Training camp is around the corner and the Seattle Seahawks will embark on another season as the playoff contender in the NFC West. Last year, injuries made them an underwhelming team.
Now, a re-tooled offensive line and running game will try to get this team back to their Super Bowl formula of pounding the football. The defense should get refreshed thanks to some added pieces in free agency and the NFL Draft. Here is more to know about the Seahawks roster as training camp begins.
Top Position Battle: Third Corner
DeShawn Shead would probably be the unquestioned corner starter opposite Richard Sherman, but an ACL surgery made Shead unavailable indefinitely. Now, Jeremy Lane seems like the ideal fit across from Sherman.
After that, veterans Pierre Desir and Neiko Thorpe will duke it out for third corner duties. Both are big corners with some NFL experience so either could earn the job. Otherwise, rookie Shaquill Griffin could challenge for some playing time as well. This battle for the third corner position could carry on into the season.
Veteran on Notice: Michael Bennett
Michael Bennett is infamous for being one the most outspoken players in the NFL. However, the 31-year-old has seen the Seahawks take a defensive lineman in each of the last three drafts. Malik McDowell compares to Bennett as an athletic player who can rush from the inside and outside. Seattle employs Jarran Reed and Frank Clark who seem like they’re the future of this Seahawks defense.
Bennett is still an intricate part of this defense but for how much longer remains to be seen. The defensive lineman is still under contract until 2020 but few guarantees make him expendable. It is unlikely that Bennett gets cut this season but he could see his role reduced thanks to McDowell and other young defensive linemen on the roster. Of course, that might also mean Cliff Avril is on notice. Avril is age 31 too but he is only under contract until 2018.
Potential Surprise Roster Casualty: Thomas Rawls
One player who could get cut this year is RB Thomas Rawls. Last season, Rawls seemed poised for a breakout season. Except he registered only 349 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Seattle brought in Eddie Lacy in free agency.
Plus, Alex Collins and C.J. Prosise both showed flashes last year. Prosise showed the pass catching ability to be the perfect compliment to Lacy. The former Notre Dame back might become a breakout player in 2017, while Collins’ hard running style is the perfect backup if Lacy sustains injury. This deep running back corps could make Rawls a casualty to that 53-man roster. However, Collins or Prosise could easily get cut too as there are other backs on the roster too. Rawls could push either of those players off the roster bubble as well.
Biggest X-Factor: Luke Joeckel
In 2011, the Seahawks took a similar free agency risk on a tackle turned guard and former No. 2 overall draft pick. That risk was Robert Gallery who played only 12 games for Seattle after coming over from the Raiders, where he underwhelmed.
Now, the Seahawks will gamble on Joeckel unlocking the potential that made him the 2013 No. 2 overall pick. This Seahawks offensive line gave up too many sacks and failed to open up many running lanes. Joeckel is the athlete that could help them change that on the right side. Hopefully, it will turn out better than the Gallery experiment.
You could also say Prosise is an offensive x-factor. He proved he can add some game-changing abilities as a pass catcher and runner last season.
Most Crucial Rookie: Ethan Pocic
Speaking of the offensive line, Seattle drafted Ethan Pocic in the second round. He will challenge last year’s first round pick Germain Ifedi at right tackle.
Otherwise, Pocic has experience at guard and center so he may get called on for help on the inside too. Either way, Pocic should help an offensive line that ranked 26th in run blocking and 25th in pass blocking based on Football Outsiders’ adjusted statistics.
McDowell might also become a critical rookie if there are any injuries on the defensive line. That would insert the raw product into immediate playing time which he may or may not be ready for.