not on your bills, or your weight, or your kids. Oh, those damn kids, always wanting our focus. I don’t need to recount them to you now as you’re living through them now. However, I do want to say that whether you’re recounting them or not, keep those stories in the context of: having to have something to say about the Seattle Seahawks in June based on practices in which players are often missing, injured, hobbled, new to each other, or completely new to the professional ranks.

What these stories rarely result in: a preview of what’s to come.

Having said that, I went back to May and June of 2018 to recount what we were saying a year ago and what it made us believe the following season could look like. Before you say I’m cherrypicking, let me say something: I’m cherrypicking! I’m looking at stories that, if we had held them enough as bible to actually get into an #ONLINEARGUMENT with someone last summer, we’d be feeling pretty foolish* right about now.

*deleting tweets and pretending it never happened

These are the wrongs or almost wrongs or didn’t really mattereds of last year’s summer. It is not an indictment on the reporters, the papers, the websites, or the coaches. I’m not sure it’s really an indictment of anything or anyone. It is simply an observation and hopefully some context before you hold a 2019 summer truth as definitely having meaning for the future.

In many instances that’s just not the case and since we can’t separate the important news from the “other” news, it means that everything you read and observe and hear is pretty much unusable beyond one use — getting you to September 8.

A few things that John Clayton said on May 25 of last year:

The competition at running back looks even better. Chris Carson looks quicker than last season. C.J. Prosise’s work on his body does show improvement. I’m just wondering if the Seahawks would keep five running backs this year knowing they can have J.D. McKissic or Prosise help out at wide receiver.

I think it’s fair to assume that the competition at running back did look even better a year ago. Carson had a fantastic season. Of course, Carroll emphasized from the first hour of the 2018 offseason that the team would re-focus — from firing coaches to signing D.J. Fluker and Ed Dickson — on the ability to run the football well. But as for the rest of this, Prosise was ineffective even though he didn’t really show up on the injury report until midseason; then of course he did get hurt again and finish the year on IR. McKissic ended up starting the season on IR. Neither helped at receiver at all, combining for four targets on the year.

Jaron Brown, signed from the Arizona Cardinals, looks as though he could be a decent deep threat. He lined up at split end and showed good speed downfield. That will be an interesting battle against Amara Darboh for the No. 3 receiver job.

Jaron Brown looked good a year ago and was said to be in the battle for “number three” with Amara Darboh. You know two receivers drawing plenty of praise right now? Brown and Darboh. But a year ago, Brown finished sixth on the team in receiving yards (behind Mike Davis) and Darboh was released before returning on the IR. The fact that Brown and Darboh are a couple of Pete Carroll’s favorite players to isolate to the media again this year is not a good thing or a bad thing. It’s just a thing.

Coming up a bit later, Carroll had two other receivers he liked a lot last summer in addition to Brown and Darboh.

I get the feeling Jordan Roos should make the team as a backup guard.

It’s extremely hard to call out the final 53-man roster in May for players like Roos. For what it’s worth, Roos didn’t make the 53. It’s a lesson only that regardless of how someone looks right now — or even how they look in August — if they have to fight for a spot, then there’s no spot guaranteed.

Barkevious Mingo looked quick rushing from the strong side linebacker position. He is expected to start at linebacker and help out on the pass rush at defensive end.

Spoiler: He didn’t. Mingo had one sack in 16 games.

No surprise, but you have to be impressed with seventh-round pick Alex McGough. He was one of the stars of the rookie camp. He looked good with the veterans. He threw completions into tight windows and showed creative pitchouts when he gets pressured.

As you no doubt have lamented about, McGough did not make the team.

Marcus Johnson is indeed a fast option at wide receiver. He worked a little out of the slot and can run well.

We spent a lot of time last summer talking about Johnson and the battles at wide receiver. Johnson was one of the first players last summer to look great and so people started to assume he’d make the final 53, especially given his special teams abilities. He didn’t.

Some things that Bob Condotta observed on June 7 of last year:

That appears to still be the hope, with Carroll saying Jordan should be ready for training camp even if he has not taken part in OTAs.

There was a lot of hope and speculation on the knee and future of Dion Jordan, a pass rusher who looked great in his limited time with the Seahawks in 2017. But Jordan missed a ton of the offseason, looked rusty, missed four games (strangely, none of them were back-to-back so they were spread across the season) and is now gone after registering 1.5 sacks. It’s a story that makes you think about Ezekiel Ansah now.

Ansah is a former top pick pass rusher who has dealt with injuries so much so in the last three years that the Detroit Lions were fine to let him go a year after giving him the franchise tag, then Ansah waited on the free agent market until the comp pick deadline had passed. He’s going to miss most, if not all of the offseason. Jordan serves as a recent reminder of how these situations can go.

“Physically it was no problem,’’ Carroll said. ‘”He had played back and forth in earlier years. His mentality was fine and he was wide open to it, so that’s most of it.’’ Carroll said Griffin “never balked at all’’ at making the switch and that there are no signs “it’s going to be a problem.’’

A lot was made of Shaquill Griffin switching from the right side to the left. Almost everything said last year regarding the switch was that it would be completely fine. But Griffin didn’t draw nearly as much praise once the season went on and the secondary was nothing like it used to be with Richard Sherman; not that we should have expected it to be. Especially after Earl Thomas went down.

Here again Carroll points to Ethan Pocic, Shaquill Griffin, and Chris Carson as standouts.

And here Carroll mentions Griffin switching to the left side and that they have high expectations for Byron Maxwell on the right.

Of course, Maxwell never played for the Seahawks in 2018 either.

But Prosise has been healthy this offseason, on the field for everything during the OTAs open to the media and Carroll also volunteered his name Thursday saying “C.J. has really jumped out, too. He’s looked good now. He knows he’s battling (for a roster spot).’’

He battled for a roster spot, he won a roster spot, he barely played, he finished on injured reserve. Prosise tweaked his hamstring during OTAs this year so at least we got what we expected.

There was also a lot of talk about the offensive line after replacing Tom Cable with Mike Solari and emphasizing a return to man-to-man run blocking.

(Duane) Brown has “just looked great,’’ Carroll said, while he said of Pocic that “he came back 20 pounds heavier after a really great offseason of work that we really wanted him to do and he’s just carried it off and did a beautiful job.’’

This June 8 article by Gregg Bell focuses on the changes along the offensive line, including the hiring of Solari, and how it relates to an improved running game.

John Boyle also wrote about Solari for Seahawks.com last June.

“Mike’s already putting his stamp on these guys and he comes about it in a really classic fashion style of teaching and coaching and expectations and standards,” Carroll said last week “I see our guys—the format conceptually is a little bit different. He has an opportunity to put a stamp on us and he’s already doing that.”

Solari downplayed the idea that he will come in and make drastic changes to the Seahawks’ blocking schemes, but said his biggest focus right now is on fundamentals and technique.

“It’s fundamentals and technique,” Solari said. “So we work hard in our individual drills to develop our technique and develop our fundamentals. We want to control the line of scrimmage, and we believe you control the line of scrimmage with fundamentals and techniques. The guys are working hard and it’s kind of coming together. I don’t want to over-exaggerate, because we’re not in pads, and that’s when you really ascend as an offensive line.”

Duane Brown also talked about how Solari could help some of the younger linemen, like Germain Ifedi and Ethan Pocic:

“I think just in the short time I’ve been here, he’s matured a lot and I expect a big season from him,” Brown said of Ifedi. “He’s a guy that is going to benefit a great deal from Mike. Just polishing up his technique more. He has all the tools – big, athletic guy, great length – so just trusting things and having good technique, I think he’s going to be great. I really do feel that. First thing is just getting healthy and all that but we talk all the time and I think he’s going to be good this year.”

While the improvement of Ifedi is debatable, it wasn’t enough for the team to secure its 25-year-old tackle to the fifth-year option, and yes that’s kind of a big deal. On one hand, it’s not as though it’s shocking — late first round picks don’t often get the fifth-year option — but on the other, tackles capable of starting are hard to find and Brown is turning 34 in August. Or it could just be that the team is still not interested in spending a lot of money on its offensive line and they just extended Brown for three more years.

But if Ifedi had really broken out in 2018, the team would have at least locked him down for a fifth year. Meanwhile, the lack of improvement from Pocic is not really debatable. He was demoted as the starting guard, then demoted as the backup guard. Carroll said he did a “beautiful job” last June but he was nearly out of a job by November.

Also last year, Earl Thomas was absent from OTAs and saying he wouldn’t play again without a new contract. He did. Holdout news is the most useless news of all.

Brown was not too concerned about his contract situation, while Frank Clark and Thomas held out a bit over their own deals. Brown was extended, the other two were not, but I don’t think the situations are related to them showing up in the offseason. I mean, I can’t rule it out entirely, but Seattle extended Kam Chancellor, Marshawn Lynch, and Michael Bennett in the months or years after they held out. If anything, Thomas was hurt not by what those players did before their extensions, but by what happened to their careers after they signed those deals.

With or without Thomas, many mentioned 2018 as a “rebuilding year” for the Seahawks (a concept I have shot down as not really possible in the NFL anyhow), but it was seen as far more plausible without Thomas. The team went 1-2 in the three full games that Thomas played in (though he was still the best free safety in the NFL at the time) and 9-4 in the other 11. They were mostly fine.

On a punting note, do you remember that Carroll was still calling it a “battle” between Jon Ryan and Michael Dickson? That was never gonna happen. Carroll said Ryan “has had a good offseason so far, so this will take quite a while before we will be able to make any kind of evaluation. But Jon is doing everything he can to be the punter here.’’

Dickson was the punter, of course, but an interesting thing did happen: Dickson held kicks for Jason Myers and Ryan for Sebastian Janikowski. There was concern that Dickson was not a very good holder and they wanted to give Janikowski a better opportunity, I guess. Janikowski won the job, Myers did not. Dickson won the job, Ryan did not. So Dickson held kicks for Myers, who got cut and then went to the Jets, making his first Pro Bowl at age 27. He’s now back with Seattle. Dickson kept the job as holder and Janikowski was fine, but not great.

Another thing that happened last year that I kind of forgot about was that we weren’t actually sure if Kam Chancellor was retired or not. They said a year ago that “Chancellor will have some scans on his neck at some point this month to determine where he is in his recovery and if he has a chance to play again. But Carroll said those have not happened yet.”

Kam did not return, unfortunately.

And here’s one more, a June 12 mini-camp report with notes of interest from Condotta:

Keenan Reynolds stood out while Doug Baldwin took a rest after participating in all of OTAs. On the Reynolds side, many liked him because he resembled Baldwin in the slot. And because he used to throw the football in college. He made the practice squad and was even promoted at one point, but didn’t receive a target. David Moore also drew praise alongside Reynolds. Moore had a more productive season but eventually was relegated to being an afterthought again by December.

On the Baldwin side of things, it’s interesting how active he was a year ago. Everything seemed completely fine. To think he’d be nearing retirement by now is wild and a little scary. Baldwin showed no signs of age during OTAs of 2018 but by the start of the season, it was very clear that he wasn’t able to do all the things he used to be able to do.

One more thing last year was the focus on changes and many wrote about Bobby Wagner and the “evolution of the defense” after losing so many notable players on that side of the ball in the previous year. The defense was not as good as it used to be but:

A) It would be an amazing accomplishment if it was historically great twice in a decade.

B) With Thomas in those first few games, the defense looked pretty great actually.

There’s nothing wrong with this news. It’s just a matter of contextualizing anything you hear between games. And there’s just a lot of damn time to fill between the last game and the first game.