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Seahawks 2023 Training Camp: 5 position battles to watch on offense

There are two rookies vying for starting jobs on the interior of the Seahawks offensive line.

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New York Giants v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

We’re three weeks away from the start of Seattle Seahawks training camp, and as always there will be many eyes fixated on roster spots and starting jobs up for grabs on offense and defense. This article is going to focus on the offense, which unlike last year, has no quarterback competition to hype up. I suppose if you’re so minded, Holton Ahlers will try and push either to be backup over Drew Lock, or push to even be on the roster in the first place as an emergency 3rd QB and not a practice squad player.

Anyway, let’s get to the notable competitions on the offensive side of the ball.

Right Guard: Phil Haynes vs. Anthony Bradford

You could say that the Seahawks are in the middle of an interior redesign. Austin Blythe and Gabe Jackson won’t be back as starters because, well, Blythe retired and Jackson was cut and hasn’t been re-signed.

It’s logical to say that Haynes has the upper hand on Bradford by virtue of his handful of starts for Seattle, including three in 2022 and a lot of swapping in and out of the lineup for Jackson even when Gabe was the starter. He’s also on a one-year “prove-it” deal of sorts, whereas Bradford could be the long-term answer at the position. The former LSU man was taken in the fourth round of this year’s draft and is already garnering hype as a possible All-Rookie selection. Bradford was held out of a minicamp due to a minor fender bender according to Pete Carroll, but he should be a go for training camp.

Haynes has battled through injuries and wasn’t even on the active roster in the early portions of 2021, so he’s really worked hard to get significant playing time this deep into his four-year career. This will be Haynes’ first legitimate shot to be a starter, so this is a massive opportunity for him. If you put stock into PFF grades, his 2022 score is an unimpressive 57.1.

Depth: Evan Brown can also play right guard, and Jake Curhan has had snaps at the position too.

Center: Evan Brown vs. Olusegun Oluwatimi

Seattle has had one hell of a time trying to find a quality center since dealing Max Unger. This year will mark the third different center in as many seasons for the Seahawks, and much like at right guard, you have a veteran against a rookie.

Evan Brown was undrafted out of SMU and bounced around the league until he signed with the Detroit Lions practice squad in late 2020. After Frank Ragnow went down with injury in 2021, Brown filled in quite well as starting center for 12 games. Once again he was thrust into an unexpected starting role in 2022 for similar reasons, only this time he subbed for Halapoulivaati Vaitai at right guard.

Meanwhile, Michigan’s Olusegun Oluwatimi was chosen in the fifth round by the Seahawks, and he may have been a steal. OIuwatimi won The Dave Rimington Trophy for best center in college football last year, as he anchored the Wolverines to the CFP semifinals. Here’s what Coach Pete Carroll had to say about Oluwatimi in early camp:

“It’s too early to really say anything about the competition of it. But Olu looked really good. He did really well. There’s no question that he can handle it. He’s physically fit to do it and smarts-wise, no problems. It’s just going to be a battle and we’ll see what happens, and we’ll just take our time, there’s no rush on that one. He’s getting a ton of work as is Joey (Hunt). We’ve got a good rotation going with him. He’s played with the ones in and out to make sure that we see that. So we’ll just play it out. But I’m really encouraged by what he’s brought to us.”

It isn’t unthinkable to see the Seahawks having a pair of second-year players (tackles Charles Cross and Abe Lucas) and two rookies (Bradford and Oluwatimi) on the starting offensive line. Brown is a better center than guard (and PFF grades indicate as such), so this is going to be a fascinating competition.

Depth: Joey Hunt is another option and (as we saw in his emergency duties back in 2020) left guard Damien Lewis. Something has gone horribly wrong if either one of them ends up as a Day 1 starter at the position.

Third-Down Running Back: DeeJay Dallas vs. Kenny McIntosh

It’s safe to say that Kenneth Walker III and rookie Zach Charbonnet are the top two options at running back, and while our own John P. Gilbert predicts Zach will be starting over Walker, I think there may be some weeks where one is preferred over the other—consider them 1a and 1b.

With Travis Homer gone to the Chicago Bears, there should be some intrigue as to who will take his place as the third-down running back. DeeJay Dallas has served in a role similar to Homer as primarily a pass-catching, pass-protecting back but with the added element of serving as a special teams returner.

McIntosh didn’t become Georgia’s primary running back until his senior year, rushing for 829 yards on just 149 carries and catching 43 passes for 505 yards. If not for a disappointing 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, McIntosh might have been drafted higher than the seventh round.

Dallas is entering the final year of his rookie deal, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens if he loses out to McIntosh. Seattle is almost surely going to keep four running backs on the roster, but it’s far from certain whether Dallas will remain RB3 or if he’ll be supplanted by McIntosh.

Depth: Bryant Koback is the only other RB on the depth chart, so... yeah!

Wide Receiver No. 4: Dareke Young vs. Dee Eskridge

There was some late-season optimism for Dareke Young after being one of the training camp standouts. Young scarcely played for much of the season, but injuries to Dee Eskridge and eventually Marquise Goodwin moved Young up the ranks. He didn’t receive an official target until Week 18 against the Los Angeles Rams, but it was notable that he was getting some run as a fullback.

Young had just 3 catches on the season (playoff game included) but his versatility as a fullback and proven value as a special teams gunner is something worth monitoring in terms of his roster spot.

It’s been a frustrating start to Eskridge’s NFL career. Having already suffered injury in training camp, his regular season debut ended with a frightening concussion that took him out for much of his rookie campaign. Dee’s second year ended with a broken hand and just 7 catches for 58 yards in the nine full games he appeared on offense.

The history of Round 1-2 drafted receivers carving out a decent career in the NFL with scant production through two seasons is virtually non-existent. Eskridge enters this year’s training camp without any injuries (we assume) and this is essentially a must-have season for him. Geno Smith certainly talked up Dee at OTAs.

I believe Young has the inside track to be the WR4, but we’ll see if Eskridge can figure something out in camp and through preseason to realize the talent that made him such a top prospect in the first place.

Depth: Yeah, about that...

Wide Receiver No. 5: Dee Eskridge vs. All the UDFAs

Why yes, Eskridge is on here twice. It’s reasonable to assume the Seahawks will keep at least five wide receivers and no more than six. If Dee can’t beat out Young for the fourth spot, then he’s a step closer to the roster chopping block.

It seems almost every offseason, particularly because of the successes of Doug Baldwin and (to a lesser extent) Jermaine Kearse, there is at least one UDFA wide receiver who garners hype within the organization or the fanbase. Think of Kasen Williams, Jazz Ferguson, Cade Johnson, Cody Thompson, so on and so forth. Thompson and Johnson are still on this year’s 90-man roster, but they’re joined by rookie UDFAs like UCLA’s Jake Bobo and speedy Arkansas wideout Matt Landers.

Bobo has already been singled out by Pete Carroll as one of the standout minicamp performers, and our own Devin Csigi has made a case for him as WR4 or WR5 given his skillset.

Eskridge’s range of outcomes really is the widest out of any of the players on offense. It’s very possible he’s the fourth receiver and it’s just as possible that Young and one of Seattle’s UDFAs sends him off the roster.

For what it’s worth, I don’t think there’s a camp battle in play at tight end among the trio of Noah Fant, Will Dissly, and Colby Parkinson, but keep in mind that Fant’s on his fifth-year option and Parkinson’s rookie deal is almost up.

Check back next week for the 5 key battles on defense! What camp battle on offense intrigues you the most? Let us know in the comments below!