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Chris Carson Named Seattle's Offseason Standout To Know

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Carson Named Offseason Standout
With the conclusion of organized team activities and minicamps, ESPN NFL Nation reporters across the globe picked a player on the teams they cover that flew under-the-radar and stood out at workouts this offseason. These are players you should probably remember when training camp rolls around.

For the Seahawks, ESPN's Brady Henderson highlighted second-year running back Chris Carson:
Even though Carson began last season as the starter, he should qualify as under the radar because of what has happened since then -- a leg/ankle injury that ended his rookie season a month in, and the Seahawks spending their first-round pick on another running back, Rashaad Penny. Carson has been the most impressive of any running back this summer, and general manager John Schneider has said that at times, Carson looks like the best player on the field. After adding 10 pounds of muscle, Carson was the first name that coach Pete Carroll mentioned when asked which player impressed him the most in terms of the shape he was in when he reported back for offseason work. It'll make for an interesting battle for the starting job.

​Social Post Of The Day
Today's "Social Post of the Day" comes from Seahawks wide receiver Jaron Brown:
Here are six takeaways from Pete Carroll's final media press conference until training camp.

Bob Condotta of The Seattle Times wrote about Tyler Lockett heading into his fourth NFL season.

Tickets for the Seahawks' Family Football Fest are now on sale.

Free membership registration for Junior 12s Kids Club is now open.

Gregg Bell of The News Tribune recapped the positions the Seahawks will have competition at this fall.

Seattle Seahawks: Where things stand headed into the break

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RENTON -- Of all the differences between the Seahawks team that took the field for minicamp last week and the one that last played a game six months ago, Pete Carroll keeps outlining this:

"A lot of opportunity, a lot of competitive spots here, which is exactly how we like it," the Seahawks coach said, again, at the end of their three-day minicamp that concluded offseason workouts for the team. "You can tell the players feel it; I think I've said that a couple times to you guys. You can sense it from them."

Richard Sherman is gone. Michael Bennett is gone. Cliff Avril is gone. Sheldon Richardson is gone. Kam Chancellor may never return. Earl Thomas is holding out.

Yes, it'd be impossible for the Seahawks not to notice all the changes from this tumultuous offseason, and all the jobs that upheaval has created entering training camp that begins July 26.

Here's who was where this week during the three-day minicamp that ended Thursday, and the jobs that are most up for competition entering training camp:

With the Seahawks dedicated to re-establishing their running game, it starts up front.

The starting offensive line looks almost completely set, now that massive D.J. Fluker has made his Seahawks practice debut after sitting out organized team activities recovering from the knee issue that shortened his 2017 season with the New York Giants.
It's really the same O-line as last season, with Fluker replacing the departed Luke Joeckel. Coaches and linemen say they love continuity.

Then again, is continuity a great idea when that line was so porous in pass protection and so poor in run blocking last season?

This team believes the arrival of new line coach Mike Solari, with his more straight-ahead, drive run blocking, plus the run emphasis of new offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer will be the key differences in 2018.

It's Duane Brown at left tackle, Ethan Pocic the left guard, Justin Britt at center, Fluker at right guard and Germain Ifedi at right tackle.

Ifedi looked unopposed throughout offseason practices because George Fant didn't participate in them.

Fant was the starting left tackle until his season-ending knee injury last August. That injury caused Seattle to trade for Brown in October. Brown's arrival means there is no spot for Fant on the left side. Carroll has said Fant will move to right tackle upon his return to the field.

The coach said Thursday the team expects Fant to begin practicing at the start of training camp. When he does, the Seahawks will have an option at right tackle. That is, if Ifedi doesn't show Solari's more man-on-man blocking fits him better than zone scheme with which he struggled his first two years in the league.

Ed Dickson, signed in March from Carolina, is the new tight end with Jimmy Graham gone to Green Bay on a free-agent deal. Even without pads on all offseason, Dickson was already a more dedicated and adept blocker at the position.

Carroll is even more excited about rookie draft pick Will Dissly and his blocking ability. The coach said the former University of Washington's defensive lineman's true value will show up in training camp, when the pads come on.

"What we wanted to see in him, we saw everything we could see," Carroll said. "He needs to be in pads because he’s a line-of-scrimmage guy who can help us. He weighs 270-something playing tight end. We’ve wanted to get big and strong there.

"He was the guy we hoped to get. We got him, and he looks the part."

Seattle drafting running back Rashaad Penny in the first round this spring gave the impression he was going to be the starter. But it's Chris Carson's job to lose.

The seventh-round pick in 2017 is back from the broken leg and ankle damage he got Oct. 1, four games into his surprising job as the lead running back.

Carson gained 10 pounds yet looked sleeker and faster running during OTAs and minicamp. Then again, players in no pads who aren't getting hit tend to look quicker. Carroll has raved about Carson's work in getting back.

C.J. Prosise is back, too; he's been active for just 11 of 32 regular-season games his first two seasons because of injuries.

In order it was Carson, Prosise, Penny and Mike Davis (the starter late last season after Carson got hurt, and Eddie Lacy and Thomas Rawls failed) carrying the ball in scrimmaging during offseason practices.

Penny, major college football's rushing leader with 2,248 yards and 23 touchdowns last season at San Diego State, needs to prove he can pass block and consistently catch the ball in the preseason to fully compete with Carson as the every-down back. The promise is there, but Penny won't prove he can pass block until he has full pads on and is hitting people.

"Rashaad really was impressive throughout. He has picked up a ton of stuff," Carroll said. "(Running backs coach) Chad (Morton) was just talking about the pass-protection stuff that he looks so comfortable with after the time he has been here. That was something that was new for him and a demanding part of the game. We don’t have any hesitation that he’s going to be fine in that area.

"He’s a really good route runner and a good catcher. Very smooth, has excellent feet. He stayed in great shape throughout all of the time that we had him."

The Seahawks list Penny at 5 feet 11 and 220 pounds, but Carroll said he's 230, and that the Seahawks like him at that weight.

The Seahawks will not only have but actually use a true fullback this season. And, yes, the screen pass will be a consistent play in Seattle's offense, for the first time since before Darrell Bevell coordinated the offense starting in 2011.

The I formation and screens have been a sizeable part of the offenses Schottenheimer coordinated with the Rams and Jets over the last decade. Tre Madden, a former USC tailback, will be competing with impressive undrafted rookie Khalid Hill to be the fullback.

Doug Baldwin took a three-day hiatus from practice during minicamp to rest and watch. His place is secure as the No. 1 wide receiver again for quarterback Russell Wilson. Some doubt Tyler Lockett, entering the last year of his rookie contract, is a worthy number two wide out after a 45-catch season with two touchdowns last season.

Lockett said Thursday he played at just 75 to 80 percent of full health last year following a broken leg in December 2016.

Here's an option as the No. 2 wide receiver: six-time Pro Bowler Brandon Marshall. The Seahawks signed him to a low-risk, one-year deal around the veteran minimum to be what they lacked and Carroll loves: the huge receiver, to replace Graham.

Marshall is 6 feet 5. He sat out OTAs and the minicamp recovering from toe and ankle surgeries since October, when his single season with the Giants ended early. Training camp and the preseason will be Marshall's chance to seize a prominent, career-reviving role behind, or perhaps even with, Baldwin.

"He’s got a solid six weeks He’ll be well," Carroll said. "We need to do a really good job as we re-introduce him back into our tempo and speed and all that, that we don’t overdo it early in the excitement to see what he can do and all.

"He brings a real savvy and experience that we’re anxious to see how it fits. It’s going to be another guy in the competition that brings some uniqueness to us. Very big-statured kid, different than some of the other guys. ...

"So we’ll see how that fits.”

The starting base defense on this overhauled unit during minicamp: Branden Jackson and Marcus Smith at defensive end, Tom Johnson and Jarran Reed as defensive tackles; Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright and Barkevious Mingo as linebackers; Byron Maxwell at right cornerback, Shaquill Griffin at left cornerback, Tedric Thompson at free safety and Bradley McDougald at strong safety.
That's seven new starters since the end of last season.

“As you can tell, it’s a different era," McDougald said. "Things are changing around here."

McDougald was the free safety with second-year man Delano Hill at strong safety on Wednesday. That's how the pairing was for most of OTAs the previous three weeks.

McDougald said he expects to be the strong safety for the opening game Sept. 9 at Denver, with all signs Chancellor will not play in 2018 because of his neck injury. That assumes Thomas returns by then from his hold out while wanting a new contract.

Carroll said Thursday the team will remain at work over this six-week break trying to break the impasse with their three-time All-Pro, who is entering the final year of his four-year, $40 million deal.

Justin Coleman had a great offseason as the returning nickel back; Carroll repeatedly praised him on the field during OTAs and minicamp. He will play for Mingo, or whoever wins the strongside linebacker job. Seattle has been in nickel defense about two-thirds of the time the last few seasons, with the fifth defensive back substituting for the strongside linebacker.

Jackson and Smith were at ends because Frank Clark was resting a sore hamstring and Dion Jordan is recovering from his third knee surgery in 13 months. Carroll said he expects Jordan will be ready for the start of training camp, though he will likely be limited.

Special teams
There is a full competition for all three lead jobs in the kicking game.

The Seahawks gave 40-year-old kicker Sebastian Janikowski $600,000 guaranteed when they signed him in March after his 18 years with Oakland. That makes him the favorite over Jason Myers, whom Seattle signed in January months after Jacksonville cut him.

Jon Ryan and rookie fifth-round pick Michael Dickson, whom Seattle traded up to get, split the punting in minicamp. Dickson's booming, Australian Rules Football-style punts from his 10 years playing that sport in his native country—plus the fact Seattle can save $2 million against its salary cap by releasing Ryan—make the longest-tenured Seahawk an endangered member of the roster entering training camp.
While signs are the Seahawks favor Dickson, especially given what they invested in him, one factor is in Ryan's favor: Carroll has had Ryan be his holder for place kicks.

"That's an issue," Carroll said. "It is a concern. Mike has not done a lot of (holding, while punting for the University of Texas). ... That's just a part of this job, and Jon's great at it. He has a leg up in that."

Carroll said the competitions at kicker and punter will go into the four preseason games that begin Aug. 9.

"I don't want to go back and forth," Carroll said of alternating kickers and punters per chance. "We'll let them play the games, for the most part. Maybe by halfs, something like that. ... We'd like to see them get a good, equal shot to see what they can do."

Tyler Ott and Tanner Carew were the long snappers in minicamp, in that order.

Lockett returns to be the kickoff and punt returner. But Penny did those jobs at San Diego Sate and will compete for them with Seattle this preseason.

Now, it's six weeks of players and coaches scattering during the quietest period of the NFL year, before the mostly seven-days-a-week grind begins July 25.

"I’m concerned about the six weeks coming up, that the guys do a really good job taking care of themselves, coming back stronger and faster," Carroll said. "They’re in good shape right now; we would be ready to go into camp and we’d be in good shape. This is a concern. I think all the coaches are probably concerned around the league, what happens during these six weeks. But our guys are going to compete to do a good job and take care of it, with really good leadership they’ll pull that off.

"Then we’ll come back and let it rip."

Can Shaquill Griffin fill the void left by Richard Sherman?

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Shaquill Griffin has a new position in his second season with the Seattle Seahawks, having moved over to Richard Sherman's old spot at left cornerback after starting on the right side as a rookie.

But if you assume it has been a difficult transition for Griffin, well, he swatted away that notion like any good cornerback would swat away a sideline fade.

"Oh no, it's not an issue," he said following an organized team activities session in June. "Just moving over. It's a little different step for me, but nothing that I can't focus on."

While the adjustment has, by all accounts, been a subtle one for Griffin, it's a significant switch on a few levels.

There's what it symbolizes: Griffin, who appears to be one of Seattle's young cornerstone players, stepping into the role previously held by a franchise legend.

And there is what it means for the Seahawks' defense: having Seattle's best cornerback in the spot where it makes the most sense tactically to have him.

When asked about the reasoning behind moving Griffin, coach Pete Carroll pointed to how veteran Byron Maxwell has played well on the right side. He started there opposite Sherman during his first stint with the Seahawks, then he played on the left side last season once Seattle brought him back following Sherman's season-ending Achilles injury. Maxwell is the favorite to start at right cornerback after Seattle re-signed him to a one-year deal.

But there's more to the switch than that. It isn't as much about wanting Maxwell on the right side as it is about wanting Griffin on the left side. The defense's left is the offense's right, and that's generally the preferred side of the field for quarterbacks.

"With right-handed quarterbacks, most of the coaches that I was ever around wanted to structure the plays, especially progression-read plays, to be able to throw it to their front side, their right side, the strong side of their arms," said ESPN college football analyst Brock Huard, a former quarterback who played for the Seahawks and Indianapolis Colts during his six-year NFL career. "So for right-handers, that's going to be the right side of the field. And the numbers do, I think, typically bear that out over the course of games, over the course of seasons. That's where more of the football attempts are going to go. And thus you want your best player, your shutdown guy, to play that side of the field."

The numbers do show a slight edge for right-side throws. Since 2008, 30 quarterbacks (all right-handers) have attempted at least 2,000 passes. Those 30 QBs have combined for 45,430 throws to the left side of the field (defined as to the left of the hash marks) compared to 49,879 throws to the offense's right side.

Shaquill Griffin (26) credited Seahawks legend Richard Sherman (25) for teaching him "how to be a professional." Griffin said he is "honored" to be playing on the left side now. Harry How/Getty Images
The Seahawks on occasion had Sherman shadow an opponent's top receiver wherever he lined up, but for the most part they kept him put on the left side. While that was often used against Sherman in debates about the NFL's best cornerback, it's hard to argue against the results for Seattle's pass defense. From 2012 to 2016, a stretch in which Sherman didn't miss a game and free safety Earl Thomas played in all but five, Seattle allowed the lowest passer rating against and the fewest passing yards while leading the league in touchdown-to-interception ratio.

Times are changing for the Seahawks on that side of the ball, particularly in the secondary. Sherman is in San Francisco, strong safety Kam Chancellor might never play again because of a neck injury, and Thomas is staying away from the team amid a holdout that could conceivably last into the season.

Defensive ends Michael Bennett (traded) and Cliff Avril (waived) are among the other departures from what was one of the NFL's all-time great defenses. With so much turnover, the Seahawks need a next wave of defensive stars to emerge. Griffin's emergence into that caliber of player would be as significant as any other.

The early returns are encouraging.

A third-round pick from Central Florida, Griffin impressed teammates and coaches from the outset last season with his poise. That was maybe never more apparent than in Week 1 against the Packers in Green Bay, when Griffin, forced into an every-down role because of Jeremy Lane's first-quarter ejection, found himself in Aaron Rodgers' crosshairs and held his ground.

He finished the season with one interception and led the Seahawks with 15 passes defensed, which was 16th-most in the NFL. Save for a long completion against Washington in Week 9 that set up the Redskins' winning touchdown, Griffin did what the Seahawks demand their cornerbacks to do above all else: prevent the deep ball.
"He just looks like he's a veteran," Carroll said. "He grew a ton out of last season. Remember, we didn't have a lot of problems with him last year. There was not an inconsistency to him. There was not the rookie wall. There was none of that kind of stuff. He just kept cruising all the way through and had a really consistent first season, and he has just kind of picked up where he left off. It's kind of like, on the other side of the ball, one of the things Russell [Wilson] has always impressed us with is how consistently he approaches everything. There's never much fluctuation in his intensity and his focus. I see that in Shaq. He has had a great body of work that he put together in this offseason getting ready, so it's a good sign. It means that last season didn't affect him in any negative ways, didn't distract him in any ways, and that's important to see."

As for his move across the field, it won't be completely unfamiliar given that Griffin played on both sides in college. Being left-handed doesn't hurt either, he said. It seems telling that Carroll referred to Griffin's transition in the past tense, as though the adjustment period is already over.

"Physically it was no problem," Carroll said. "He had played back and forth in earlier years. His mentality about it was fine; he was wide open to it. That's most of it. If a guy feels uncomfortable and he's telling you he's feeling uncomfortable, then he is. He never balked at it at all, and there's no signs of any evidence at all that it's going to be a problem."

Sherman was well known in Seattle -- and is still in San Francisco -- for his willingness to mentor young cornerbacks. Griffin credited Sherman for teaching him "how to be a professional."

Whether or not he fully realized it, Sherman was grooming his successor.

"I'm loving the left side," Griffin said, "and I'm honored to be on that side now."

Seahawks embrace underdog role as media outlets write them off

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The Seattle Seahawks aren’t getting a ton of love from Vegas or the national media looking ahead to the 2018 season. Despite the loss of big names like Richard Sherman and Michael Bennett and the absences of Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor, the Seahawks don’t appear to be a team who will go down without a fight.

According to a report by NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, Seattle seems to be relishing the fact people are crafting their obituaries before the year even begins.
“I spoke to a lot of people in the Seahawks organization when I was there a few days ago, and they certainly like that people are writing them off a little bit nationally, and they think they’re going to be a little bit better than what people might be expecting,” Pelissero said. “Pete Carroll is certainly among them. He talks about the way that they have the competition going, he likes the sense of urgency from his players.”

Pelissero went on to note Seattle wasn’t a 4-12 train wreck last season, but a 9-7 team that might have been 11-5 if it weren’t for missed field goals. Pelissero’s report about Seattle’s optimism is consistent with what people heard from OTAs and minicamp.

Several prominent Seahawks have spoken about high expectations for 2018, including center Justin Britt, who believes Seattle can have a top offense this season.

Perhaps the biggest reason Seattle still has hope for a bounce-back 2018 campaign is rooted with franchise quarterback Russell Wilson.
“One thing that has Pete Carroll excited is about the relationship between Russell Wilson and his new offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer,” Pelissero continued. “Carroll told me Russell is ‘supercharged.’ He used the word ‘rejuvenated’; it’s all new, it’s not the same old, same old. Carroll has seen Russell Wilson applying himself, they’re hopeful that’s going to pay dividends.”

NFL locker rooms are filled with proud men who take exception to people doubting their abilities, especially if their team is led by a future Hall of Fame coach and top-five quarterback.

Embracing an underdog mentality can help unite a team and the Seahawks are making the most of the opportunity heading into the new season.

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