Seahawks Training Camp: Paul Gallant’s big questions for this season
It’s a time for hype. A time for trope. A time for football players in shorts to give us the old rope-a-dope. It’s time for Seahawks training camp!
The next month or so is a fascinating time for football coverage. Sports yappers like myself make judgments based off drills – not game situations – as nearly 100 players duke it out “Mad Max: Thunderdome” style for 53 roster spots.
Given the many massive humans wearing unfamiliar numbers and practicing in different corners of the field, it can be difficult to have a true feel for how every player fares. You’ve got to spotlight a couple of different players or themes and keep tabs on them as camp wears on.
With that in mind, here’s what I’ll be focusing on for the next few weeks.
5. Is Aldon Smith going to bring anything to the table?
Given the number of chances he’s been given – and blown – I didn’t want the Seahawks to sign Aldon Smith in the 2020 offseason, and I stood by that take even after he sacked Russell Wilson three times with the Cowboys in Week 3.
I understood the temptation, though. Smith was a monster on the football field before a series of embarrassing decisions, and he was supposedly in incredible shape. Dallas, which has never been scared to take a risk on a talented yet troubled football player, rolled the dice on him.
But the Cowboys felt very comfortable telling Smith they weren’t going to bring him back after last season. Which is interesting, given that their defense was terrible and that he wouldn’t have cost them much. Why did they let him walk? Again, this is DALLAS we’re talking about.
Another bad sign? Other than Smith’s latest off-field incident and his upcoming Aug. 24 arraignment? Smith was excused from Seahawks minicamp last month because he didn’t feel physically ready to take part. He’s supposedly worked himself back into shape for this camp, but all of the above has me skeptical about his chances to make the roster, let alone have an on-the-field impact in 2021.
4. Where will the Seahawks use Marquise Blair?
Blair was the talk of Seahawks training camp last season and looked awesome in the team’s intrasquad scrimmages. Unfortunately, he tore his ACL in the second week of the season. Knee injuries are no longer the death knell they used to be for NFL careers, but you’ve got to wonder how long it’ll take Blair to feel confident doing all the things that must have felt so natural before his injury.
I’m curious as to where he stands on the Seahawks defensive back depth chart this season. Is starting nickel cornerback his job to lose? Does he have to compete with Ugo Amadi for the gig? Could he be moving back to safety, where he played his rookie year?
3. Is D.J. Reed the Seahawks’ best cornerback?
D.J. Reed is everything you want in an NFL player. He has a massive chip on his shoulder, seems to crave contact, and has impressive closing speed. His play as an undersized cornerback in a defense notorious for prioritizing height was one of the most pleasant surprises of the 2021 season.
But I wonder if it was all a mirage. After all, the Seahawks’ defense – historically bad at the start of the year – fattened up in the second half of the season against quarterbacks like Jared Goff, Kyler Murray with a bum shoulder, a completely lost Carson Wentz, a somehow still in the league Colt McCoy, bust Sam Darnold, bust Dwayne Haskins, Goff again but with an injured finger, and C.J. Beathard.
I have no doubts about Reed’s effort or ethic, and I love watching him play. But Shaquill Griffin was the Seahawks’ No. 1 cornerback last season, and now he’s gone. How will Reed fare if he’s moved to left cornerback and to every quarterback’s right? Is Akhello Witherspoon better in that spot? How about similarly-sized rookie Tre Brown, a player that general manager John Schneider believed would have been a top 10 draft pick if he was bigger?
2. Is Darrell Taylor as awesome as he sounds?
We won’t get a true answer to this question until we see Taylor in a game. But considering the guy has barely been able to practice, we’ve sure heard a lot of glowing reviews about the guy penciled in as the Seahawks’ SAM linebacker.
It started before he’d even put on a Hawks uniform. Schneider raved about Taylor’s potential after taking him in the second round of the 2020 draft, going so far to say he’d come extremely close to selecting Taylor instead of linebacker Jordyn Brooks in the first. It continued late into last year, with Pete Carroll hinting that the rookie pass rusher could be a factor for Seattle in the playoffs. That obviously didn’t happen, as Taylor dealt with a shin injury for all of 2020 and has yet to see the field in a game.
What am I looking for out of Taylor? Flashes that show he’s special and better than Seahawks second-rounders not named DK Metcalf.
1. How long will it take the Seahawks to gel in Shane Waldron’s offense?
If the Seahawks want to go further than they have the past few seasons, Shane Waldron needs to be the difference. That’s a lot of pressure to put on a first-time offensive coordinator.
As we learned from Tom Brady and the Bucs last season, it takes an offense a while to gel, and sometimes things don’t come together until the final quarter of the season. So there’s no real rush, but the quicker that the Hawks pick up the system, the better. Duh.
What I’ll be looking for over the next few weeks: Is the offense sluggish? Will there be lots of miscommunication? Or on the bright side, will we see “exotic” wrinkles that we’ve never seen before?
I can’t wait to take it all in.
More on Seahawks training camp
• Star safety Jamal Adams a spectator as Seahawks open training camp
• Top draft pick D’Wayne Eskridge starts training camp on PUP list
• Clayton: What to know going into Seahawks training camp
• Rost: Top Seahawks position battles in training camp
• Heaps’ burning training camp questions: Adams and Witherspoon