After concluding OTAs last week, the Seahawks have reached the final step in their offseason program with a three-day minicamp set to kick off on Tuesday.
Once players and coaches depart the practice field on Thursday, they will be off until they return to report for training camp on July 27. The first practice is slated to happen on July 31, ushering in a new season.
Unlike Seattle's 10 OTA practices, which are considered "voluntary" per the NFL's bargaining agreement, attendance is mandatory for minicamp and teams have the ability to find players for failing to report. Though most of the Seahawks veterans weren't in town for the majority of OTAs, all but seven players were on the field at the conclusion of last week's workouts, including quarterback Russell Wilson, linebacker Bobby Wagner, and defensive end Carlos Dunlap.
According to Wagner, many veteran Seahawks didn't report until last week because they wanted to prove that OTAs were indeed voluntary and they had safety concerns due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They also felt last year's virtual offseason worked quite well in regard to preparing for the season and wanted to continue using that approach, but by showing up last week, most players on the team have still gotten significant on-field work that they didn't benefit from a year ago.
It remains to be seen how Seattle's mandatory minicamp will operate compared to previous years. In order to get players to report, coach Pete Carroll hinted weeks ago there may be some concessions made in terms of workload and much like OTAs, these sessions still have contact limitations to begin with. There's a good chance this year's version will be even more stringent in best interest of the players.
Nonetheless, the three-day festivities should still provide the most extensive peek at the 2021 Seahawks yet. Here are five storylines to watch with camp opening on Tuesday.
1. Will anything new come to light about Shane Waldron's offense?
To this point, little is known about what Seattle's new offense will look like with Waldron stepping in as the play caller and that's unlikely to change much this week. Aside from DK Metcalf calling the scheme "intricate" and Russell Wilson indicating Waldron has emphasized tempo and pre-snap movement thus far, players haven't offered too many specifics. During OTAs, the Seahawks didn't conduct many team-related drills, minimizing the opportunity to see how the offense will operate. The team has also put strict restrictions on what reporters are allowed to report, preventing such observations from becoming public knowledge.
The situation won't be much different at mandatory minicamp in that regard. Formations, personnel groupings, and specific play calls won't be reported due to these stipulations. But there should be more 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 scrimmage-oriented drill work during these three days, providing a bit more of a glimpse into Waldron's system with Wilson at the controls and a better chance to evaluate players as a result.
2. Will any breakout players emerge behind DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett at receiver?
As exhibited by the Seahawks apparent interest in trading for Julio Jones, the team has remained on the lookout for additional help at receiver despite the presence of Metcalf, Lockett, and incoming rookie D'Wayne Eskridge. Now that Jones has been dealt to the Titans, they are unlikely to pursue any other big-name receivers via trade or free agency and an intriguing camp battle awaits at the position.
Boasting elite speed and versatility, Eskridge should be able to beat out Freddie Swain for the No. 3 spot behind Metcalf and Lockett. But there's much uncertainty after that, with as many as six or seven players who could legitimately be in the hunt for a roster spot behind them. Minicamp will provide a significant opportunity for undrafted rookies Cade Johnson, Tamorrion Terry, and Connor Wedington to put their unique talents on display and leave a positive impression on the coaching staff before a month-long hiatus, while returning holdovers John Ursua, Cody Thompson, and Penny Hart will aim to fend them off with a strong week of practice. These three days could go a long way towards figuring out who fills out the depth chart.
3. How will the Darrell Taylor experiment progress at strongside linebacker?
Now in mid-June, the Seahawks have yet to bring back K.J. Wright, and while it's possible the veteran could still return eventually, the team seems content with moving forward with Taylor as his replacement. Back in action after missing his entire rookie season recovering from leg surgery, the ex-Tennessee standout has been receiving work both at linebacker and defensive end thus far during Seattle's offseason program.
While he's a bit light right now - Taylor himself said he was around 245 pounds at the Seahawks rookie minicamp last month and hopes to get closer to 260 - he has looked healthy and explosive on the practice field, exhibiting quality burst off the edge and comfortably dropping back into coverage during drill work. With more team sessions on tap, he will have an opportunity to continue showing what he can do playing a Bruce Irvin-style hybrid role and with a stellar week of practice, he could solidify his standing as Wright's successor and a potential starter in 2021.
4. With an intense competition looming, which cornerbacks will stake an early claim to a starting job?
While D.J. Reed feels calling Seattle's cornerback group a "question mark" is disrespectful, the team will head into OTAs looking to replace both of its Week 1 starters from a year ago after losing Shaquill Griffin and Quinton Dunbar in free agency. There's reason for optimism, but at the same time, they don't necessarily have a sure-fire starter on the roster.
After a surprise return from a torn pectoral muscle, Reed played quite well in eight starts for the Seahawks last season. He told reporters during OTAs that he has continued to primarily work at right cornerback, where he should be the favorite to maintain his starting spot, while free agent signee Ahkello Witherspoon looks to be the front-runner to replace Griffin on the left side.
But with plenty of competitors in the mix, there's no guarantee Reed or Witherspoon will open the season in Indianapolis in the starting lineup and they will have to earn those positions. Seattle's coaching staff has been pleased with what they have seen from fourth-round pick Tre Brown thus far, while Pierre Desir, Tre Flowers, and Damarious Randall all have more than 30 NFL starts on their resumes. All four of those players could push for snaps. Meanwhile, Marquise Blair has returned from his ACL and will aim to reclaim his nickel cornerback job against Ugo Amadi and former Washington standout Jordan Miller. These competitions will be decided in August, but evaluations from this week remain an important part of the process.
5. Will Jamal Adams make his 2021 debut? Or will he remain away from the team?
Much like OTAs, with practices being limited compared to training camp and only so much that can be evaluated on the field, there will be plenty of attention paid to which players are in attendance and which ones aren't. Most notably, Adams was one of the seven players who didn't report for the conclusion of OTAs and his contract situation remains unresolved as he enters the final year of his rookie deal.
Speaking with reporters during the draft, general manager John Schneider and Carroll both made it clear they expect Adams to be with the Seahawks for the long haul. But negotiations on a long-term contract could potentially get messy, as the star safety may not be satisfied with simply becoming the highest-paid player at his position at $16-18 million. Viewing himself as a defensive weapon, after recording an NFL record 9.5 sacks in 2020, he may seek elite pass rusher money.
After surrendering two first-round picks and a third-round pick to the New York Jets in exchange for Adams, however, the Seahawks plan to do everything they can to keep Adams for 2022 and beyond. Based on past precedent, such a contract will likely come to fruition shortly before or a few days into training camp, so neither side should be discouraged nothing has been finalized yet.
Without a new deal in place, it wouldn't be a surprise if Adams doesn't show up this week. But if he does attend minicamp, even if he doesn't actually participate and only shows up to avoid a fine, it could be telling on where things stand as Seattle works towards locking up the All-Pro defender for the foreseeable future.
Update: Due to personal reasons, Adams will not be in attendance for this week's minicamp and has been excused by the team.