We welcome back one of our favorite segments for 2016, 'Five good questions.' We ask five questions from our opponent's SB Nation blog and they answer them, and vice versa. This week, Kenneth Arthur, the site manager for Field Gulls, was gracious enough to give us some insight on the Seahawks, and answer some questions leading up to Thursday's game:
1. Russell Wilson is a great QB, no one is denying that. But there seems to be some Wilson fatigue setting in around the NFL. His engagement/vow of celibacy/wedding to Ciara, and the poster he made turned him into a target of jokes off the field. Is there any kind of Wilson fatigue among Seahawks fans, or do you guys even care about that stuff?
Field Gulls: If Wilson's biggest issue is that he's sort of the "Vinny Chase" of the NFL, I'll take that 1000 times out of 1000 for a franchise QBs "off-field distractions." I can honestly say that I'm unaware of how Wilson is perceived by non-Seahawks fans and I don't think I have much better of an idea of how he's perceived by Seahawks fans. All I know is that when the media says positive things about Wilson, they like it, and when they don't, they hate it. Wilson is the best quarterback in the history of the franchise; I don't think any fans are tiring of him after only four seasons of that.
2. 'Beast Mode' is no more, as Marshawn Lynch retired during the Super Bowl with is what has become an iconic tweet. Last year, Thomas Rawls was exceptional in relief of Lynch, but now that Lynch retired, what have the Seahawks done to shore up the depth behind Rawls?
FG: A lot more than I expected they would and it seems to have paid off. They drafted C.J. Prosise in the third round, Alex Collins in the sixth, and Zac Brooks in the seventh. They also re-signed Christine Michael, who the team traded in 2015 in order to make room for Rawls in the first place. With Rawls missing all of training camp until very recently, it gave Michael an opportunity to get number one reps again and coaches are besides themselves with how much better he seems to be this year than he was in the previous three.
That being said, he's Christine Michael and he had run out of chances in Seattle a year ago, and then was nearly out of an NFL job entirely. Anything could happen, but he seems like a top-notch backup at the moment. If not, Collins is coming off of a highly-successful career at Arkansas and has drawn a lot of praise, while Brooks has surprised as a seventh rounder who has come from nowhere to suddenly be in line for a job perhaps. Then there's Prosise, who was the fourth running back drafted this year but had missed all of camp until this week with a hamstring injury. He's replacing the Fred Jackson role from a year ago. Overall, the position is much deeper than it was a year ago, even if they will never be able to replace Lynch.
3. Tarvaris Jackson, Seahawks backup and former Vikings QB, ran into some off the field troubles awhile back. Did the Seahawks release him, or is he back with Seattle? If he is not returning, who will be the guys backing up Wilson?
FG: Jackson wasn't released, but his contract expired and they never re-signed him. It was expected that they would eventually, but Jackson was a person of interest in a domestic violence case but charges were never filed. The team could still re-sign him, but I'm not sure it's necessary anymore. Undrafted free agent Trevone Boykin has played pretty well, including a game-winning 88-yard drive in basically a minute of game time against the Chiefs last week. If not, they also have Jake Heaps, who has done fairly well in camp, or they could scour the free agent market again come September. Including perhaps a call to Jackson.
4. The Seahawks have had one of the best defenses in the NFL over the last several years. Did the they lose anyone of significance on that side of the ball, and do you expect them to still be one of the best units in the league?
FG: They lost Bruce Irvin to the Oakland Raiders. He was the starting strongside linebacker and a former first round pick in 2012. They also lost veteran Brandon Mebane, one of the last remaining players from before the Pete Carroll era, who went to the San Diego Chargers. But I would say they're going to be better overall.
Last season, Earl Thomas missed all of training camp with an injury, while Kam Chancellor held out up to missing the first two games of the year. (Both losses.) This year they've got Earl back, and while Kam has missed some time with an injury, I think the expectation is that he'll be ready by Week 1. They also have corners Jeremy Lane and Tharold Simon here for the preseason this time around; Lane missed the first 10 games while recovering from a torn ACL and broken arm suffered in the Super Bowl, while Simon missed all but one game last year. Those two players are very key to their defense and secondary. They brought back Brandon Browner on a no-risk deal and moved him to more of a hybrid safety role, which should hopefully mitigate his issues in coverage and with penalties.
They replaced Mebane with second round pick Jarran Reed, who went 49th overall but was pegged by some as being one of the top 15 players in the draft. Reed was perhaps the best run-stuffer available and a great replacement for Mebane. They also took defensive tackle Quentin Jefferson in the fifth and he may profile to be more in the mold of Michael Bennett. Undrafted free agent Brandin Bryant has turned a lot of heads in camp and his 40-time at his pro day was faster than every defensive tackle at the combine except for Robert Nkemdiche, who was .01 seconds faster. The outside linebacker position will be filled by a combination of Cassius Marsh, Eric Pinkins, and Mike Morgan. I think you'll see a breakout season from Marsh, even though Pinkins might have a higher ceiling. There are also super high expectations for second-year defensive end Frank Clark, their top pick in 2015.
Their weakness has been covering tight ends and closing out games. Have they fixed those issues? It's impossible to know that until the season happens. But I think the personnel changes have mostly been for the better.
5. What are the big training camp battles Seahawks fans are looking at on offense and defense, and are there any off the radar guys that have a legitimate chance of making the roster?
FG: Outside linebacker is one of the big ones, as mentioned before with those names. The other one on defense is for the starting outside corner opposite of Richard Sherman when in nickel. Lane is expected to be the starter for when there are just two corners on the field, but then he'll move inside to cover the slot in nickel; the corners competing for that job are DeShawn Shead and Simon. I think Shead will ultimately win out. On offense, it's mostly focused on the offensive line. The starting center looks to be Justin Britt, who was the right tackle in 2014 and the left guard in 2015. The starting right guard is probably Germain Ifedi, their first rounder this year out of Texas A&M. He already looks like the best offensive lineman on the team, for whatever that's worth.
There's still some confusion at the tackle spots though. Garry Gilliam (starting right tackle in 2015) was supposed to be the left tackle, but he might get beaten out by garbage-bin free agent Bradley Sowell and then move back to the right side. But that's only if J'Marcus Webb, signed to be the right tackle, doesn't still have that job. They also signed Jahri Evans recently, which complicates matters even more. I have no idea what the offensive line will look like in a month. There's also about seven guys legitimately making an argument to be the fifth wide receiver on the team.
The off the radar guy is tight end Brandon Williams. He had basically no shot to make the NFL when coming out of Oregon a few years ago due to injury concerns. He nearly gave up football, got a regional camp invite, then got an invite to workout for the Panthers, and he played there for a couple of years. He came to Seattle with no feasible chance to make the roster on a team with Jimmy Graham and Luke Willson and had just drafted Nick Vannett [ED. Note: Vannett went to Ohio State WOOOOOOOOO] in the third round ... but now I'd be kinda shocked if Williams got cut. He's pretty much the biggest surprise story at camp this year.
Undrafted free agent rookie safety Tyvis Powell [ED. note: Powell went to Ohio State WOOOOOOOOO] will also make the roster, barring something unforeseen happening. That's pretty wild for a number of reasons.
A big thanks to Kenneth and the fine folks at Field Gulls. Here's to a good game with no injuries.