5 Burning Questions Entering Seattle Seahawks OTAs

From splitting up reps at the quarterback position to undrafted rookies looking to make a splash, there's no shortage of storylines to watch as the Seahawks kick off OTAs.
Jul 28, 2023; Renton, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith (7) throws during training
Jul 28, 2023; Renton, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith (7) throws during training / Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
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Set to begin the final step of the offseason program before training camp arrives in July, the Seattle Seahawks will open OTA practices on Monday, providing coach Mike Macdonald and his new staff their best opportunity yet to evaluate their current roster.

With 10 sessions scheduled between now and June 7, here are five key questions heading into the first set of OTAs under Macdonald's watch:

1. How will reps be divvied out for Geno Smith and newcomer Sam Howell learning a new offense?

Since having his roster bonus turned into a signing bonus in March, Macdonald and general manager John Schneider have both declared Smith as the undisputed starter under center on multiple occasions, meaning he shouldn't have to worry about Howell's arrival threatening his job in the short term with the pecking order already established. However, while it would be easy to do a 50/50 split reps-wise between them to wrap up the offseason program as the only quarterbacks on Seattle's roster currently, that's far from a given with both players needing to learn a new offense under coordinator Ryan Grubb.

Even though he's an experienced veteran, Geno Smith may still need the lion's share of snaps in OTAs as he tries to master a new offense for the Seahawks.
Even though he's an experienced veteran, Geno Smith may still need the lion's share of snaps in OTAs as he tries to master a new offense for the Seahawks. / Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Since Smith has been named the starter before OTAs even kick off, it wouldn't be surprising at all if the Seahawks give him the bulk of the snaps over the next few weeks before the dead period prior to training camp to help accelerate his acclimation to the new scheme and work on timing with skill players such as DK Metcalf and Noah Fant as they adjust to different concepts and terminology. At the same time, the team didn't trade for Howell for him to be a spectator 80 percent of the time and both the coaches and front office alike will want to be able to see him have enough opportunities to evaluate him properly with an eye on the future.

2. Who will take an early lead in the battles for starting roles at center and both guard spots?

Starting from scratch in the interior following the departures of former starters Damien Lewis, Evan Brown, and Phil Haynes, the Seahawks will enter the final phase of the offseason with not one, not two, but three vacancies to fill in the trenches at center and each guard spot. Though starters won't have to be declared at any of the three positions until the first week of September, the next month will be a crucial step in figuring out who has the edge in each competition leading up to training camp, especially for rookies Christian Haynes and Sataoa Laumea as they immediately enter battles at right and left guard respectively.

Bringing over 3,000 snaps of college experience to Seattle with him, Christian Haynes should be in the mix for early snaps with the Seahawks.
Bringing over 3,000 snaps of college experience to Seattle with him, Christian Haynes should be in the mix for early snaps with the Seahawks. / CollegePressBox

Most likely, incumbent Anthony Bradford will open OTAs as the starter at right guard after starting 10 games during his rookie season and gradually improving as the year progressed, but Haynes will be ready to push him right out of the gate. Next to him, after starting one game behind Brown a year ago as a rookie, Olu Oluwatimi should get the first crack at winning the job, though free agent signee Nick Harris previously played for new line coach Scott Huff and could make things interesting before the season begins. As for the left guard spot, veteran Laken Tomlinson has over 120 career starts under his belt and should be penciled in with the first-team offense while Laumea gets his feet underneath him at a position he only played on snap at for Utah. It's game on at all three spots and as many as eight players could be in the mix for a starting spot beginning on Monday.

3. With Byron Murphy II added to the mix, what will the defensive line rotation look like early?

While Seattle's offensive line offers intrigue due to uncertainty about who will start at multiple spots, the defensive line will bode watching due to the immense amount of talent across the board and seeing how Macdonald and his staff experiment with the group to see where everyone fits in. In the interior, veterans Leonard Williams and Jarran Reed will open as the starters at defensive tackle, with the latter possibly still seeing some work as a nose tackle even with Johnathan Hankins coming over in free agency. But it will interesting to see where Murphy, the 16th overall pick out of Texas, fits into plans out of the gate and what his presence means for Dre'Mont Jones, who already has posted workouts suggesting a move towards playing more off the edge.

If the uber-athletic Murphy jumps right in at the 3-tech defensive tackle spot and carves out a significant role early as expected, Jones' roster spot shouldn't be in jeopardy, especially with his massive contract and the expectation he will thrive in Macdonald's system. However, in the event he does play more snaps outside of the tackle in a two-point stance, with Uchenna Nwosu and Boye Mafe already atop the depth chart with double-digit sack upside, the pressure will fall on Darrell Taylor and second-year defender Darrell Hall to rise to the challenge, as they would be the two players likely to have snaps stolen by Jones. Beginning to sort out rotations in the interior as well as off the edge will be a storyline to keep close tabs on throughout OTAs.

4. Who will step up in the efforts to replace Bobby Wagner and Jordyn Brooks at linebacker?

Aside from guard and center on offense, no position underwent a more dramatic overhaul on Seattle's roster this offseason than linebacker, where the team bid adieu to a future Hall of Famer in Wagner for the second time in three years and lost Brooks early in free agency to Miami, leaving gaping holes in the middle of the defense. In response, after top free agents such as Patrick Queen quickly came off the market, the team signed former Dolphins starter Jerome Baker and Bills reserve Tyrel Dodson to one-year contracts with the former set to start off at weakside linebacker and the latter jumping into the MIKE role on what amounts to "prove it" auditions for 2024.

With Baker and Dodson both possessing above-average athleticism and a nose for the football, the Seahawks could be in good hands if they pick up Macdonald's complex defense without a hitch. However, if either of them falters or doesn't get off to a fast start picking up the scheme in OTAs, fourth-round pick Tyrice Knight may get an earlier chance to push for playing time than anticipated with the coaching staff being high on his playmaking ability. The former UTEP star and Senior Bowl standout will begin his career at weakside 'backer behind Baker, but Macdonald believes he will eventually be able to play the MIKE spot, and that versatility could be on display at OTAs as the team looks to fast track his development.

5. Which undrafted rookies will make a strong first impression gunning for a roster spot?

Unlike most of Seattle's OTA sessions in recent years under former coach Pete Carroll, with a new scheme being implemented on both sides of the football, veterans will have an increased incentive to be in attendance for voluntary workouts. Still, these practices remain most important for incoming rookies as they start meshing with the aforementioned vets on the practice field for the first time. Draft picks will be trying to vie for early playing time, while undrafted rookies will aim to take advantage of whatever opportunities are thrown their direction to put themselves on the radar before training camp opens in July.

After catching more than 40 passes in his senior season at Washington, Jack Westover will be seeking a roster spot in Seattle thanks to his past success with offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb.
After catching more than 40 passes in his senior season at Washington, Jack Westover will be seeking a roster spot in Seattle thanks to his past success with offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb. / D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports

Among the UDFAs in this year's class for the Seahawks who may have the best chance to open eyes in OTAs, running back George Holani should see plenty of reps with Ken Walker III and Zach Charbonnet likely seeing limited snaps in team sessions, allowing him to potentially get one foot in the door as a viable threat to Kenny McIntosh for the third down role. Jack Westover will hope his past experience thriving in Grubb's offense at Washington gives him a major advantage in a new-look tight end group as well. On defense, Nelson Ceaser had a fantastic final season at Houston and though he lacks elite athleticism, he has a relentless motor and plays with great power as a rusher, while linebacker Easton Gibbs could be thrust right into the mix for a backup role after racking up tackles in bunches at Wyoming.


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Corbin K. Smith

CORBIN K. SMITH

Graduating from Manchester College in 2012, Smith began his professional career as a high school Economics teacher in Indianapolis and launched his own NFL website covering the Seahawks as a hobby. After teaching and coaching high school football for five years, he transitioned to a full-time sports reporter in 2017, writing for USA Today's Seahawks Wire while continuing to produce the Legion of 12 podcast. He joined the Arena Group in August 2018 and also currently hosts the daily Locked On Seahawks podcast with Rob Rang and Nick Lee. Away from his coverage of the Seahawks and the NFL, Smith dabbles in standup comedy, is a heavy metal enthusiast and previously performed as lead vocalist for a metal band, and enjoys distance running and weight lifting. A habitual commuter, he resides with his wife Natalia in Colorado and spends extensive time reporting from his second residence in the Pacific Northwest.