At the start of Seahawks minicamp, how strong is each positional group?

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Attendance is mandatory this week at Virginia Mason Athletic Center as the Seahawks gather for three days of minicamp. It will be the first time this offseason that the entire roster of 91 players will be present for training. Because everyone will be in town this week, let’s take a look at the current roster by position group, ranked by the strength of each unit entering this season. All stats courtesy of TruMedia unless otherwise noted.

In good condition

Receivers: Seattle may not have much depth behind DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, but those two still form one of the best receiving tandems in the league. The question here is who emerges as the No. 3 receiver this season. Freddie Swain has 502 receiving yards and six touchdowns in two seasons and ranks 101st on 105 qualifying passes in yards per course during that span. Seattle selecting Dee Eskridge with the 56th pick in 2021 speaks to their desire to have a reliable third option behind Lockett and Metcalf. Trouble is, Eskridge suffered a concussion, played just 10 games, and caught just 10 passes for 64 yards and a touchdown while serving as a gimmick. Can Eskridge now overtake Swain as the #3 target? Or does a newcomer like Marquise Goodwin step into this slot?

Security: In Quandre Diggs and Jamal Adams, Seattle has a pair of Pro Bowl-caliber safeties under 30. Much like the situation at receiver, most teams would feel lucky to have this tandem. Unlike the receiver situation, Seattle pays a premium for its talented safety pairing. Adams at $17.5 million a year is the richest safety in the league by average annual salary and Diggs, who signed a three-year, $40 million contract, is eighth on that list. Durability has also been an issue here. Adams has had two shoulder surgeries in the past two seasons, in addition to finger, elbow and groin injuries. But when healthy, Diggs and Adams are among the top 10-12 players in their positions, with complementary skills. Adams becomes a more effective playmaker the closer he gets to the line of scrimmage, while Diggs is a long centre-back who defends the run and passes at a high level.

The program of the offseason consists in discovering the depth. Ryan Neal has shown he can replace Adams, but Seattle has no proven security beyond that. Josh Jones, Ugo Amadi and a quartet of undrafted rookies — Bubba Bolden, Joey Blount, Deontai Williams and Scott Nelson — audition for one of those back-up security jobs.

Defensive tackles: Seattle interior linemen generally fall into two categories: nose tackles and the three techniques that frame them. Al Woods and Bryan Mone are the two main men in the middle. They are reliable running defenders who, given the chance here and there, can sometimes get to the quarterback. They will be flanked by proven tackles Quinton Jefferson, Shelby Harris and Poona Ford. It’s a five-man rotation that Seattle — which had a top-10 defense last season — can feel good about.

LJ Collier should, in theory, land the sixth-place inside lineman on the 53-man roster. But there’s no evidence the 2019 first-round pick is more equipped for the job than Myles Adams (undrafted from Rice in 2020), Jarrod Hewitt (undrafted from Virginia Tech in 2021) or Matthew Gotel, an undrafted rookie from West Florida. It’s a positional battle that will be settled this summer. But when the only open seat is the sixth inside lineman position, the group is strong.

Tight ends: Seattle basically traded Gerald Everett for Noah Fant, who is arguably a top 10 player in his position. This is probably the only position group to make an obvious jump in the offseason. The average annual salary on Will Dissly’s three-year, $24 million contract is a bit surprising, but just looking at the impact on the field, having a stud blocker in Dissly and a pass catcher in Fant makes this group dangerous. Seattle drafted 6-foot-7 Colby Parkinson in the fourth round of 2020 hoping he would be a receiving threat. It didn’t materialize, but at this point all he needs to be is a semi-reliable No. 3 tight end because of the talent that awaits him.

Questionable

Inside linebackers: Jordyn Brooks had a strong second season, leading the Seahawks with a franchise-record 183 tackles, second in the NFL. He also had a sack and a fumble recovered. Brooks was tied for 11th among qualified linebackers in defensive saves against the run with 30, the same total as All-Pro linebacker Micah Parsons, according to Pro Football Focus. There’s a reason defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt gives the third-year pro the decision-making duties.

But Brooks has room to grow. A raw stat like total tackles — especially at the inside linebacker — can often be the product of high snap counts (Brooks was fifth among linebackers in defensive snaps and 13th among all defensemen). There was also the problem of the screen pass defense: Seattle led the league in yards allowed on running back screens while giving up the fourth-highest yards per attempt, for which Brooks took the weight. blame. And although Brooks was a dependable defender early in the season, Seattle’s third defense didn’t take off until he was taken off the field in favor of Neal midway through the season. Brooks has yet to take the next step and become a consistently hard-hitting player on all three tries.

It’s unclear what Cody Barton will bring in his first year as a full-time starter. He can run and hit, but can he do it at a consistently high level, while keeping his own coverage at a time when offenses are often finding ways to put linebackers in contention? With Brooks and Barton at the starting positions, the offseason battle will be for the two backup jobs. Players in contention: Nick Bellore, Lakiem Williams, Joel Iyiegbuniwe, Ben Burr-Kirven, Tanner Muse, Jon Rhattigan and undrafted rookie Levi Jones.

Edge hitters: The questions here are about the overall depth and ceiling of the group. Last year, Darrell Taylor had 6 1/2 sacks and a 10.3 rushing percentage, which ranked him 60th among defensemen with at least 200 pass snaps. Uchenna Nwosu had five sacks, a 10.2 rushing percentage and 22 quarterback hits, the latter scoring a solid 20th among qualified defensemen. Alton Robinson had a higher pressing percentage (10.8) but didn’t have as many chances to rush the passer and only netted one sack. Boye Mafe and Tyreke Smith are rookies. On paper, this should be a decent group, but it lacks any real star power. There is no obvious Pro Bowl caliber rusher. Will Taylor or Nwosu become the type of passing throwers who constantly command double teams and create one-on-one chances for their teammates?

Mafe is an elite athlete who is a natural fit for this new Seattle defense, so he should contribute as a rookie. Robinson is a proven player but may be limited to obvious passing if he is not a capable cover defender. With that in mind, there’s room for Smith, Alex Tchangam and undrafted rookie Joshua Onujiogu to potentially sneak onto the active roster and buy some playing time. The Seahawks had one of the worst running groups to the league pass last year. Do they have enough talent to be at least an average unit in 2022?

Running back: The concern here is more about health than talent. Rashaad Penny was one of the best running backs in football in the final month of the 2021 season. Chris Carson is a top 10 talent when healthy. Ken Walker III was a stallion in college and his one-shot racing style should be a perfect fit for Seattle’s outdoor area program. But Penny has a long injury history and Carson has a neck issue that may not be resolved until he can put on pads in the preseason. Seattle has struggled to keep its running back healthy for an entire season since Marshawn Lynch first retired in 2016. That could be troubling, as Travis Homer and DeeJay Dallas aren’t dynamic runners between the tackles. A run-first offense needs a stable of healthy ball carriers to be successful.


Ken Walker III is a talented rusher. But can it be sustainable? (Joe Nicholson/USA Today)

Legitimate concerns

Quarters: There aren’t many new nuggets to drop here. Drew Lock hasn’t been very good in 21 starts in three seasons with the Broncos. Geno Smith wasn’t a strong starter with the Jets, but posted average numbers in three starts with the Seahawks last season as a replacement for Russell Wilson. By setting up a two-man quarterback battle between Lock and Smith, Seattle is betting that one of the two passers will perform at a much higher and more consistent level than he has at any point in his career. It’s a gamble based on what Lock and Smith have shown so far, which explains why no passer is seen as the future of the job in Seattle.

Offensive line: Charles Cross may become the stud he was meant to be, but he’s still a rookie. It always comes with ups and downs. But even though Cross is an above average player in his Year 1 position, there are questions at center, currently occupied by a relatively unknown commodity in Austin Blythe; and right tackle, which is a toss-up between second-year lineman Jake Curhan and third-round pick Abe Lucas. That’s a lot of unknowns at the second most important position group on the court. Wilson in the past has been able to overcome below average offensive play, but there’s no suggestion Lock or Smith can do the same.

Cornerbacks: About eight guys are battling for three starting spots. Tre Brown, Sidney Jones, Artie Burns, Coby Bryant and Tariq Woolen vie for the two outside jobs while Justin Coleman, Amadi and Marquise Blair battle to be the nickel. Coleman is the only nickel with multiple seasons of experience playing at a high level (in 2017 and 2018) while Burns is the only player with a similar resume on the outside. There is a lot of potential in this group of positions. Brown was excellent in five games last year. Jones had a career year. Bryant was one of the best corners in college football. But until they show and prove, there’s reason to be skeptical of this band right now.

(Charles Cross top photo: Joe Nicholson/USA Today)

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