Analysis: Seahawks' 4 Most Competitive Position Battles – Sports Illustrated

The Seahawks feel distinctly fresh following the departure of franchise legends Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner. It’s telling that general manager John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll are seemingly reenergized. As Schneider and the rest of the front office look to retool (don’t say the rebuild word!) By adding talent and youth, Carroll’s central theme of competition has only grown in importance and has been recalibrated heading into 2022’s offseason schedule.
With free agency and the NFL Draft over, Seattle is now looking forward to its voluntary organized team activities, mandatory minicamp and the position battles beyond. Going from having three picks in the 2021 draft to nine in 2022 will also create for some better competition than what transpired a year ago. 
Here’s what projects to be the four most competitive Seahawks duels at this point in the offseason.
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A ferocious battle for a position does not necessarily mean there is a ton of high quality at the contested spot. Sure, Drew Lock, Geno Smith and Jacob Eason each possess talent, but we all know they are not the clear dude. That’s underlined by Seattle essentially holding an open competition at the most important position—by far—in all of football.
Smith has the upper hand in terms of knowing the Seahawks’ offensive system and verbiage, while having existing familiarity with offensive coordinator Shane Waldron and some impressive 2021 tape. The former 2013 second-round pick and Jets starter will be 32 years old in October; what a story it would be for him to lead the 2022 Seahawks attack.
Lock’s arm, though, brings with it the ability to make almost any throw possible in football, as Seattle’s twitter account has already shown glimpses of. The head-to-head of Smith and Lock will be fascinating to watch play out, and that’s assuming the Seahawks don’t eventually make a move for Baker Mayfield or Jimmy Garoppolo. Smith versus Lock has elements of floor versus ceiling, of sensible vet versus erratic youth, of stylistic contrasts within the same system
Eason winning the job would be a total shocker. Meanwhile, the two rookie adds—undrafted free agent Levi Lewis and rookie minicamp tryout Kaleb Eleby—are no longer with the Seahawks, leaving the team with just three quarterback options at present.
The third receiver spot is always going to be clustered behind the obvious duo of Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf. Second-round pick Dee Eskridge getting concussed in Week 1 of the 2021 campaign damaged the offense’s fly sweep plans and stalled Eskridge’s rookie season as a whole. Freddie Swain is a fine No. 4 or No. 5 option, but he cannot execute sweeps like Eskridge and overall has a low ceiling. The second coming of Phillip Dorsett proved similarly anticlimactic. And it’s hard to ignore Penny Hart running a 40-yard dash time of 4.6 seconds.
This offseason has seen the Seahawks address the wide receiver No. 3 spot by adding more candidates and doing so earlier. Eskridge will have another full offseason in the offense and is hopefully fully recovered from his serious head injury. The fringe Olympic speed of late free agent add Marquise Goodwin should push Eskridge, with Goodwin also a threat on the fly sweep, which should be a major constraint element in Shane Waldron’s offense.
The seventh-round selection of Bo Melton was the Seahawks adding another similar receiver type, with Melton’s athletic profile having elements of Tyler Lockett and Doug Baldwin. The Rutgers man’s tape featured a lot of YAC-style reps.
Even Dareke Young, who is more of a DK Metcalf athletic mirror, has some ball carrying background from his experience in Lenoir-Rhyne’s Wing T offense. The 6-foot-2 receiver aligned attached to formations and took fly sweep handoffs in a schematic style that inspired McVay’s approach.
Seattle still has Swain and Hart on its roster, plus young names like Cade Johnson vying for playing time in his second year. The Seahawks may very well opt to use more two tight end, 12 personnel looks this year given the addition of Noah Fant and return of Will Dissly (they only used this grouping 27 percent of the time in 2021). Regardless of how often the third receiver gets on the field, or even thrown at, the opportunity to win the gig looks wide open. 
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Let’s make an educated, highly likely guess here: it’s easy to presume No. 9 overall pick Charles Cross will take the starting left tackle job from day one and not let it go. The knock-on effect of having a rookie first-rounder anchor Seattle’s left side impacts the other offensive tackle spot. There’s a world where we see a three-way battle for the right tackle position between a trio of feasible starters.
Jake Curhan, a 2021 undrafted free agent, started the last five games of his rookie season and, for the most part, managed to fit in. Curhan’s work during the Seahawks’ dominant run game stretch was unsung, with the right tackle particularly effective working on the backside of Seattle’s mid zone concept. The wash was real. Most of the concerns with Curhan exist in the passing game and whether he will be "found out" more often in 2022.
This year’s third-round pick, Abraham Lucas, met every one of the Seahawks’ athletic testing thresholds. Unlike Curhan, Lucas is the athletic prototype and he brings 42 starts at right tackle from his days at Washington State. Lucas’ upside will be given every chance to beat out Curhan.
The wild-card in the equation is 2021 sixth-round pick Stone Forsythe. Forsythe is thought of as a left tackle pass protector who Seattle got savvy value with thanks to his lack of run-blocking experience. Yet the 24-year old, who turns 25 in December, was Florida’s starting right tackle in the 2018 season before switching to the left for 2019 and 2020. If Cross looks the part on the left side and Forsythe has made progress, the Seahawks may opt for a creative route to get their best two tackles on the field come Week 1.
Additionally, 2021 UDFA Greg Eiland and 2022 UDFA Liam Ryan are the other two tackles listed on Seattle’s roster. 
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The 2022 Seahawks defense has basically bucketed the SAM linebacker and LEO defensive end together, going 3-4 in name with the aim of accentuating the edges. This emphasis makes sure that Seattle’s roster building has two outside linebackers on either edge who can both rush the passer and drop into pass coverage, not more of a 4-3 defensive end to one side who looks less comfortable in space. This is especially important in base defense, where the Seahawks will run more of their 3-4 looks designed to combat the way current NFL offenses are attacking defenses.
Darrell Taylor is the clear first name on the depth chart at outside linebacker. It speaks volumes that Taylor was so impressive in his maiden year of NFL ball and yet the expectations for him heading into 2022 are even higher. Taylor can be as good as he wants to be.
Opposite Taylor, things are more unknown. That’s because Seattle has added depth and youth. Uchenna Nwosu arrived with the highest contract the Seahawks have ever given to a free agent edge rusher. Yet these figures speak more to Seattle’s past approach rather than Nwosu being a blockbuster deal. Instead. the 25-year old, who turns 26 in December, received a mid-tier deal. Nwosu will be looking to build on his 4.5 sack total in 2020 and 5.0 sacks last season, but a starting spot is by no means guaranteed.
Right now, 2022 second-round pick Boye Mafe is the obvious challenger for Nwosu. Mafe had a promising development arc throughout his senior year of college football and, if you use his Senior Bowl arm measurement, he met Seattle’s edge rusher prototype. There were a few technique areas on tape that need clearing up for the NFL. If Mafe can pick this up quickly—and they, on the surface, don’t appear to be difficult fixes—then the 23-year old could earn the starting job.
The other 2022 draftee, fifth-rounder Tyreke Smith, had a slower 40-yard dash, yet ticked all of the Seahawks’ other testing thresholds while matching Mafe’s 2021 pressure percentage, as charted by Sports Info Solutions.
Alton Robinson will be 24 years old in June and is entering his third year in Seattle’s system. When the Syracuse man was drafted in 2020, Carroll raved about his speed rush. It has therefore been bizarre to see Robinson add weight and come in heavier than the Seahawks expected on multiple occasions. It’s feasible to envision Robinson honing his speed this offseason and putting other things together with his past two seasons of experience.
The other outside linebackers on the roster will mainly make the team based off their special teams skill—a key requirement with Seattle moving to this 3-4 emphasis. Still, versus the lower string offensive tackles of the preseason, each of Aaron Donkor, Alex Tchangam, Vi Jones and Joshua Onujiogu possess traits that can cause problems in pass rush situations. 
Based and born in the UK, Matty has coached football for over 5 years, including stints as a scout, defensive coordinator, and Wide Receiver/DB Coach. He is Xs and Os obsessed.

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