The Seahawks will take the field for one last time this week for mandatory minicamp before taking off for the summer and returning in late July for training camp to get ready for the season.
Minicamp is in many ways an extension of the past three weeks, when the Seahawks held organized team activity (OTA) practices.
The main difference is that minicamp is mandatory and players can be fined for not attending. This has been relevant in past years, when the Seahawks had some players skipping OTAs (such as Marshawn Lynch, Michael Bennett and Earl Thomas) with some drama in whether they would show up for minicamp.
Thomas last year did not, taking to Twitter to announce he would skip minicamp, which foreshadowed his eventual training-camp holdout and helped pave his way out of Seattle.
But the Seahawks have had no one missing OTAs this year. Middle linebacker Bobby Wagner made the decision to show up but not do anything on the field while he negotiates a new contract — to avoid fines, players are required only to attend.
Minicamp officially began Monday, with physicals and recording official heights and weights. Teams can then hold three days of practices — Tuesday through Thursday — with two sessions allowed each day, though one must be a walk-through. The total of practice time each day cannot exceed 3 1/2 hours.
As is the case with OTAs, players can be in helmets but not full pads, and there is no full contact.
This makes evaluating offensive- and defensive-line players tricky at this time of year, and, obviously, teams are also limited in what they can practice when it comes to things such as tackling.
These rules are why offseason OTA and minicamp media coverage often tends to focus on skill players (and maybe most particularly receivers) since the noncontact nature of everything makes it a little easier to throw and catch passes — there are no hard hits by defensive backs to report.
But the Seahawks’ offseason program has revealed a few things that are worth watching at minicamp this week.
Offensive line seems well set
This isn’t huge news, as the line returned four of five starters from last season and added veteran Mike Iupati as the expected left-guard replacement for J.R. Sweezy.
But just in case you thought a surprise might develop, that hasn’t appeared to be the case. The line has consistently been the expected starting five of left tackle Duane Brown, left guard Iupati, center Justin Britt, right guard D.J. Fluker and right tackle Germain Ifedi, with George Fant again filling a role as tight end/eligible tackle. Fant caught a handful of passes in the OTAs open to media.
The most interesting development has been rookie Phil Haynes’ apparent rapid rise. He spent time with the starters for at least two OTA days (not all are open to the media) in Iupati and Fluker’s absences. That sets up an interesting competition for the backup-guard spots with last year’s backups, Ethan Pocic and Jordan Simmons. Pocic, who began last year as a starter, might have to continue to show off his overall versatility and ability to play both center and tackle to earn a spot.
Jaron Brown a receiving standout
As noted, receivers tend to stand out in these sessions. Conventional wisdom says to keep some of the receiver hype you hear this time of year in check.
Rookie DK Metcalf has generated tons of excitement since the day he was drafted and will undoubtedly play a key role this season. But Jaron Brown, a free-agent signee last year who had just 14 catches (though five for touchdowns), is also drawing lots of raves from coaches.
Coach Pete Carroll and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer have talked of Brown’s impressive offseason, and they hope he will have a larger role this season.
Brown has worked consistently as one of the starting three receivers alongside Tyler Lockett and David Moore, with Metcalf typically working with the No. 2 offense. Is that just a little love for a vet in response to the praise being sent Metcalf’s way, or something more?
The bigger picture shows Seattle will need all the receiving help it can get as it tries to replace the departed Doug Baldwin, whose role in the slot figures to be filled in large part by Lockett, which will put the onus on Brown, Moore and Metcalf to produce consistently on the outside.
Defense is hard to read
Don’t expect there to be any real difference in minicamp participation compared with OTAs, meaning many key defensive players won’t be doing much, if anything. Most of the offensive starters are available, with Chris Carson an exception. Reps this time of year don’t matter a ton for running backs anyway.
But it’s difficult to figure out the defense, with a number of potential starters sidelined or limited, including end Ziggy Ansah, tackle Jarran Reed, linebackers Wagner, K.J. Wright and Mychal Kendricks (the latter two mostly precautionary after knee issues last year) and safeties Bradley McDougald, Lano Hill, and, of late, rookie Marquise Blair, who has been considered a potential starter since being selected No. 47 overall.
Missing snaps this time of year isn’t a huge deal, but for once it’s Seattle’s offense, with all the vets on the line and quarterback Russell Wilson, that appears the more sure thing heading into the season than the defense, which is in full-fledged makeover mode after an offseason of change.
Much remains to be settled in training camp, which leads us to our next item.
Safety to be unresolved until training camp
Safety might be the most critical position to sort out. Seattle has had among the best safeties in the NFL since Carroll (and Thomas and Kam Chancellor) arrived in 2010. Safety has not been a spot Seattle has mixed and matched, for years being able to depend on Chancellor and Thomas to play all the snaps, and that’d be the preferred method: Find the best two and let them roll.
McDougald, once recovered from offseason knee surgery, will be one. But the other could be any of Tedric Thompson, Hill or Blair. At the moment, Shalom Luani has been working with Thompson as the other starting safety with the others all out.
That spot figures to remain one of the most unsettled and intriguing until well into camp.
Shaquem Griffin is everywhere
Speaking of intriguing, Griffin’s fate ranks right up there among 2019 story lines.
Wright and Kendricks re-signing leaves Seattle stacked at weakside linebacker, and the Seahawks are experimenting using Griffin in some different roles — specifically, as a strongside linebacker and edge rusher, with the team asking him to gain some weight to handle a more physical role.
With Wright, Kendricks and Wagner all out or limited, Griffin has gotten lots of work at all spots throughout the offseason. But pass rushing is one of those things harder to judge in these sessions, and the coaches will need to see camp to know where Griffin will really fit best in 2019.