Burning Questions for Seattle Seahawks Training Camp
The Seattle Seahawks went 11-5 last year and secured their first winning season since 2007. They have an offense that should only get better as Russell Wilson grows, and their defense is among the most feared in the league.
If teams did not take the Seahawks seriously before, they do now. As a result, the Seahawks in 2013 are going to have a target on their back.
Seattle is a team that could very well make it to the Super Bowl this year, and the next step in that march is finalizing the roster in training camp.
They have several new faces on both sides of the ball and more than one player making a position change on defense. Can those players make a successful transition to their new roles?
That is among a handful of burning questions the Seahawks will have when they open training camp on July 25.
Can Bruce Irvin Move to Linebacker?
The Seattle Seahawks have a new defensive coordinator this year after former coordinator Gus Bradley left to become the head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Dan Quinn was the defensive line coach in 2009 and 2010, so maintaining continuity is not something the Seahawks need to worry much about during the transition.
The position change for Bruce Irvin may be a different story. He managed eight sacks last year at defensive end, but was used mostly as an edge-rusher. The defense in 2013 will be more of a hybrid rather than a base 4-3, and that means that Irvin will be making the move to linebacker.
When the Seahawks use 3-4 schemes, Irvin should fit perfectly due to his athleticism. However, no position change comes easily, so his transition during camp will be of great interest to Seahawk fans.
How Much Will the Defensive Scheme Change?
Under Gus Bradley, the Seahawks ran a 4-3 base defense that incorporated 3-4 elements—a system that iven how great the Seahawks' defense was last year, that appears to have been a success.
While the main philosophy will remain the same under new coordinator Dan Quinn, there are parts that can change. Will the 3-4 be used more often? With Bruce Irvin's move to linebacker, that seems to be the case.
Then factor in the signing of players like Michael Bennett and it's clear from its personnel that the defense will be more of a hybrid than ever before. Whether the Seahawks end up playing more 4-3 or more 3-4...well, fans will not know until training camp starts.
The Seahawks may not know themselves until deep into the preseason.
Who Will Be the Backup Quarterback?
Quinn saw starter time last year in Kansas City while Jackson did not play at all in 2012 as a member of the Buffalo Bills. But Jackson has experience in Seattle's system and should be the frontrunner when training camp begins.
That being said, ideally who wins this spot should not matter, since Russell Wilson should play 16 games (15 if they are locked into a spot), then play in the playoffs.
Can the Wide Receivers Stay Healthy?
With the addition of Percy Harvin, the Seahawks have a nice group of receivers, and with both Sidney Rice and Golden Tate starting a combined 31 of 32 regular-season games last year, health should not be an issue.
Unfortunately, the jury is still out on that one. 2012 was the first year Rice started all 16 games, and he has only played 10 twice in six seasons. Harvin missed half the season in 2012, and since he will likely be returning kicks for Seattle, that ups the chances of injury.
Tate has proven himself to be durable, but if Harvin and Rice can't stay healthy, then that will be a major issue, whether or not those two receivers rekindle the chemistry they had when playing for the Minnesota Vikings.
Will Russell Wilson Have a Sophomore Slump?
In 2012, Russell Wilson was the big surprise of the NFL. The third-round draft pick not only took the starting job away from Matt Flynn but thrived in his rookie season.
This year teams will have a better idea of what to expect from Wilson, and no one is going to sleep on him. But, the Seattle defense is great enough that even if he struggles the Seahawks will remain in contention.
Having said that, it doesn't mean the team can necessarily afford to have him struggle. His preseason performances and how well he does in training camp will not necessarily reveal much; it won't be until the regular season starts—and how well he reacts to defensive formations specifically geared to contain him—that fans will learn whether Wilson has avoided the dreaded sophomore jinx.
Will the Linebacking Group Be USC-Heavy?
When one looks at the batch of linebackers on the Seahawks' 90-man roster, one thing is rather noticeable. There are more than just a couple players who played at USC for Pete Carroll.
Michael Morgan and Malcolm Smith will make the team and will likely see a good amount of time in preseason games. Both were barely looked at after during the 2011 offseason, and they provide nice depth for the Seahawks.
There is also Allen Bradford, a running back for USC who is making the transition to linebacker. Normally such a major change could be shrugged off, but Carroll knows Bradford well.
With that history, Bradford could successfully make that transition in training camp, though he will have a lot of linebackers to beat out.
Will Seattle Pick Up Another Tight End?
For as deep as the Seahawks are in quite a few areas, tight end is a position that is worrisome. Zach Miller hasn't yet had the production he had while with the Oakland Raiders, and backup Anthony McCoy is out for the season.
There are six tight ends on the active roster, but they have no playing time between them. Sean McGrath was on the 53-man roster late in 2012, and Luke Willson was a 2013 draft pick. Those two seem to have the edge.
That does not sound like much, and Seattle could try to bring in a TE with more experience. If Zach Miller can regain his form, then this won't be an issue. But if can't, then Willson or McGrath...or perhaps someone not yet on the roster will have to step up fast.
Will Marshawn Lynch's Workload Shrink?
Marshawn Lynch has been one of the best running backs in the NFL the past two seasons, but he also has 600 rushing attempts those two years.
With his physical style of running, Lynch might face problems maintaining this workload.
Lynch has been durable, but it now seems like the time to reduce his carries a bit. Robert Turbin showed promise last year as a third-down running back, and rookie Christine Michael has a style that's just as physical as Lynch's.
How the team splits up carries in training camp and exhibition games could be a preview of how they'll approach the regular season in terms of keeping Lynch fresher. If Lynch's carries shrink to 250 in 2013, it should not be too big a hit on his stats; he'll still get over 1,000 yards.
Who Will Be the Nickel Cornerback?
The Seahawks already have one of the best cornerback tandems in the game in Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman.
That much is settled, but the primary backup spot at cornerback could go one of two ways.
Antoine Winfield was picked up in free agency, and while he can still play well, he is 36 and may not have much left in the tank. Jeremy Lane, meanwhile, was another Day-3 gem who looked quite good as a rookie and may only get better.
Winfield's skill set at this stage of his career is more suited to the nickel position, while Lane fits as a top backup.
Will that be what Seattle thinks though?
How Many Pass Rushers Can They Use at Once?
As noted, the Seahawks already have an elite secondary, and their rushing attack may have just matched that this offseason.
Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett, Bruce Irvin and Chris Clemons are all guys who can rush the passer, and the first two are new additions. The Seahawks had 36 sacks as a unit last year, and those guys could easily get 36 by themselves.
The question ends up being how many of those four players Seattle tries and get on the field at the same time. In a 3-4 or 4-3, they could manage three of those at any given time. That's a scary sight for any quarterback, and it will be interesting to see the different personnel packages they experiment with during training camp and the preseason.