5 Training Camp Predictions
Seaside Joe 1232: What coaches will say about Drew Lock, Kenneth Walker, and LJ Collier in the next six weeks
The Seattle Seahawks are opening 2022 training camp in six days and while every iteration of camp is unique, there are similarities and consistent storylines that make it more predictable with each passing year under Pete Carroll. This will be the 12th time that I’ve covered Seahawks training camp from this side of the fence, and I’m gaining confidence that the following five situations will come to fruition.
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This offseason and upcoming Seahawks season has often been cited as “the most exciting in years” by many fans already. Training camp should only amplify that anticipation and anxiousness you feel for the first season without Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner since 2011.
Drew Lock will be “ahead of schedule” and “impressing coaches”
Confirmation bias is human nature and I strive to be aware of it as an influence, but I still can’t help myself from believing that coaches want Drew Lock to win the QB job now that I’ve made it a known theory.
The evidence for Lock being a preferable choice to Geno Smith is overwhelming, but admittedly will be useless unless Lock outperforms Smith in practices over the next six weeks. He’s younger, he’s played a lot more games recently, he’s familiar with the AFC West opponents, and he hasn’t had a long enough of a career to be a “career backup” yet like Smith. But maybe nothing is more compelling than the fact that with Lock, there’s at least the threat of a deep attack.
With Smith, there is no such threat and both players had three starts in 2021:
7 deep attempts vs Raiders (2 completed)
6 deep attempts vs Chargers (2 completed)
6 deep attempts vs Chiefs (2 completed)
Lock faced a difficult AFC West slate and threw at least six passes 15+ yards in each contest. He didn’t complete many, but as pointed out in the previous article, not every incompletion has been Lock’s fault. When you have Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf on your roster, it not only increases the likelihood of a deep completion, it increases the need for a quarterback who can give them a chance to make a play on the ball.
3 deep attempts vs Steelers (2 completed)
4 deep attempts vs Saints (1 completed)
5 deep attempts vs Jaguars (4 completed)
Geno didn’t have six deep attempts in any game and even if he went 4-of-5 on those throws against the Jaguars, the Seahawks can’t cross their fingers and hope that every pass defense they face next season will be as bad as Jacksonville’s.
By the way, if you ignore the 84-yard touchdown against the Saints in which DK Metcalf’s cornerback fell down, then Smith finished that game 11-of-21 for 83 yards. If you take into account five sacks for 38 yards lost, Smith then had a net total of 45 yards on 21 pass attempts. No NFL team can survive that, no NFL fan wants to watch that.
So if my hunch about Lock is correct, then I would expect to start hearing the typical coach phrases about his development within the first week of training camp: “He’s further ahead on the playbook than we expected”; “He’s even better than what we thought we were getting when we traded for him”; “He does everything he’s asked to do”; “The other players really respect him and follow his lead”; “He doesn’t make the same mistake twice”; “We love coaching him and having him in the building” (In reference to Vic Fangio not loving coaching Drew Lock)
Of course, if Lock struggles in practice and it’s undeniable, then it will be undeniable. Even then, we can expect coach-speak to dance around his struggles and we know that Pete Carroll won’t necessarily be shy about saying if he’s “disappointed” in Lock or conversely “pleased” with Geno. Because Geno is the quarterback Seattle can hedge their bets on since he’s a player who has been around for several years already and there are at least no surprises left to be unearthed.
But because Geno Smith is unlikely to start pushing the ball 10 or more yards down the field after this many years of playing football, I think coaches are going to try and will Drew Lock’s improvements into existence.
Kenneth Walker III will steal the spotlight
No matter how many times I try to warn people against criticizing the Seahawks for drafting Walker, reality won’t hit them in the face until Walker is officially one of the most exciting running backs in the NFL. Based on how he started his career stops at Wake Forest and Michigan State, fans won’t have to wait long.
Many of you already know this because I won’t stop talking about Ken Walker III, but in his first career game at running back for the Demon Deacons, as a true freshman who was a two-star recruit with only two Division-I offers, he had a 96-yard touchdown run against Rice. As a sophomore against Virginia, he had a 75-yard touchdown run. On his first career carry for the Spartans, Walker had another 75-yard touchdown run.
Walker had eight games last season with at least 120 rushing yards, four games with at least 170 rushing yards, and he had almost 200 yards+5 touchdowns against a Michigan defense with Aidan Hutchinson and Dax Hill.
So how do you expect Walker to play if he gets a handful of preseason carries against the backups and backups-of-backups for the Steelers, Bears, and Cowboys?
All throughout camp, I expect one of the most common takeaways from each practice to be, “Kenneth Walker is stealing the show out here.”
He’s also perfectly situated to get reps with the twos, which means the competition will be that much less apt to handle his capabilities, giving us even more reason to expect coaches, teammates, and fans to be overwhelmed with his performances on the field.
When Seahawks fans were following the “analytics types” on Twitter and they were trashing Saquon Barkley or Ezekiel Elliott, who cares? That’s not Seattle’s concern and if anything, “Yeah, laugh at those teams!” But when those same fans are following those same people and the anti-RB theories continue on just the same, the reaction will be so much more sour than when your only targets were for ridicule were playing for the enemy.
Seahawks fans will like Ken Walker a lot more than they like Ben Baldwin.
(Since I know most of you don’t use Twitter and he doesn’t produce any other type of content: Ben Baldwin is a Twitter user who often tweets about analytics and thinks that the Seahawks should have drafted Malik Willis even though Ben doesn’t watch college football and has never seen footage of any draft prospects before.)
In the best shape of my life: Dee Eskridge, Sidney Jones, Colby Parkinson, Rashaad Penny, and Jamal Adams
While I am not completely caught up on the present health and injury conditions for each of these players, nor do I think that information is fully available yet, it would make sense for each of them to proclaim a personal all-time record for being “in shape” and without physical limitations.
Of course, the contrary prediction is perhaps just as valid: "(Player) is on the sidelines and unavailable today.”
“He’s doing some stuff on the side.”
“He’s unfortunately dealing with a hamstring thing.”
“He’s got a legitimate injury.”
“We sent him to one of those countries without any medical regulations.”
Of these players, nobody’s health would be more important to me than Jamal Adams. Despite a clean track record at LSU (36 games in three years) and 16-game seasons in his first two years with the New York Jets, Adams has missed two, four, and five games respectively over the past three seasons. And even though he had as many interceptions (2) in 2021 as he did in his first four years combined, last season was also the low point for Adams in his NFL career.
Or at least, Seahawks fans are hoping that it is the low-point, meaning better games are ahead.
Seattle’s defense has few stars to count on this season and Adams would qualify as one of them if he manages to stay healthy for the entirety of the 2022 campaign. Teams have shown no fear about throwing in his direction, he had only six pressures on 44 blitzes (compared to 26 pressures on 98 blitzes a year earlier), and he doesn’t have enough splash plays to justify being the NFL’s second-highest paid safety after Minkah Fitzpatrick.
Fitzpatrick, only one year younger than Adams, has 13 interceptions in 64 career games. Adams has four interceptions in 70 career games.
Could being in the best shape of his life this season be reason for optimism? Or is he booking a trip to the other side of Europe?
There’s going to be a buzz about Uchenna Nwosu
Of all the things that have happened during his 12 previous years with the Seahawks, maybe the outcome that gets overlooked the most is the quality of pass rushers that Pete Carroll has found and the production he’s gotten out of edge players that other teams couldn’t extract.
Frank Clark was a whole lot better in Seattle than he’s been with the Chiefs.
Chris Clemons was a star with the Seahawks after mediocrity with the Eagles.
Michael Bennett became a legend with the Seahawks after leaving and then returning to Seattle.
Cliff Avril may have been underrated with the Lions, but people knew what he could actually become after signing with the Seahawks.
This is not a perfect formula. I was never a fan of the Jadaveon Clowney addition and I’m not surprised that he was so unproductive in Seattle. But for the most part, Carroll’s edge rushing additions of note have worked out pretty well.
No, the Seahawks haven’t found their version of T.J. Watt or Joey Bosa yet (Clark’s 13 sacks in 2018 is the only season with 12+ sacks for any Seahawks player under Carroll) but the outcome is often better than expected and free agent signee Uchenna Nwosu is the next in line to do better in Seattle than he did at his previous stop.
And similar to Avril, Nwosu wasn’t bad at his previous stop.
Playing in all 17 games with the L.A. Chargers last season, Nwosu had five sacks, 17 QB hits, and eight tackles for a loss. His 30 pressures was more than Clark, more than Josh Allen, more than Darrell Taylor, and the same as Von Miller. He was only a handful of pressures behind some of the best edge rushers in the NFL.
With the Seahawks in a 3-4, Nwosu should be in position to rush the quarterback more than he ever has before and playing opposite of Taylor, the development of either should accelerate the development of both.
If I had to highlight one new guy (non-rookie division) to standout in camp over the next five weeks, Nwosu has the best case of anyone before camp.
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L.J. Collier buzz turns into L.J. Collier being released
I am hesitant to even criticize Collier because as such an obvious first round disappointment through three years, what good does it do to bring it up again? This is along the same line of thinking as to why I think it’s hack to criticize Adam Schefter or Skip Bayless or Stephen A Smith among sports reporters; I’m not saying that your points are invalid, but haven’t we heard all of this before?
It would be much more thrilling to say/hear that Collier is playing like a man possessed under new defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt. Maybe a role adjustment and another year of development will unearth something out of a player who produced zero sacks and one tackle for a loss last season.
But is that as likely as say, the coaches trying to speak positively about Collier in any way they can, see if that sparks a team to offer a seventh round pick, and then when no team does, decide that the Seahawks might be better off giving that roster spot to Jarrod Hewitt or Tyreke Smith?
Seattle’s offseason plan along the defensive line has been to shift to more of a 3-4 (meaning less playing time for defensive ends), acquire Shelby Harris, sign Quinton Jefferson, re-sign Al Woods, extend Bryan Mone, and draft Tyreke Smith in the fifth round. They also signed undrafted free agent defensive tackle Matt Gotel.
It seems to all be setting up for a defensive line that has Harris, Woods, Mone, Jefferson, and Poona Ford all locked into roster spots. The Seahawks only had six defensive linemen last year and they might only feel the need to keep five this year, given a propensity to play an extra linebacker or defensive back instead.
Why Collier over Hewitt, Gotel, or Myles Adams?
According to OvertheCap.com, cutting Collier saves the team $1 million. If that’s true, then he has to be at least $1 million better than the 53rd man on the roster. We’ve seen nothing to that effect. If Seattle finds a trade partner, they save a lot more. That also seems unlikely, but there’s literally no downside to talking Collier up before letting him go.