For a second consecutive season, the Seattle Seahawks will open training camp with a number of questions surrounding the team, whether it’s about what role is to come for a handful of newcomers, or the contract status of a defensive superstar. In 2018, the Seahawks navigated a difficult season and a roster in the midst of a refresh to earn a playoff spot. The 2019 team is similarly positioned to repeat last season’s success. What questions are to be answered in the coming weeks?
Will Ugo Amadi have a chance to compete at the nickel?
Amadi’s selection in this year’s draft could’ve been viewed a few different ways: Depth at safety, a departure from previous physical requirements at outside corner, or, as a potential replacement for Justin Coleman. It’s the last option where Amadi makes the most sense, and if given the opportunity to compete with Jamar Taylor and Akeem King for the job, he could very well earn it.
Not only does Amadi possess the size and quickness to thrive inside, he has experience at the position—having played 628 snaps there during his final season at Oregon. Though Amadi was announced as a safety when selected, he immediately went about staking his claim at nickelback in the spring, to the surprise of Pete Carroll.
In each of the past two seasons, Seattle’s gotten nearly 1000 snaps out of a rookie cornerback, whether it was Shaquill Griffin or Tre Flowers. If given the chance, Amadi has all the tools to make it a third consecutive season, as he replaces Coleman’s vacated 901 snaps from a year ago.
How big of a jump will the sophomore defensive linemen make?
Following Frank Clark’s departure and Ezekiel Ansah’s unclear status for September, sophomores Rasheem Green and Jacob Martin were going to be leaned on. Then came news of Jarran Reed’s suspension. Now, the duo’s development will be even more crucial, with the Seahawks set to begin the season without their two most productive pass rushers from a year ago.
As rookies, Martin outplayed Green—though Green wasn’t helped by an injury which robbed him of six games. However, Martin’s frame—which he had trouble maintaining as a rookie—will likely limit him to a rotational role over the course of his career (which is perfectly fine in the modern NFL). Green, on the other hand, has all the tools that could see him become a starting 5-tech, with the ability to reduce inside and make room for situational rushers like Martin.
Of Seattle’s 40 sacks in 2018, 27.5 will have been vacated to open the season. Ansah has double-digit potential, but that hinges on health—which has already been called into question. The onus will fall on Martin and Green to produce more than a year ago.
Can Phil Haynes push to start at left guard immediately?
Though his placement on the PUP list was a setback, Haynes enters his first season in perhaps the best position to start among his fellow rookies on the Seahawks. He’s a polished run blocker, as ferocious as he is reliable when moving forward. He bridges the old and new philosophies along the offensive line, with the explosiveness of a Tom Cable lineman and the size of a Mike Solari lineman. He did nothing to give the coaching staff pause during the spring, either.
Mike Iupati was brought in to replace J.R. Sweezy in 2019. However, Iupati has also missed 21 games over the last two seasons and hasn’t played a full season since 2012. On a one-year deal at age-32, he’s not a part of the long-term plan. Haynes is. If he can get on the field early enough in camp and during the preseason, Haynes will be able to show how pro ready he is, and have every chance to win the left guard job.
Will the Seahawks’ coaching staff run out of patience with C.J. Prosise?
When healthy, Prosise has shown just how much of a mismatch he can be. When I close my eyes to go to sleep at night, his performance against the Patriots in 2016 plays over in my head. He’s a wonderful, ideal modern offensive weapon. Sadly, at this stage, he’s also largely hypothetical.
Hope surrounding Prosise was (again) renewed when Seattle parted ways with Darrell Bevell following the 2017 season, waving goodbye to an archaic playcaller who saw modern football barrel past him from the slow lane. That hope then faced severe body blows when Brian Schottenheimer was hired to replace him. But then, to the delight of fans of good football, Schottenheimer said all the right things during last year’s training camp:
Schotty's full answer on what Prosise can be: pic.twitter.com/yN5JPI1iev— Alistair Corp (@byAlistairCorp) August 23, 2018
The new coaching staff (and Carroll) remained enamored with what Prosise could be last summer, and he remained on the roster throughout 2018, even as injuries again popped up. But, even when healthy, he was almost entirely ignored. He’s again dealing with an injury entering camp, and with J.D. McKissic and Travis Homer also in place, it’s very possible time has run out on Prosise with the Seahawks. Hypothetically, Prosise is the team’s most valuable running back. In reality, he may be the odd man out.
Who will step up at wide receiver? (And how will that affect the group as a whole?)
It’s very likely one of David Moore, D.K. Metcalf or Jaron Brown emerge from training camp and preseason as a clear starter on the outside. In an ideal scenario, and with apologies to Brown, both Moore and Metcalf emerge, and give Seattle a dynamic trio along with Tyler Lockett. Given Metcalf’s raw skill set, and Moore’s disappearance down the stretch in 2018, even one of the two stepping up would be incredibly welcome.
Further down the depth chart, improvements or breakouts from other players could have a ripple effect across the position. Should Keenan Reynolds or rookies John Ursua and Gary Jennings impress and solidify a place on the roster, it could afford the Seahawks the ability to split Lockett’s snaps between the outside and inside, as they did in 2018. That would then lessen the importance of Moore, Metcalf, or Brown.
For as much promise and potential as there is across the position, Seattle will head into 2019 with just Lockett as a known quantity. Whether it comes from one of the athletic marvels on the outside, or a slot receiver, the Seahawks will need contributions from more than just Lockett.
Will the coaching staff continue to follow through on their pledge to get Shaquem Griffin more involved?
As a rookie, Griffin was restricted almost entirely to special teams, after his first (and only) start in Week 1 went awry. At the end of the season, Griffin was told to expect an expanded role as a sophomore, and the early returns are promising. Minicamp saw Griffin flip from the weakside to the strongside, and with the switch has come more pass rushing opportunities.
In college, Griffin was a highly productive pass rusher, recording the second-highest pass rush productivity score among draft eligible EDGEs in his class. The opportunity to rush will again be there in camp, with the defensive line depleted in both depth and talent. The move back to a more natural position will only benefit Griffin; a player of his athleticism and youth will be best playing free, reactionary defense. The comfort has returned for Griffin, and as long as the opportunity is there, the production has the chance to be as well.
With Seattle in the midst of a transitional period, there are plenty of questions that can be asked beyond those listed. Will the schematically ill-fitting Ethan Pocic survive another season under Solari? How quickly will Marquise Blair see first team reps when he comes off the PUP list? Most importantly, when will the Seahawks and Bobby Wagner reach an agreement that will see him get back on the field? With training camp just days away, we should start to get these questions answered soon.