The months that span the final whistle in one season and the first in another are long, made even longer by free agency and the draft, which allow for our minds to run wild with possibilities. Sure things in March become afterthoughts by June; July, meanwhile, brings about another world of possibilities and sometimes, an All-Pro safety.
For as long as the offseason is, training camp (and, in most years, preseason) can be an absolute whirlwind with roster churning and players fighting for their jobs. With a fair portion of camp behind us, let’s take a look at the players trending up and down just a few weeks out from Week 1.
The sentiment around Dallas’s first training camp is excitingly reminiscent of Chris Carson’s first training camp when coaches and teammates gushed over him before the first preseason game. Dallas has been the beneficiary of a shallow running back corps, due to Carson dealing with family issues and Rashaad Penny’s recovery from a knee injury. Even still, Dallas has drawn praise from Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson, who called Dallas “one of my favorite guys on the team as a rookie,” on Saturday.
When Dallas was drafted by the team, it was with the expectation he could push Travis Homer for the third down role right away and potentially become the team’s lead back in the future. His camp performance suggests he will be in the mix right away, with an exciting future.
You could be forgiven for forgetting about Thompson ahead of camp—if you were aware of him at all. A mainstay on the Seahawks’ practice squad last year, Thompson was signed to a future contract in January but appeared low on the depth chart. However, limited moves at the position in the offseason have created an opportunity for the former Toledo Rocket to make a roster push and he appears to be doing just that.
Even a strong camp could not be enough to crack the 53 but for Thompson, another year on the practice squad could be a positive reward, with every chance a move to the active roster could come should the team’s hand be forced.
By May, Seattle had moved on from their starting center, right guard, and right tackle from the previous season. Yet Pocic, a former second-round pick who started games at all three of those positions at LSU, was a complete afterthought. In a traditional year, Pocic may have been traded earlier in the offseason. Instead, Pocic’s camp began with the exciting news that the Seahawks would finally settle him in at what has long been thought of as his best position: center.
Not only has Pocic gotten to focus on just one position for the first time in his career in camp but he has put himself firmly in the mix to start Week 1. Though the competition between Pocic and B.J. Finney is a long way from being decided, Pocic has regularly gotten reps with the first-team during practice and was the starter in Seattle’s mock game on Saturday. In just a few weeks, Pocic has gone from potentially fighting for a roster spot to fighting for the starting center spot.
Damien Lewis & Brandon Shell
The right side of the Seahawks’ offensive line is bunched together here because it has been all good for Lewis and Shell. It has quickly become apparent no players nor coaches can bring up Lewis without praising him, yet another sign the upward trajectory he has been on for several years will continue in the pros.
Shell was hardly a celebrated free agent signing in March (OK, maybe a little celebrated but that was more about who he was replacing), but Carroll changed that in August. Not only did Carroll acknowledge the right tackle spot was Shell’s but poured praise upon him, saying, “It might be my favorite acquisition because he looks so much the part. He’s a big kid, has good body control–there hasn’t been a thing about him that hasn’t looked good. His consistency and his technique is really a joy to see. I think he’s going to be really good. He can get downfield. He can get off the edge and block. He’s stout in pass protection so far. He’s physical enough to be dominant. I’m really fired up about that.”
Another rookie who has been positively received by coaches and players alike, Robinson appears to be on track to earn a spot in the pass rush rotation as a rookie. A strip-sack aficionado with a great ability to get off the ball and turn the corner, Robinson could have easily been redshirted with a stable of reliable veterans and highly thought of younger rushers ahead of him. Instead, Robinson added mass to his frame and has consistently impressed throughout camp.
Pete Carroll: “We saw some really good stuff out of Alton Robinson. Shoot, he might have had four to five highlighted rushes during the day. He’s just getting started.”
— Alistair Corp (@byalistaircorp) August 19, 2020
Jamal Adams’ arrival in Seattle could have marked the unofficial end of Blair’s time with the Seahawks, with his path to snaps blocked for the foreseeable future. Instead, and credit to both player and coaches here, they seem to have found a solution. The hard-hitting safety was given a lifeline at nickel, his first exposure to the position (though there is certainly some overlap in coverage responsibilities between strong safety and nickel in Seattle’s defense) and appears to be doing well with it.
Early returns are promising in Blair’s switch to nickel but the next couple of weeks will be the most important. Quinton Dunbar is now at the Seahawks’ disposal and could, once again, make Blair surplus to requirements among the starters.
An undrafted rookie from an Air Raid offense, where he was a one-year starter, who wasn’t even able to enter the building until late July. To ask Gordon to grasp the offense and be able to backup Russell Wilson as a rookie would be difficult any year but the former Coug was faced with an especially brutal set of circumstances this year. Understandably so, Gordon has been slow to pick up Seattle’s offense, with Geno Smith getting the large majority of second-team reps.
Gordon remains a very strong practice squad candidate but ahead of camp, the Seahawks surely would have preferred to see him come in and win the backup job. Now, a year on the team’s practice squad seems like the best-case scenario.
Poor Haynes. Ahead of training camp in 2019, he had an excellent chance to beat out Mike Iupati and start at left guard for Seattle. A slow recovery from sports hernia surgery wiped out that chance and most of his rookie season. Though Iupati was re-signed ahead of 2020, Haynes was again well positioned to take the starting spot. Instead, health issues have again kept him out of practice on occasion and he hasn’t been able to dislodge Iupati yet.
After a rookie season that saw Amadi play sparingly, things were looking up. Carroll expressed regret at not playing him more often and called the nickelback position his to lose. It’s still early but it appears that spot may have been lost. The arrival of Dunbar gave the Seahawks flexibility and three quality starters at the position, then came Blair’s transition to the slot, as well.
A high-character, high-IQ player, Amadi will carve out a long career as a special teamer. Athletic limitations may see him end up at safety long-term, which could open up further opportunities. All is not lost for Amadi, not by any means. The nickel competition, however, does appear to be lost.
Anointed not only as Justin Britt’s successor but a big improvement by some, B.J. Finney hasn’t seamlessly stepped in at center as expected. Instead, the former Steeler is in a tight battle with Pocic to replace Britt. It will hardly be the end of the world if Finney were to lose that competition but he has certainly trended downwards since camp began. News of Finney working with the third-team offense in warmups ahead of the mock game on Saturday was worrisome. Though there is still plenty of time for Finney to make a push and claim the center spot as his own, the start of camp has told us it’s far from his job.