As the Seahawks draw closer to kicking off training camp at the VMAC on July 26, most expect the impending competition to replace departed starter Brandon Shell at right tackle to be a traditional two-man boxing match.
In one corner, standing 6-foot-6 and weighing 316 pounds, former undrafted signee Jake Curhan returns for a second season as the "veteran" incumbent after starting the final five games of the 2021 season and performing admirably. In the other corner, standing 6-foot-6 and weighing 322 pounds, third-round selection Abraham Lucas has his sights set on becoming a day one starter following a stellar career at Washington State. Playing the role of referee, line coach Andy Dickerson will be entrusted with naming the victor, though he's not tipping his hand in June.
“We’ll see when training camp comes out, who's the most consistent, who's getting the job done," Dickerson said following Seattle's final open OTA practice. "We're looking for guys who are smart, tough, and reliable, and we have all those guys in the building. It's just going to be when the competition comes and we get through the training camp and the preseason games, who's the person, who are those five that we think are going to make the best offensive line. Not just the right tackle, but who are those guys who've earned those jobs?”
But while Curhan and Lucas look to be the favorites after splitting reps during Seattle's offseason program, there's a chance this boxing match could turn into a WWE-style battle royal with a third competitor flying into the ring carrying a folding chair and ready to crash the party in the form of Stone Forsythe.
Coming into the league as a sixth round pick out of Florida a year ago, Forsythe joined the Seahawks with limited prospects for playing as a rookie. Multi-time All-Pro selection Duane Brown remained entrenched as the starter protecting Russell Wilson's blind side at left tackle, while Shell and Cedric Ogbuehi battled on the right side.
After struggling a bit in pass protection during the preseason, Forsythe expectedly earned a spot on Seattle's 53-man roster with the organization viewing him as a potential starter down the line. But with Brown and Jamarco Jones in front of him on the depth chart, his rookie year functioned like a redshirt year at the college level, as he only suited up for two of the first eight games.
Once Jones landed on injured reserve, Forsythe started dressing for games more consistently in Week 11, seeing a handful of special teams snaps each week. Late in a Week 13 victory over the 49ers, he logged 14 snaps at right tackle with Curhan filling in at left guard, holding his own against standout rusher Nick Bosa.
Despite how well he played in limited action, however, Forsythe wouldn't see another offensive snap the rest of his rookie season. When Shell went down with a shoulder injury that eventually required surgery, the Seahawks turned to Curhan instead, starting the undrafted rookie in the final five games.
Still, while Forsythe's rookie campaign proved to be a wash, the Seahawks remain high on him going into his sophomore season. After playing with the second-team offense at right tackle during mandatory minicamp earlier this month while Curhan slid inside to guard, coach Pete Carroll indicated he would be in the thick of the competition against Lucas and Curhan once training camp rolled around.
“Stone's in there, yeah," Carroll told reporters after the conclusion of Seattle's minicamp. "Stone has really improved with time. You can't tell right now, those guys all did a nice job. They're a little bit different, but Stone is really - he's become better. He's physically better than he was as he came here. He’s stronger, he's more flexible, and he can play both sides. But yeah, he's in it.”
Built like a power forward standing 6-foot-8, Forsythe fell deep into day three primarily due to concerns with his height creating leverage issues, particularly in the run game. This problem showed up during exhibition games last August and he clearly needed time on the practice field to sharpen his technique in all facets of his game.
One year later, though he hasn't gotten to watch him showcase his improvements in a padded practice yet to see how far he's truly progressed, offensive line coach Andy Dickerson has seen Forsythe take major strides consistency-wise with his technique and his work pumping iron couldn't be more apparent. One of the experienced players in a very young tackle group, he's also taken on a mentor role with Lucas and first-round pick Charles Cross.
“He came in with a great mindset," Dickerson said of Forsythe. "Him, Jake [Curhan], all the guys from last year came back and really hit it hard in the weight room. The strength guy's been talking about the group, how they've all together pushed each other and the competition and just doing it the right way. I think just his focus, his mindset with all the guys that came back. The same thing, just coming back, locked in, taking the drills seriously, locking in."
With one month until veterans and rookies report for the start of camp, Forsythe's odds of earning a starting job on a revamped offensive line remain fairly slim. As a top-10 pick, Cross already has the starting left tackle job on lock down, while the Seahawks would be ecstatic if Lucas could win a starting job and promptly become a long-term answer on the right side. That would be the ideal situation for the franchise.
But with Curhan seeing some looks at guard and Forsythe possessing superior size and athletic traits in comparison, if he takes a substantial jump from a year ago and performs well in preseason games, he could easily turn the right tackle battle into a two-horse race against Lucas. At the end of the day, Seattle won't make a decision based on draft positioning and if he outperforms the competition, it's not out of the realm of possibility he could be starting across from Cross against Denver in Week 1.