*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!