STACY ROST

Rost: 3 questions as Seattle Seahawks kick off training camp

Jul 26, 2023, 2:30 PM | Updated: 3:36 pm

Seattle Seahawks Geno Smith...

Seattle Seahawks QB Geno Smith during minicamp on June 7, 2023. (Taylor Jacobs/Seattle Sports)

(Taylor Jacobs/Seattle Sports)

The Seattle Seahawks are finally hitting the field for training camp. Wednesday marks the first day of open practices, but also the beginning of one team’s efforts to answer a series of questions as they head into their 2023 campaign with eyes on the postseason.

Salk: The Seattle Seahawks’ 6 biggest storylines as training camp begins

Here are three questions to get us started this week.

Seattle Seahawks training camp questions

• Who’s your starting nose tackle?

I know battles along the offensive and defensive lines don’t typically dominate headlines, most especially when the men competing aren’t first-round picks. Training camp is for big-bodied wide receivers to make spectacular plays, controversial quarterback battles, and best-shape-of-his-life conversations. But winning — actually winning — is about the trenches, at least in part, and the Seahawks have been looking to solidify either side for years.

Last season was a step forward on the offensive line. While both rookie tackles faced their own struggles late in the season, they also proved they can be cornerstone starters. The defensive side of things needed more work. And by “more work,” I mean entirely different players, because that’s the approach Seattle took. Gone was Shelby Harris (who does remain a free agent), Al Woods, and Poona Ford. In their place Seattle signed Dre Jones, brought back Jarran Reed, and drafted Mississippi State’s Cam Young in the fourth round.

We know Jones and Reed will be starters on the defensive line. What we don’t know is whether a rookie, Young, will win the job or if it’ll instead go to a few other names competing. Not only is the defense still looking for a starter there, but its also looking for depth behind him since veteran Bryan Mone is still working his way back from an ACL tear. In an under-the-radar roster move Tuesday afternoon, Seattle added one more candidate: Roderick Perry. Perry (6 foot 1 and 304 pounds) spent last season with the Cleveland Browns, primarily as a member of the practice squad.

It’s not a position many eyes will be trained to and it’s a battle that’s sure to be ongoing, potentially with additional signings as camp progresses. But for a defense looking to take a massive step forward from 2022, every battle counts.

• How are your injured starters?

I’ll tell you what most of training camp’s earliest days is about: Attendance.

Yes, coaches have plenty more to watch. And reporters are also looking to see who looks trimmer or speedier, or which players are assuming more of a leadership role on the sidelines. But until we get to padded practices we’re all mostly watching with the following things in mind: Who’s sitting out, who’s got a knee or elbow wrapped, and who’s not here? It’s not that complicated.

And quite honestly, that’ll be one of the earliest questions when it comes to a handful of notable players. Rookies Devon Witherspoon and Jaxon Smith-Njigba spent most, though not all, of OTAs nursing hamstring injuries. Are both players participating this week? Are they doing group work or only drills and some conditioning?

With no contract, Seahawks’ Devon Witherspoon reportedly won’t practice

Cornerback Tariq Woolen had offseason work done on his knee in late May and was expected to have a 4-6 week recovery, which puts his return right around the start of camp this week.

I’d be surprised to see Jamal Adams ready for the start of camp. Carroll admitted in early June that Adams being ready for the start of the season “may be too much to ask,” but added that he remains optimistic. He has reported to camp (with photos on the team’s website) but a more fitting way to analyze the start of his camp may just be to watch how involved he is from the sidelines. What does leadership look like when you can’t participate?

• Does Geno look like “the guy”?

I’m going to tell you something. A lot of smart people, including those who know this team well, weren’t entirely convinced Geno Smith was going to be the starter over Drew Lock last training camp. The only reason I thought he would be was Carroll’s eagerness to re-sign him in free agency, but that prediction was entirely conjecture. Nothing I saw in camp or the preseason, other than Smith be the more conservative passer, told he he was significantly better than Lock.

In the end, we were all wrong about Smith’s potential in this offense. Happily so! It made for a far more fascinating season, with Smith’s pro bowl campaign being one of the better stories to come out of the league. He didn’t just manage the game; he looked sharp, particularly in the first half of the season, and finished with a franchise high in passing yards.

A new year also brings a new situation for Smith. He’s still in Seattle, but this time there’s no real quarterback battle. This is his team and his job to lose. He’s got a year as a starter in Shane Waldron’s offense and has had an offseason to pour over and analyze his second half struggles. He has a vote of confidence and new weapons, including a first-round receiver and a running back who can get involved in the pass game.

The Seahawks aren’t going to unload their playbook at camp. We’re not going to see Smith reach his full potential in August. But will we see an even sharper version of a player we learned so much about last season?

More on the Seattle Seahawks

Seahawks’ Woolen, Adams and Brooks among six placed on PUP list
DK Metcalf Interview: What’s changed as Seahawks WR enters Year 5?
Seattle Seahawks Training Camp: What to expect from the top two rookies
Seattle Seahawks cut OLB Alton Robinson, sign a DT ahead of camp
Huard: Is Seattle Seahawks’ Uchenna Nwosu worth his extension?

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