Archive | July, 2013

Seahawks Training Camp Preview: Cornerbacks

24 Jul

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*This is part eight of my 8-part Seahawks Training Camp preview series*

Current Cornerbacks on Roster (10): Richard Sherman, Brandon Browner, Antoine Winfield, Walter Thurmond, Jeremy Lane, Will Blackmon, Byron Maxwell, Ron Parker, DeShawn Shead, Tharold Simon

After years of incompetence at the cornerback position (that means you, Kelly Jennings), the Seahawks enter the 2013 season with arguably the best cornerback unit it the NFL and definitely the best cornerback unit in Seahawks history. This will be one of the most competitive training camps for each player, especially those still trying to prove themselves as deserving of a roster spot. Here are a few things to focus on at the cornerback position during training camp.

The first thing to keep a look out for is how newly-signed veteran Antoine Winfield fits into the starting defense. Prior to this season, Winfield had been the number one cornerback in Minnesota. It is widely assumed that Winfield was signed primarily to play nickel corner, given that Richard Sherman and Browner are the incumbent starters on the perimeter. Last season, Winfield nearly made the pro bowl. Add him in with all-pro Sherman, and 2011 pro bowler Browner, It will be hard for opposing teams to move the ball through the air. I am anxious to see if there is a package of plays where Winfield will line up on the outside with the first team defense instead of Sherman or Browner. With Winfield’s presence on the field the rest of the defense will adjust personnel with three cornerbacks on the field. Whether this means that we play two linebackers or we adjust the defensive line, the creativity of the defensive formations by defensive coordinator Dan Quinn will surely be on display during 11-on-11 drills during practice.

Due to the depth at the cornerback position, it will be vital for the younger, inexperienced players to step up and make plays. Walter Thurmond and Jeremy Lane both saw starting time last season and they both played well. Thurmond was coming off an injury and played decently, while Lane proved he could keep up with the speed of the receivers he was covering (if you need an example, go back and watch the first 49ers offensive play from scrimmage during week 16, where Colin Kaepernick went deep for Mario Manningham and Lane was able to stay with him even though the ball was overthrown). Both Thurmond and Lane have a good chance to make the team but they must stay healthy, especially Thurmond. He may be one injury away from the end of his Seahawks career. I am interested to see Tharold Simon during camp. The rookie from LSU showed promise during rookie minicamp and will add a wrinkle most likely on special teams. The wildcard cornerback in my opinion is Will Blackmon. Blackmon spent all of last season as a free agent. He was a part of the New York Giants super bowl championship team in 2011, playing mostly on special teams. If he has a good camp, he might be kept as more veteran depth to the position group.

Well folks, the season officially gets started tomorrow morning. The Seahawks open training camp with a practice scheduled for 10am. I will be watching from the birm. Check back tomorrow night for a brief practice report. Go Seahawks!

Seahawks Training Camp Preview: Linebackers

23 Jul

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*This is part seven of my 8-part Seahawks Training Camp preview series*

Current Linebackers on Roster (12): Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, Bruce Irvin, Malcolm Smith, Heath Farwell, Mike Morgan, Allen Bradford, Korey Toomer, Kyle Knox, Ty Powell, John Lotulelei, Craig Wilkins

Leroy Hill spent 8 seasons as a starting linebacker for the Seahawks dating back to their NFC Championship season in 2005. Hill was not re-signed for the 2013 season. Instead, the three projected starters this season, K.J. Wright, Bobby Wagner, and Malcolm Smith, have the same amount of experience COMBINED than Hill had alone. The Seahawks linebackers are the youngest group of any unit on the roster but that does not mean they are the least talented. Here are some things to watch in the linebacker group during training camp.

With the news that Bruce Irvin is moving to outside linebacker, it will be interesting to see how he fits in in the linebacker rotation. Irvin will most likely still be used in passing situations and he will be a big complement to Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett, and Chris Clemons when healthy. Having Irvin in the second level of the defense could really benefit the entire defense. Irvin looked a bit lost as a defensive end last season and I think it will be more of a natural fit to have him rush the passer from the outside linebacker spot.

“I’m ready.” That was the tweet Malcolm Smith sent to Bobby Wagner yesterday afternoon. Interpret it anyway you want but I think there is only one true meaning. Smith is ready to compete for the other starting outside linebacker spot. Smith will most likely compete with Mike Morgan and Korey Toomer for the job. This is the most interesting position battle to me because this is the only spot in my eyes that could still be considered up for grabs. During practice on Thursday, I will be focused on this position group more than any other position on the team.

Tomorrow I conclude my Seahawks Training Camp preview series with a look at the cornerbacks. Go Seahawks!

Seahawks Training Camp Preview: Safeties

22 Jul

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*This is part six of my 8-part Seahawks Training Camp series*

Current Safeties on Roster (6): Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Winston Guy, Jeron Johnson, Chris Maragos, Ray Polk

At the end of training camp, it is likely that there will be only one safety that will get cut. Last season, Ray Polk was the only safety not on the Seahawks roster. Let’s take a quick look back at the impact the other five players had. Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor were the starting safeties. Thomas made the pro bowl while Chancellor put up a season that was worthy of a 5-year, $35 million contract extension which he signed back in April. Winston Guy got playing time at the end of last season and showed off his incredible speed and ability to drop back into coverage during the playoffs. Jeron Johnson and Chris Maragos played exceptionally well in special teams, with Johnson returning a blocked punt for a touchdown against Dallas.

This Season the Seahawks return all five of their safeties from last season. Here is what I will be looking at during training camp.

Thomas and Chancellor are the starters and will see the most snaps in practice. The player I will have my eye on the closest is Winston Guy. Guy is the backup free safety to Earl Thomas and he is coming into his second season. Guy has the opportunity to prove how much he has learned from year one to year two during camp. I expect to see him get a lot of playing time during the preseason. If Thomas is lost to injury this season, Guy will step in to the starting lineup and will have to prove he is capable of filling his incredibly big shoes.

Ray Polk is the unknown man coming into training camp. Polk is an undrafted rookie from Idaho who had a strong rookie minicamp back in May, especially among the undrafted rookies. If Polk can survive the first couple weeks of camp, I think we will get a good long look at him at the end of training camp and how he performs in the preseason game against Oakland, where he will get to play most of the game.

Tomorrow I will take a look at the youngest position groups on the team, the linebackers.

Seahawks Training Camp Preview: Defensive Linemen

19 Jul

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*This is part five of my 8-part Seahawks Training Camp preview series*

Current Defensive Linemen on Roster (14): Cliff Avril, Red Bryant, Brandon Mebane, Michael Bennett, Chris Clemons, Tony McDaniel, Greg Scruggs, Jaye Howard, Clinton McDonald, Jesse Williams, Jordan Hill, Kenneth Boatright, Michael Brooks, Benson Mayowa

The Seahawks defensive line was one of the more consistent groups on the team last season. This season the Seahawks hope to improve on one of the best run stopping units and the acquisitions made during the offseason also display Seattle’s commitment to improving the pass rush. Here are some storylines to follow during training camp.

With Bruce Irvin officially moving to outside linebacker, it is easier to predict where new Seahawks Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett will line up on passing downs. Avril will most likely fill in for Red Bryant while Bennett will play along the inside. The starting defensive line will initially consist of Avril and Bryant on the outside with a rotation of Bennett, Brandon Mebane, and Tony McDaniel on the inside. When it comes to the starters, my focus while watching practice will be who will rotate in with each defensive unit.

One unknown factor heading into training camp is the health of defensive end Chris Clemons. Clemons, who tore his ACL during the Wild-Card playoff game against Washington, is ahead of schedule in his recovery and it was reported earlier in the offseason that he may be available to play week one against Carolina. If that is the case, the Seahawks will have to re-arrange the formations for passing downs to fit Clemons, Avril, and Bennett on the field. For the time being, Clemons is still recovering therefore I will not consider him to counted on for the preseason and the first regular season game. If he does get back for any time during training camp, it will definitely be a pleasant surprise to all Seahawks fans. Another injury to note, although he is still listed on the active roster, defensive end Greg Scruggs tore his ACL during the offseason and will most likely miss the 2013 season.

From a depth perspective, the Seahawks seem to be pretty stacked at defensive line. The Seahawks used two mid-round draft picks on Alabama defensive tackle Jesse Williams and Penn State defensive tackle Jordan Hill. I believe Williams could challenge for the second starting defensive tackle spot and Hill will be a quality backup used in the defensive tackle rotation. The Seahawks also return Clinton McDonald and Jaye Howard along the d-line although Howard did not see much time last season.

Among the Seahawks undrafted free agents is Kenneth Boatright. Boatright, from Southern Illinois, has the best chance of any undrafted player to make the final roster. If there is a spot for him, Boatright will be added in with Avril, Clemons, Irvin, and Bennett to a very talented pass rush formation. Of all of our defensive linemen, Boatright is the man who I am most excited to see during training camp and the preseason.

My training camp preview series will resume on Monday with a look at the safeties. Stay tuned and thanks for reading!

Seahawks Training Camp Preview: Receivers

18 Jul

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*This is part four of my 8-part Seahawks Training Camp preview series*

Current Receivers on Roster (19): Percy Harvin, Sidney Rice, Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, Phil Bates, Chris Harper, Stephen Williams, Brett Swain, Bryan Walters, Greg Herd, Justin Veltung, Arceto Clark, Zach Miller (TE), Sean McGrath (TE), Luke Willson (TE), Cooper Helfet (TE), Darren Fells (TE), Victor Marshall (TE)

Many people believe that the wide receiver group is the most improved group on the Seahawks roster. With the addition of Percy Harvin, the Seahawks have the potential to be one of the most dangerous offenses in the National Football League. With all of the talent at the receiver and tight end positions it is hard to figure out who will fit in the Seahawks plans in 2013. All thirteen wide receivers will show over the next month why they deserve one of the five or six wide receiver roster spots. Here is what I will be looking for and what I expect to see out of the wide receivers.

I am very excited to see the different receiver formations during training camp and the preseason. As of right now, Percy Harvin and Sidney Rice are our starting split end and flanker, respectively. Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin are officially the backups with the rest of the wide receivers following. Among our returning wide receivers is Jermaine Kearse, who was active for the Seahawks final 8 regular season games and both of their postseason games last season. Also returning is Phil Bates. Bates spent last season on the practice squad after an impressive training camp last season. New veteran additions include Brett Swain who was signed on April 8th after being released by San Francisco, and Stephen Williams who was signed to a future contract days after our playoff loss to Atlanta. Williams previously spent three seasons with the Arizona Cardinals. Our rookies at the position include 4th round draft pick Chris Harper from Kansas State and undrafted free agents Greg Herd from Eastern Washington and Justin Veltung from Idaho.

Consistency is the key during training camp at the wide receiver position. If you can make your catches and not make mistakes running routes or catching the ball, the chances of you sticking around longer into camp increase greatly. Phil Bates is the best example of this last season. Having said this, the Seahawks will most likely only keep five or six wide receivers for the 53-man roster. I see Harvin, Rice, Tate, and Baldwin as locks to make the final roster. This means that 9 players will compete for one or two roster spots. As each practice goes by, I will report who is developing as deserving of one of these spots.

The Seahawks are not as strong at tight end from a depth perspective as the wide receivers. With the loss of Anthony McCoy to a season ending injury during OTA’s, the Seahawks only have one tight end, Zach Miller, who caught a pass during the regular season and postseason last year. The Seahawks did use a draft pick on Rice tight end Luke Willson to add depth and they also return backups Cooper Helfet and Sean McGrath, who spent time with the Seahawks during the preseason last year. The Seahawks also signed former pro basketball player Darren Fells, however the jury is still out on his football ability since he has not played football since high school. I am excited to see how Willson fits in to the offense both as a receiver and as a blocker. It would be really cool to see Miller and Willson a two tight end formation similar to what the New England Patriots have done in the past. I could see only two tight ends making the final roster. If that is the case, put my money on Miller and Willson making the team.

For the next four days, I will shift my focus on the Seahawks defense. Up next, a preview of the Seahawks defensive line. Thanks for reading! Go Seahawks!

Seahawks Training Camp Preview: Running Backs

17 Jul

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*This is part three of my 8-part Seahawks Training Camp preview series*

Current Running Backs on Roster (6): Marshawn Lynch, Robert Turbin, Christine Michael, Derrick Coleman, Michael Robinson (FB), Spencer Ware (FB)

The Seahawks feature one of the most dynamic running backs in the National Football League in Marshawn Lynch and the youth and power with Robert Turbin and rookie Christine Michael give the Seahawks a very deep and talented backfield in 2013.

The number one thing I will be looking for during training camp is how Christine Michael fits in the Seahawks offense. It is widely assumed that Marshawn Lynch will be our starter with Robert Turbin being used in short yardage situations and on passing downs. If this is the case, how will Michael be used? Michael is currently the number three running back on the depth chart and will most likely start camp behind Tarvaris Jackson with the third string offense. Do not be surprised to see Michael used primarily on special teams, at least at the beginning of training camp and the preseason. With the departure of Leon Washington, the Seahawks will need to fill holes at both punt returner and kick returner. I believe we will see Michael be a frontrunner to replace Washington at one or both of these spots. Derrick Coleman is currently our fourth running back and I think we will see a lot of him during the preseason, assuming he stays on the roster through training camp.

At fullback the Seahawks have developed an interesting situation. Michael Robinson has been the Seahawks starting fullback for the past three seasons. He made the pro bowl in 2011 and was a pro bowl alternate in 2012. In addition to these on-the-field accomplishments, he is one of the more respected players in the locker room, proved by his captain status the past two seasons. Coach Carroll always preaches competition at every position so the Seahawks drafted fullback Spencer Ware from LSU in the 7th round of this year’s draft. Ware will compete with Robinson for the only likely fullback roster spot. I also expect Ware to be used a lot of special teams in the preseason and he will also get a good amount of playing time at fullback. I would be completely shocked if Ware beats out Robinson for the starting fullback job. Ware performed well during minicamp and OTA’s and shows a lot of potential. I believe Ware could be an option for the practice squad if he fails to make the 53-man roster.

On Thursday I will preview the wide receivers and the tight ends. Stay tuned!

Seahawks Training Camp Preview: Offensive Linemen

16 Jul

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*This is part two of my 8-part Seahawks Training Camp preview series*

Current Offensive Linemen on Roster (15): Russell Okung, Paul McQuistan, Max Unger, John Moffitt, Breno Giacomini, James Carpenter, J.R. Sweezy, Lemuel Jeanpierre, Mike Person, Rishaw Johnson, Alvin Bailey, Ryan Seymour, Jared Smith, Michael Bowie, Jake Bscherer

There are many parts of the offensive line that are worth noting as the Seahawks get ready to start training camp. The starting unit returns two pro bowlers in Russell Okung and Max Unger. The Seahawks also drafted three offensive linemen this year in Ryan Seymour, Jared Smith, and Michael Bowie. Here are a couple things I will be looking for from the offensive line during training camp.

The most important thing to keep an eye on is who will line up with the starting offense. Last year the Seahawks flip-flopped often at right guard between John Moffitt and J.R. Sweezy. This year it is crucial for the Seahawks to solidify their starters before breaking camp at the end of August. The health of James Carpenter also adds a wrinkle into the plans of the starting offensive line. Offensive line coach Tom Cable was interviewed on 950 KJR during OTA’s and he stated that the current starting line consisted of Okung, Carpenter, Unger, Sweezy, and Giacomini from left to right. If Carpenter is going to start at left guard, it makes me less worried about the depth we have. I believe Paul McQuistan is one of the more underrated lineman on the Seahawks roster. If he is going to be benched in favor of Carpenter, we now have McQuistan and Moffitt, two proven starters, as backups in the event our starters get hurt. After that however, we are significantly thinner from a talent perspective. Lemuel Jeanpierre is the only other offensive lineman with starting experience in Seattle and time will tell how the three drafted rookies as well as Mike Person, Alvin Bailey, Rishaw Johnson, and Jake Bscherer will fit during training camp.

I expect to see the rookies get more playing time during the preseason than any other rookies on the roster. It is unclear at this point where these players stack up on the depth chart. There will be a handful of offensive lineman who will not make it past final roster cuts so the reps that they see in practice will be vital in shaping their status on the team.

One last thing I will have my eye on is the health of this position group. Last year for the most part, our entire offensive line stayed healthy. This was one of the primary reasons to our overall continuity and how we were able to go 11-5 and make the playoffs. Injuries along the offensive line will destroy your chances to win. It will be crucial for every lineman to make out of each practice and each preseason game healthy or else the Seahawks will struggle once the regular season rolls around.

Check back tomorrow as I will preview the Seahawks running backs!