3 things the Seahawks must decide on offense before training camp
Seaside Joe 1169: Why Pete Carroll should pick a starting quarterback before training camp begins
The Seattle Seahawks have voluntary OTAs throughout the next three weeks, then a mandatory minicamp from June 14-June 16. In total, that’s about 12 days of official practice time, and even more than that, plenty of time for Pete Carroll and his coaching staff to decide how the puzzle pieces should fit together when training camp opens sometime in late July.
I know that Pete’s mantras have been valuable to him throughout his coaching career and that the 2022 roster is as close to a restart as he’s had since 2011 or 2012, with competitions to start splayed out all over the offense. But it is just as easy to invoke a person’s competitive spirit by placing him behind another player and telling him, “You want the job? Go take it.” Or placing one in front of the other and saying, “It’s your job? Prove it.”
The Seahawks have to decide on a starting quarterback, an offensive line combination, rotations at running back and tight end, as well as the order of receiver after Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf. Some of those decisions will be made during and after training camp. Some things should be decided before August and the preseason, and I think that includes who should be the starting quarterback.
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Choose a starting quarterback
I know that Pete incessantly wants to add “Always Com-” to the front of his name, but what’re we really doing here if there’s a legitimate competition between Drew Lock and Geno Smith? This is not a situation like Matt Flynn, Russell Wilson, and Tarvaris Jackson in 2012. For one, there is no “Russell Wilson” in this equation, only a Flynn and a Jackson.
Second, this team is not the 2012 roster and can’t prop itself up to believe that they can carry a bottom-tier quarterback to the NFC West title.
What difference is it going to make if you split reps in training camp and preseason to give Lock and Smith “equal” opportunities to find out who is better or if you instead name one player the starter and let the other one run with the twos? Well, if you choose option two, then nothing would preclude Pete from later making a change and benching the starter for the backup, if necessary.
Because if you choose option one, there’s a better than 50/50 chance that you’re going to still bench the guy who you chose to start anyway. Why? Both of them are bad! This is the exact scenario that played out with Lock and Teddy Bridgewater in 2021, as Bridgewater won the gig, but Lock finished out the season. As I wrote recently in a look at the past six years of QB competitions, this is commonplace.
Instead, just pick one of these guys and name him the starter and tell him that it is his team. Give somebody the responsibility to do that. Frankly, I don’t think it matters if it is Lock or Smith. Fans are enticed by the fact that Lock is 25 and can throw a pretty deep ball, but he’s been as bad as any quarterback in the NFL over the last two years. Fans are not enticed by Geno Smith, understandably so, but he’s had a one-year head start on the Shane Waldron playbook and a two year head start as a teammate to most of these offensive weapons.
I think a true competition could be half-assing the full potential of the offense, even if the offense’s full potential with either of these options is underwhelming. It’s probably going to be underwhelming no matter who Pete chooses, so if he’s going to choose Lock, give him all the reps in camp so he gets up to speed faster. If he’s going to choose Smith, give him all the reps in camp because that’s not something he’s had a chance to do since he was with the Jets in 2014.
Who do you choose?
Who is the first team offensive line?
Despite a situation where the Seahawks will have new starters at left tackle and center, and potentially right tackle and at least one guard spot, Seattle is also in a position to start training camp with a clear-cut first string offensive line. The only question could be, “Is Abraham Lucas ready to start at right tackle?” and “Should Seattle sign a veteran starter before camp?”
Charles Cross, Austin Blythe, and Gabe Jackson should feel safe at their positions. The Seahawks could entertain trading Jackson, a move that saves $6 million if there were even a team willing to take on his guaranteed salary, but Seattle appears too thin at guard to risk starting Phil Haynes and Damien Lewis without having anyone left to provide adequate depth.
Cross, Lewis, Blythe, and Jackson should feel set as starters. Jake Curhan has earned first dibs at right tackle, however the team has a high grade on Lucas and Pete’s been impressed with the two rookie tackles so far.
“Both guys look well-equipped, physically,” Carroll continued. “They look like they can move like we would hope they can move. They’re both bright kids, and will pick up their stuff, so the process is underway.
“I was really fired up about that.”
The Seahawks must strike a balance between getting valuable reps and experience to their young players, while not sacrificing too many opportunities for the other players on the offense who will suffer if the offensive line struggles because of inexperience.
Decide if Chris Carson is a must-have player this season
If Russell Wilson was still Seattle’s quarterback, it should be an easier decision to release Carson regardless of how healthy he is after missing 13 games with a neck injury last season. For many of you, I imagine that the decision would still be an easy one because the Seahawks re-signed Rashaad Penny and drafted Kenneth Walker III, but I think given the current situation at quarterback it is even more imperative to have a deep bench at running back.
Seattle would save $4.6 million by releasing Carson, money that could be rolled over into 2023 or spent on reinforcements in 2022. But let’s also consider the Seahawks’ current goals, which whether you like it or not still includes winning as many games as possible next season.
An intentional tanking is never going to be in Pete Carroll’s DNA.
So let’s assess Seattle’s situation on offense: They will likely rank somewhere 26-32 in quarterback talent next season; they will employ one, if not two “air raid” starting offensive tackles who don’t have a ton of run-blocking reps in their history; they will want to establish the type of rushing offense that could hopefully give the defense the rest it needs next season that the offense did not provide last season; Penny has played in 23 games over the last three years, while Walker is a rookie who could need time before asked to carry a three-down workload.
Carroll said recently that the Seahawks “won’t know for some time” if Carson should be good to go for training camp and the 2022 season, but if he is healthy, then he’s a valuable third option in the running backs room and a clear step above DeeJay Dallas and Travis Homer. Seattle needs running backs who, like Marshawn Lynch in the previous era, are able to create yards after contact, break tackles, and move the chains beyond what the offensive line will be able to provide for them.
Penny, Walker, and Carson are all capable of that. Over a 17-game season, with at least two of those backs known to be injury prone, and an ugly situation at quarterback, it is even more imperative for the Seahawks to have all the options it can get. However, if Carson isn’t going to recover in time, then Seattle may need to move on quickly, gain the cap space, and scour the post-training camp trade and free agent market for reinforcements.
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