By Danny O’Neil
Seattle’s rookies show up for their first day of work on Friday, and while this is more like an introductory quiz than a final exam, it’s never too soon to start asking questions about this year’s crop of newcomers.
Here’s five things we’ll be trying to find out during this weekend’s three-day minicamp:
Can Tharold Simon play the part he appears perfectly suited for?
He certainly looks like a Seahawks cornerback, standing 6-feet-2. He plays like a Seahawks cornerback, too, as he was known for his feisty man-to-man coverage at LSU. He was even picked in the fifth round, which is where the Seahawks have had remarkable success finding defensive backs since that’s where they selected safety Kam Chancellor in 2010 and cornerback Richard Sherman a year later.
Sure, Simon was arrested in his hometown the day the draft began, but the Seahawks have been willing to overlook a legal scrape or two in the past. He sounds like an ideal fit for Seattle’s secondary. Does his play match up?
Defensive tackle Jesse Williams might have the best chance of any Seattle rookie to crack the Week 1 starting lineup. (AP)
Will Seattle find a starter in this rookie class?
The Seahawks have had at least one rookie in the starting lineup the past four years, a streak that has a very good chance of ending this year with all but two of last year’s starters still on the roster. But while there’s no way this will be like 2011 when James Carpenter, John Moffitt and K.J. Wright were all Week 1 starters as rookies, there’s certainly a chance that a newcomer will make an impact.
Defensive tackle Jesse Williams might be the best bet in that regard. At 6-feet-3, 323 pounds, he’s the type of big-bodied player Seattle has found success with on the defensive line, whether it was with Red Bryant at defensive end or Alan Branch at tackle. Right now, new addition Tony McDaniel projects as the starter for Seattle as the three-technique defensive tackle, which means it’s conceivable Williams could play his way to top of the depth chart.
Williams also has the distinction of being the only player John Schneider has traded up to acquire during his term as Seahawks general manager. Seattle gave up two picks to acquire choice No. 137, which was used to select Williams.
How’s Spencer Ware’s transition game?
He was the second running back Seattle selected, but the Seahawks are actually looking at him as a potential fullback. Will he make that transition quick enough to make the 53-man roster? Anyone thinking that his selection signaled the potential end of Michael Robinson’s time with the Seahawks should think back to Mack Strong, who spent the better part of a decade beating out fullbacks like Heath Evans, Chris Davis and then David Kirtman.
Still, Ware is a big, physical back and it will be interesting to see how quickly he takes to the position whose job description reads like a battering ram.
How does Michael Bowie look?
Of the four players Seattle took the seventh round, this is the guy that just might have the best chance at making the roster. Start with the position: Bowie plays offensive tackle, a position where Seattle returns starters Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini while Mike Person is the primary backup at age 24, a member of the practice squad who was promoted to Seattle’s 53-man roster last year.
Bowie spent time at a junior college, transferred to Oklahoma State where he played as a junior and was projected to start at left tackle for the Cowboys last season only to be kicked off the team the month before the season started. Bowie wound up playing at Northeastern State in Oklahoma, and Schneider said Bowie was chosen where he was for a reason: “He has a background,” Schneider said.
There’s also a reason he was drafted at all because he’s got plenty of ability, he knows Okung and he plays a position that gives him a shot to make the 53-man roster.
Which undrafted free agent will find a way onto the team?
Great question. There’s an average of one a year over the past decade, and anyone who questions the level of impact an undrafted player can have should be reminded that Doug Baldwin led this team in catches two years ago. Three undrafted rookies made the team that year: Baldwin, quarterback Josh Portis and safety Jeron Johnson.
None made it a year ago, but you could have one this year even with the stature of Seattle’s roster. A big part of Seattle’s pitch to sign undrafted linebackers John Lotulelei of UNLV and Craig Wilkins of Old Dominion was that Seattle didn’t use a draft choice on anyone to play linebacker. We’ll see if either of those can make a case for the regular-season roster.