6 Questions: Seattle Seahawks training camp preview

NFL

Seahawks open camp Thursday looking to build on successful 2018 season that finished 10-6 and another trip to the playoffs

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PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Seattle Seahawks opened training camp at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center in Renton, Washington on Thursday. Rookies reported last week, with the veterans arriving a week later. As camp gets underway, here are six questions that need answers before the 2019 season kicks off on September 8 against the Cincinnati Bengals.

First up, the offense:

Which player will earn starting WR spot opposite veteran Tyler Lockett?

It’s strange to refer to Lockett as a veteran, since he’s entering just his fourth season in the NFL. But, he’s the unquestioned leader of the Seahawks wide receiver corp now that Doug Baldwin has retired because of injury. Baldwin hauled in 50 receptions and scored five touchdowns in 2018. Those aren’t irreplaceable numbers, but it’s the attention that Baldwin commanded that allowed the other receivers to flourish, namely Lockett. The third round pick out of Kansas State came into his own last season, leading the Seahawks with 57 catches, 10 of those resulting in a touchdown. While Baldwin missed time through injury, Jaron Brown and David Moore gained valuable experience. Combined, they equaled Lockett’s touchdown output. Look for one of the two to land a starting spot by the time the Seahawks break camp. If either or both drop the ball, rookie D.K. Melcalf has the talent to seize the opportunity.

Is the crowded Seahawks backfield a blessing or a curse?

Chris Carson, Rashaad Penny, J.D. McKissick, C.J. Prosise. The Seahawks backfield could be viewed as an embarrassment of riches by most NFL teams. But there are only enough footballs to go around, even in preseason. Carson is the undisputed leader and starter of this crowded backfield. Carson piled up 1,151 rushing yards last season, good enough for fifth-best in the NFL last season. Second-year pro Penny added another 419, and he starts camp as the backup. As a team, the Seahawks led the NFL in rushing with 160 yards per game. Both McKissick and Prosise have shown flashes in the past, and head coach Pete Carroll is a fan of both. It’s all about staying healthy for the latter pair. If they do, they have the talent to force Carroll’s hand and keep four running backs on the week one roster.

Which player will earn the backup QB job behind superstar Russell Wilson?

Wilson has started every game of his seven-year career. So, the backup quarterback position could be viewed as the least important on the Seahawks roster. But, injuries happen, even to the best of the best. And the Seahawks have taken out a couple of insurance policies on Wilson, just in case, in the form of veterans Paxton Lynch and Geno Smith. They are perhaps the best understudies the Seahawks have had on the roster in quite some time, at least in terms of experience. Both have spent time as starters, Lynch for the Broncos and Smith for the Jets. Both are also former first-round picks. However, the pair combined for just 49 pass attempts in 2018. This training camp battle will undoubtedly come down to which player gets a firm grasp of the offense the quickest.

And now, the defense:

Can K.J. Wright bounce back from an injury-plagued 2018?

Five games and just 15 solo tackles for Wright in 2018. That’s a disappointing return for the 2016 Pro Bowl linebacker. But you could chalk up that lack of production to injury. Wright hurt his knee in 2018’s final preseason game, had surgery and missed the first six games of the regular season. Further complications with the same knee caused him to miss even more time toward the end of the campaign. Still, the Seahawks had enough faith in him to sign Wright to a 2-year, $15.5 million contract extension. One reason for that faith, besides his undeniable talent, is his durability. Wright had a streak of 53 straight starts that ended prior to Week 15 of the 2017 season because of a back injury.

How much of a distraction is Bobby Wagner’s contract situation?

Wright told reporters on the opening day of camp that he believed Wagner and the Seahawks were close to coming to a contract agreement. Wagner reported, but did not participate, choosing to protect his health until a deal can be reached. Wagner wants to be the highest paid linebacker in the league, equally or topping the $17 million per-year average that the New York Jets gave linebacker C.J. Mosley. Wagner is entering the last year of his current four-year contract, which will see him earn $10.5 million in base salary. Wagner and his teammates seem relaxed about the situation. But the more time that passes without a deal being reached, the more the tension will rise at camp. He is, undoubtedly, the best defensive player on the Seahawks roster and among the best in the entire NFL.

Can the defensive line thrive during Jarran Reed’s six-game suspension?

Reed learned his appeal of a six-game suspension following a domestic violence investigation by the NFL had been denied on the eve of training camp. He was never arrested or charged, but the league had to have felt it found something to justify and then uphold the suspension. As a result, the Seahawks signed former 49ers defensive lineman Earl Mitchell to bolster the depth chart. Mitchell started 28 games for the Niners over the past two seasons, but did not record a sack. Contrast that to Reed, who registered 10.5 sacks last season. Add to that, the departure of Frank Clark via trade to the Kansas City Chiefs, and the Seahawks pass rush could be non-existent to start the season. Look for first round pick, defensive end L.J. Collier, to get an extended look in preseason. If he can generate a decent pass-rush, the Seahawks might be able to survive, perhaps even thrive, during Reed’s absence.

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