Following months of turnover both on the coaching staff and on the roster, Seahawks fans will be seeing plenty of new faces this season. That shift brings up plenty of new questions for a franchise that, until recently, has been working with much of the same core group of players.
Last week we attempted to identify a few of the Seahawks’ biggest question marks (you can check out Part One of this series for questions about Earl Thomas, what Seattle might do with the No. 18 overall pick, Kam Chancellor, Cliff Avril, and Malik McDowell).
Today, we took a stab at exploring a few more questions. In this edition, we’ll take a look at the team’s top priority postion-wise, the offensive line, the running back group, and potential contract extensions.
What should be this team’s top priority in the draft?
There are plenty of candidates, but defensive line is the most pressing area of need. Granted, the Seahawks could always use help on offense following the loss of two of Russell Wilson’s top receiving targets from 2017 (tight end Jimmy Graham and wide receiver Paul Richardson) and could always use another offensive lineman. A running back wouldn’t hurt, either, given the ever-changing rotation of starters following Marshawn Lynch’s departure.
But two (and potentially three) of the four starting defensive linemen from Week 1 last year will be gone this season: defensive end Michael Bennett (via trade), defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson (who signed with the Vikings in free agency), and defensive end Cliff Avril (whose future is still up-in-the-air following surgery for a season-ending neck injury). There’s also a question mark surrounding Malik McDowell’s role on the team. The team drafted McDowell with their first pick in last year’s draft, but after being injured in an ATV accident following the draft, he has yet to play a down.
The Seahawks have added defensive tackles Shamar Stephen and Tom Johnson. At defensive end, they still have Frank Clark and Dion Jordan, and have re-signed Marcus Smith. Newly-signed outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo adds more speed to the front seven, but Seattle will still need to pad the rotation on the D-line – especially by adding a speedy pass rusher. A physical, fast, and deep defense was a fundamental part of Carroll’s Super Bowl squads, and there’s no doubt Seattle is focused on returning to their roots this season.
ESPN’s Todd McShay has the Seahawks selecting UTSA defensive end Marcus Davenport with the No. 18 overall pick, while Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times mocks Boston College DE Harold Landry to Seattle. The Seahawks could always trade pack to pick up more capital, as has been their habit the last several years (plus, they’re currently without a second or third rounder). Will they take the plunge in Round 1?
Is next year’s starting running back currently on the roster?
The Seahawks were especially excited about Chris Carson during training camp last year (and Pete Carroll was enamored with the seventh-round pick’s college tape and running style). He performed well in his brief rookie campaign (49 attempts, 208 yards, 4.24 YPA) before a high ankle sprain and fracture ended his season in Week 4. Carroll recently said Carson is fully healthy and will be ready for OTAs this May. The second-year pro may be a favorite for the job, but with just four games under his belt, he hasn’t secured the starting role just yet.
Mike Davis, C.J. Prosise, Tre Madden and J.D. McKissic also remain under contract and will be part of the rotation in training camp. But it’s fair to assume Seattle will use at least one draft pick on a running back, especially with such a deep class.
A recurring name has been LSU’s Derrius Guice, who worked behind Leonard Fournette and has drawn comparisons to former Seahawk Marshawn Lynch. What are the odds the Seahawks draft him in the first round?
“I think he’s there at 18,” said 710 ESPN Seattle’s John Clayton. “And they might be able to trade down a little bit and still get Guice. I think that he’s a candidate, just like Marcus Davenport, that might be something that they would consider at 18.”
What’s the state of the offensive line?
New offensive line coach Mike Solari will oversee the unit. Solari previously held the same position for the New York Giants (he also held the role for the Seahawks from 2008-09).
Pro Football Focus has Seattle’s O-line ranked 27th overall based on their 2017 performance. In run blocking, the unit ranked second-to-last. One positive heading into the new year is consistency among the starting lineup: four of five starters will be returning starters (or part-time starters) from the previous season. That includes left tackle Duane Brown, guard Ethan Pocic, center Justin Britt, and guard/tackle Germain Ifedi. The newest addition will be right guard D.J. Fluker – who, as a boon for Seattle, played under Solari while with the Giants.
The Seahawks are focused on re-establishing a strong run game; a goal supported by the addition of Fluker, who was perhaps the Giants’ best run-blocker last season before he was injured. General manager John Schneider also said second-year pro Pocic has added some weight and strength (he’s now closer to 320 lbs., up from 309). Another positive? A full year of work for Duane Brown, who came to the team last year in a midseason trade.
Seattle has 10 offensive lineman under contract, and will likely take another (or two) in the draft.
Will any players be getting contract extensions?
Left tackle Duane Brown seems a prime candidate for this (especially if talks stall with safety Earl Thomas) but we may not know for several weeks, or even months. While they’ve signed a few players to extensions ahead of or during the draft, the bulk of the Seahawks core was signed to extensions after the draft – which makes sense, since the team would have a better idea of their cap space and the pieces they have to work with. This list includes Kam Chancellor (August 2017), Doug Baldwin (June 2016), Michael Bennett (December 2016), Russell Wilson (July 2015), and Bobby Wagner (August 2015).