Until further notice, the NFL is proceeding as if they are going to have a season. My heart hopes and wants there to be a season, of course, but my gut may be telling a different story.
It seems like a stretch for America to see sports return to normal in the near future, let alone play a game that requires contact and collisions for 60 minutes. However, the NFL teams will be reporting to their respective full-squad training camps on July 28th, and boy oh boy am I excited as ever – just for camp!
With the uncertainty of real games constantly moving beneath the proverbial feet of the NFL with the pandemic, several position battles at camp this year will need to quench our thirst for competition in the meantime. The Seahawks are preparing for a season of opportunity, but many questions remain within the squad at key positions.
Tight End Depth Chart
Oh boy, this is an exciting development. Greg Olsen joins the Seahawks as the offensive splash in free agency this offseason. The excitement is dampened when you see that there are currently 7 men at the position on the roster with him.
Greg Olsen is nearly a shell of himself with three rookies joining the ranks, and it will make for a competitive position battle. Incumbents include Jacob Hollister, Will Dissly and Luke Willson already going to camp, so the rookies have a big hill to climb. Most likely to successfully climb that hill will be Colby Parkinson.
A fourth-round pick from Stanford in the 2020 draft, Parkinson is still playing a position that takes years of development. With this pick and the pickup of Olsen, who will be entering his 15th season, the future of this position remains more wide open than ever. Hollister had a breakout season last year after coming to the Hawks from New England.
Before amassing 41 receptions last year, Hollister only had 8 catches combined the previous two years. Dissly is the project with the most upside as his receiving and blocking grades continue to improve year over year, and Luke Willson remains a question mark after spending 2018 with the Detroit Lions before returning to the Seahawks just to have 10 targets in 2019 across 8 games started.
A disappointing homecoming I imagine for Luke.
One reason this should be a heavily competitive position this training camp is because of the inability for anyone to remain healthy. Dissly only put together 6 games played last year, Hollister led the group with 11 games played and several off-the-street free agents had to join the team mid-season as the group continued to get hit by the injury bug. The tailspin began with Ed Dickson going on injured reserve; the names of George Fant, Tyrone Swoopes were also involved but never developed into a viable option.
This position is going through some growing pains, but I believe it keeps four players, and the odd man out will be Luke Willson. Greg Olsen wasn’t brought on for veteran salary just to be cut. Hollister had too great of a 2019 campaign and paired with Dissly; they accounted for 7 touchdowns together, or more excitingly, 22% of the red-zone touchdowns. Last but not least, Colby Parkinson who was a fourth-round pick during the shortened offseason schedule will be given every opportunity to carve out his roster spot, learn from the veterans and grow at a pace built for success at the tight end position.
Safety Position Starters
Once upon a time, the safety position was such an anchor for the Seahawks’ defense. Now it has several question marks. We have all watched the development of a few different levels of success, but nothing can compare to what was once considered possibly the strongest secondary of all time from 2012 to 2015, so it’s not fair to place anyone in those shoes from this group.
So what would be best for this group is to just go and compete against one another to try and raise the bar. Right?
These are the battles I love to watch in camp. The secondary of a defense has become more important than ever due to the air-raid offense that exists in today’s game. Quandre Diggs was brought on mid-season from Detroit and made an immediate impact with 3 interceptions in just 5 games. He was able to gel well with Marquise Blair and Bradley McDougal, but the Hawks won’t traditionally keep all three of them on the field at the same time.
Blair started last season coming off the PUP list, so his offseason was not used for improving his game and acclimating to the NFL speed. It showed on the field with only 24 tackles in the 14 games he appeared in.
Many Seahawks fans believe McDougald’s time in Seattle will be dependent on Blair’s continued development, but McDougald needs to reclaim his sure-tackling, and he may eventually be a starter just on that alone. In comparison to Haha Clinton-Dix, Devin McCourty and Landon Collins, McDougald had 19 passes defended from 2017 to 2018, which outpaces those Pro-Bowlers during that time span. His injuries, however, hold him back. McDougald isn’t the future of the position.
I don’t think anyone out of this group will be cut this year, but in terms of who will be starting the 2020 campaign, it’s hard to say for sure. Diggs will be the sure-fire free safety and if Blair can be pushed by the others in this group, his improvement will drastically improve the defense as a whole.
Running Back Group Grows Stronger
A key position in the Seahawks’ offense without question. There is no doubt about the importance of a strong running game for the Hawks to be successful. During the toughest years since Carroll has been the coach, those with a lack of running game seem to be the most grueling of times. With the quiet addition of Carlos Hyde this offseason, the Seahawks have fire power and depth at this position from a lot of directions; now they just need to put it all together.
However, for the strongest of the bunch, Chris Carson may not see so much light at the end of the tunnel. If he becomes a serious problem again like last year before his hip injury, it may be hard for him to find a lucrative contract with the likes of Derrick Henry, Kenyan Drake, Leonard Fournette, Todd Gurley, Dalvin Cook, and Alvin Kamara all heading into pending 2021 free agency. That is not the group I would want to be vying for money against in an open market.
Penny and Homer are still in the mix because of their continued youthful resilience. Rashaad Penny has not lived up to his draft status, and in four games last year the Carrol staff seemed to grasp more of an understanding of how to use him than Penny’s entire two seasons. With multiple 1200-yard seasons in a row, Chris Carson has to come back healthy, and that is all it will take for him to get the starting job. Not to mention with Carlos Hyde having his first 1000-yard season since joining the league in 2014, I personally like the 1-2 punch behind those names.
Nevertheless, this group has a ton of promise for the future. Penny seems to be the odd-man out even as a first-round pick, but he is making his living at a position that doesn’t age well. I believe many Hawks fans would like to see the next level of Travis Homer if he can help block and continue to give a breather for Hyde and Carson. You don’t bring in Carlos Hyde if you think this position group was set entirely to sustain the workload that the Seahawks require of their running backs. I’m excited to see how these four line up at the end of camp, and let’s keep an eye on how Chris Carson moves coming off his second hip injury in as many years.