The Seattle Seahawks began training camp on July 27 with several question marks, but none bigger than who will be the team’s starting quarterback.
The Seahawks, who went 7-9 last year for the second straight season, also need to find a complementary pass rusher to Chris Clemons and sort out who will be their starters at middle linebacker, wide receiver, tight end and defensive tackle next to Brandon Mebane.
However, nothing has drawn more attention than the three-man competition at quarterback.
Matt Flynn was brought over from Green Bay with the expectation that he would be the starter. Coach Pete Carroll, whether out of fairness to incumbent Tarvaris Jackson or something else, said it would be an open competition between Flynn, Jackson and rookie Russell Wilson.
Flynn is still expected to win the job, but the Seahawks have four quarterbacks in camp. Josh Portis, last year’s No. 3, is the fourth. If and when Flynn wins the job, expect the Seahawks to shop Jackson around to other teams. Jackson has 34 starts over six seasons, but if he can’t drastically improve his accuracy and decision making over the next few weeks, he will be out.
Who will be Seattle's starting quarterback?
The question with Flynn is whether a guy with just two NFL starts, albeit two very good starts, can be a full-time starter. The only knock on Wilson is his height (5’11”) so it’ll be interesting to see how he does in the preseason games.
Once the Seahawks settle on their signal caller, they’ll have to figure out which group of players will be catching the ball.
If Sidney Rice, who is coming off two shoulder surgeries, is healthy, the Seahawks have a true No. 1 receiver. Deon Butler is coming off a broken leg and would give Seattle another weapon.
The Seahawks had three receivers step up last year with fairly productive seasons. Ben Obomanu had a career-best 37 receptions and Golden Tate caught 35 passes. The most notable playmaker was Doug Baldwin, who led the Seahawks with 51 catches for 788 yards and four scores as an undrafted rookie.
Kris Durham and Ricardo Lockette are two second-year players who could also factor into the plans. Lockette has big-play ability and has been one of the camp stars so far.
The Seahawks also added former first-round pick Braylon Edwards this week. The Seahawks want to learn if the much-disgruntled Edwards has anything left to contribute or any lingering health issues.
At tight end, Seattle signed another former Cleveland Browns draft pick in Kellen Winslow II. Winslow had five tumultuous years in Cleveland after the Browns made him the sixth overall pick in the 2004 draft. He’s spent the last three seasons in Tampa Bay, where he led the team in receptions in each season.
Winslow and the Bucs never clicked off the field, and he was traded to Seattle in May.
Winslow joins a solid group of tight ends but is easily the best receiving option among the four. Zach Miller was a Pro Bowler for Oakland in 2010, but his strength lies as a blocker. Anthony McCoy is another solid blocker with marginal receiving skills.
Cameron Morrah has just 16 receptions in three seasons.
The Seahawks could be breaking in a new quarterback and have a rookie running back, Robert Turbin, carrying the rock to start the season if starter Marshawn Lynch is suspended. What does help is that, for the first time in four years, the Seahawks will run the same offense in consecutive seasons.
Defensively the Seahawks added speed in the draft with first-round pick Bruce Irvin and second-rounder Bobby Wagner.
Irvin, from West Virginia, could be that complementary pass rusher to Clemons. The veteran has taken the rookie under his wing and that could pay dividends for a team that recorded just 33 sacks a season ago. Irvin is not strong in rush defense, but he is the best option as a pass rusher and would make the most sense to start.
Red Bryant could be used in run situations, and rookie Jaye Howard has good all-around skills but not the athleticism of Irvin. Cordarro Law is another rookie with pass-rushing skills but was undrafted and is transitioning from outside linebacker at Southern Mississippi to defensive end.
Jason Jones, a free-agent acquisition from the Tennessee Titans, will likely be the starter next to Mebane at defensive tackle. Alan Branch is another option there. The Seahawks heavily courted Jones, who also drew interest from the Rams and former Titans coach Jeff Fisher.
The Seahawks made some free-agent noise with the signings of Jones and Flynn and raised some eyebrows by selecting Irvin in the first round and taking a chance on a reclamation project like Edwards. Carroll and the Seattle brass hope the rest of the NFL will learn the Seahawks were right about their gambles.