Football is back and we have real news to report on. We no longer have to read about Sherman trade rumors or possible tensions between the defense and offense. Pads are back on and we can finally start getting useful tidbits from training camp. Here are some of the interesting stories developing in camp surrounding the Seahawks’ offense.
The first, and most intriguing for me, is the running back battle. After Thomas Rawls and C.J. Prosise struggled through injuries last year the Seahawks were forced to give ten different running backs carries to try to piece together a committee at the position. Not wanting to go through this ordeal again, the Seahawks brought Eddie Lacy in on a 1-year prove it deal. Coming into camp the consensus was that Lacy and Rawls would be battling for early down carries, with Lacy possibly having a slight advantage over Rawls. C.J. Promise will most likely be the de facto passing down back with the chance for an expanding role.
Alex Collins, who was drafted in the 5th round out of Arkansas in 2016, only had 31 carries and 11 receptions last year, but news coming out of camp seems to indicate that he has come into his 2nd year in great shape and could push for a bigger role. The big surprise out of camp, at running back, has been Chris Carson. The 7th round pick out of Oklahoma State was a Pete Carroll favorite in the draft. That doesn’t seem to have changed with Pete Carroll already raving about him in press conferences. Carson has already taken multiple reps with the 1st-team offense and has been impressive running the ball and in pass protection, something rookie running backs usually struggle with. Doug Baldwin has even called him his favorite rookie. Although he didn’t have a huge sample size in college, he is a powerful back that can run over you as well as use his vision and elusiveness to evade defenders. I am keeping a close eye on Chris Carson this season. Former 49er running back Mike Davis is also on the team and could sneak onto the 53-man roster.
The pecking order of receivers in Seattle is less muddled than the running backs, but there are still going to be some interesting battles for snaps and targets. Doug Baldwin is clearly the number one option for the Seahawks. He’s a dynamic route runner with savvy and a great rapport with Russell Wilson. Coming back from injury, I expect Tyler Lockett to also be heavily involved in the offense. When healthy, he’s shown to be an electric receiver with polished route running and the ability to win deep or short routes, while creating create yardage after the catch.
It gets murkier after that. Early reports from camp have stated Paul Richardson was taking snaps above Kearse in 2-WR sets. After some impressive catches in the final stretch of the 2016 season it figures that Richardson has earned a chance at a larger role. Kearse is no slouch though and I don’t expect him to give up his role without a fight. Although Paul Richardson is taller than both Baldwin and Lockett at 6’0”, he has a similar slim-build to those players. Kearse is 6’2” and has 25 lbs on Richardson making him the biggest of the top 4 wide receivers.
Behind these four is Amara Darboh, a 3rd round pick from Michigan this year, who has a similar build to Kearse. He also has been playing in a pro-style scheme under Harbaugh at Michigan which could help him make a quicker transition to the NFL. There’s also Tanner McEvoy, who played QB, DB, and WR in college and carved out a small role last year. I think this year he could maybe get more usage, but I think he’s clearly behind the other five receivers at this point. Another interesting name is the local UW kid Kasen Williams. Although he hasn’t been a factor for the Seahawks yet, he has stuck around on the practice squad for two seasons and could maybe make a leap this year. I am excited to see how the wide receiver depth chart plays out as the season progresses.
At tight end we all know the name, Jimmy Graham. After recovering from a patellar injury last year and quite literally having to learn to walk again, Graham has had a great offseason by all reports. He is in great shape and has been dominating training camp as you would expect a player of his caliber to. It’s also come out that Graham, unsurprisingly, wasn’t back to 100% last year despite having 923 yards and 6 touchdowns. Behind him you have the speedy tight end Luke Willson who is an excellent receiving option and will likely maintain a small role in the offense. Nick Vannett, the 2nd year tight end from Ohio State, was drafted as more of a blocking tight end, but has since been lauded for his receiving abilities too. Depending on how much he improved over the offseason, and how much help the Seahawks offensive line needs, Vannett could start to take snaps from Luke Willson this year.
We’ll know more about all of these positional battles as the preseason and training camp goes on, but if you’re watching Seahawks preseason games these are some of the top guys to keep your eye on.