Expect a boisterous, carnival-like atmosphere Friday morning when the NFL champion Seattle Seahawks open training camp in Renton, Washington.
With expectations at an all time high, fans wasted no time gobbling up all of the tickets to sit on a grass berm to watch 7-on-7 passing sessions, and big, sweaty guys in blocking drills. Many will yell at the top of their lungs when they see Russell Wilson or Richard Sherman standing close to the side line.
With so many novice fans jumping on board the Super Bowl train, here are a few players and positions I will be watching with keen interest over the next month.
A. Offensive line; specifically right tackle: While four of the five starters from last season have returned, the departure of Breno Giacomini to the Jets opens a great competition. Second year man Michael Bowie appears to have the inside track, but coaches liked what they saw from rookie draft pick Justin Britt during mini-camp. While James Carpenter is in the best shape of his career, Seattle did not pick up the 5th year of his contract option. A younger player could push him for a left guard starting job.
B. Receivers: Yes, while big play man Golden Tate jumped ship for Detroit, and Sidney Rice just announced his retirement from the NFL, this group of pass-catchers is perhaps the fastest during the Pete Carroll era. A healthy Percy Harvin, and the blazing speed of rookie Paul Richardson will open the play book for different kinds of throws from Russell Wilson. Alabama rookie draft pick Kevin Norwood opened eyes during mini-camp with his ability to go up in traffic and snatch the football.
C. Defensive line: Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, and Tony McDaniel are expected to see much more playing time in 2014. McDaniel’s height could be a factor to replace big Red Bryant. Veteran Kevin Williams came over from Minnesota this spring, and figures to add run-stopping, and pass-rushing versatility to a talented group. I’m anxious to see whether Jesse William’s knees will hold up to every day practice, or whether he will have to rest every other session.
D. Quarterback: This is Russell Wilson’s offense. With two years under his belt, sky is the limit, as long as he continues to improve decision-making and accuracy. It should be an interesting competition between Tarvaris Jackson and former Oakland Raider Terrelle Pryor. While T-Jack has the inside track, Pryor could wrestle the number two job away with some important pre-season games.
E. Running back: Don’t expect to see many touches for Marshawn Lynch in camp or the exhibition games. While Seattle isn’t necessarily going to a “running back-by-committee”, there will be more carries for Robert Turbin, and big play threat Christine Michael. The coaches also like the versatility Derrick Coleman, and bigger body of Spencer Ware.
F. Punt return: While this position may seem less important, Seattle’s style of play hinges on an aggressive defense, and special teams tilting the field. Golden Tate averaged nearly 10 yards on punt returns in 2013. Coach Pete Carroll has said Earl Thomas will get the first crack at winning the job. Doug Baldwin is a great candidate, but enjoys his blocking role on punt returns. Paul Richardson’s elusive speed would be a great threat, but he bobbled a few punts during mini-camp.
Temperatures are expected to be in the mid-80’s and near 90 for the first full week of training camp. While most of the sessions start at 10 a.m. plan on bringing a hat, and applying plenty of sunscreen. The team has plenty of food booths and merchandise for sale at the VMAC, and activities to keep the kids busy when they get bored watching practice.
Bill Swartz, 1090TheFan
(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)