RENTON, Wash. — The Seattle Seahawks report to 2022 training camp on Tuesday at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center. Here’s a closer look at a few storylines:
Biggest question: Can the Seahawks be competitive without quarterback Russell Wilson? Despite how it might have looked to casual observers when the Seahawks parted with Wilson and linebacker Bobby Wagner, this is a team in transition as opposed to a full-on rebuild. Shelling out big money to keep 29-year-old safety Quandre Diggs and other veteran players like running back Rashaad Penny and tight end Will Dissly says as much. Those re-signings, plus other marquee returning players (receivers DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, safety Jamal Adams) plus two sure-fire starters they got back in the Wilson trade (tight end Noah Fant and defensive end Shelby Harris) plus a big free-agent addition (edge rusher Uchenna Nwosu) and a promising draft class that featured their first top-10 pick since 2010 (offensive tackle Charles Cross) leave the Seahawks with a solid roster … outside of quarterback.
Their defense and backfield look strong enough to keep them in games if quarterbacks Drew Lock and/or Geno Smith can be capable game managers. But can they avoid enough mistakes to play that way? And can they deliver in crunch time like Wilson so often did? If Lock doesn’t show that he’s worthy of a longer look, Seattle has the extra 2023 first-rounder from the Wilson trade to target his long-term replacement in next year’s draft.
The most compelling position battle: Will Lock’s upside or Smith’s familiarity win out? Lock and Smith are duking it out in the Seahawks’ first quarterback competition since 2012. That was the year that Wilson (an electric rookie) beat out free-agent pickup Matt Flynn (the presumed starter for much of the offseason) and incumbent Tarvaris Jackson (whom the locker room loved). The intrigue in this competition won’t come from name value but from how close it might be.
Some in the organization have anticipated that Lock’s talent (which hasn’t been his issue in three up-and-down seasons) will win out. But there’s a thought that he may have to win convincingly or else Seattle’s coaching staff will opt for the more known commodity in Smith and award anything close to a tie to the 10th-year veteran who’s backed up Wilson the last three seasons. Pete Carroll made it clear that Smith was still ahead when the offseason program ended.
The player with the most to prove: Can Adams return to his 2020 form? In his debut season in Seattle, Adams recorded a defensive-back record 9.5 sacks en route to his third straight Pro Bowl. He looked worthy of the big price the Seahawks paid to get him (a package that included two first-round picks) and to keep him (an extension that made him the NFL’s highest-paid safety). Then 2021 happened.
Adams was held without a sack and had as many forgettable plays in coverage as productive ones. He also played through injuries for the second straight year until his season ended after 12 games because of a re-torn left shoulder labrum that required another surgery. Adams’ dropoff in pass-rushing production last season was largely the result of all the attention opponents started paying to him after his record sack binge, which led Seattle to blitz him less often. He may benefit more than anyone from the scheme changes they’re implementing because he should be harder for offenses to pinpoint pre-snap. But he has to stay on the field for any of that to matter.
Fiercest fantasy relevant position battle: Can Penny last as RB1? Chris Carson’s chances of returning from neck surgery continue to look iffy, with word still yet to emerge on whether he’s been medically cleared. There’s no question as to who would be the No. 1 option in his absence. Penny is the guy after his stellar finish to last season, when he led the NFL in rushing by a wide margin over the final five games. But you know the deal with Penny: his long injury history makes it unlikely that he’ll be there for all 17 games.
Even when he is healthy, the Seahawks will almost certainly try to manage his workload with an eye towards keeping him fresh. Second-round pick Ken Walker III figures to factor heavily into the backfield rotation one way or another. He’s a must-have handcuff for any fantasy player with Penny on their roster.
As NFL training camps swing into action, NFL Nation looks at the top storylines and offers a prediction for each team.
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What’s the deal with Metcalf’s contract situation? The Seahawks typically don’t finalize big-money extensions until the start of training camp, so they aren’t necessarily behind schedule with Metcalf. And they’ve sounded optimistic that they’ll get a deal done, but it doesn’t seem like a slam dunk given everything that’s happened since March. The receiver market exploded, leading general manager John Schneider to express sticker shock at some of the megadeals. Then Metcalf skipped mandatory minicamp with an unexcused absence, which was surprising given that he had taken part in some voluntary work.
The steep fines are a huge disincentive for training-camp holdouts, but the recent trend with Seahawks and other players in Metcalf’s position has been to “hold in,” meaning they show up to camp but don’t participate in any on-field work, thereby avoiding fines and the risk of injury. Will Metcalf do the same?
Camp prediction: Coby Bryant will be a Week 1 starter at cornerback. Seattle’s rookie corner has more than a famous name. He also has a ton of college experience (53 career games) and some serious ball skills (the best of any defender in this year’s draft, if you ask him). Those traits could make him more NFL-ready than most rookie corners drafted in the fourth round.
It also helps that the position is wide open. Sidney Jones IV looks like a favorite to start at one of the spots, but no one is entrenched. Tre Flowers won a starting job at corner as a rookie in 2018 — even as a converted safety. So Carroll isn’t afraid to trust young players at that position. For that matter, fifth-round rookie Tariq Woolen could factor into the competition along with Tre Brown and Artie Burns.