Aaron Fentress

Seattle Seahawks' LB Shaquem Griffin is on edge and ready to cut loose

Seattle Seahawks' LB Shaquem Griffin is on edge and ready to cut loose

RENTON, Wash. - Seattle second-year linebacker Shaquem Griffin feels at home again on the football field. He's no longer limited to operating exclusively behind defensive linemen while making complex reads before reacting, duties he struggled to adapt to. Instead, the Seahawks have returned the ultra-quick Griffin to the edge position where he thrived at Central Florida while displaying the skills that made him a fifth-round pick last year in spite of not having the use of his left hand, lost at birth. 

Griffin is now free to speed rush quarterbacks with abandon, reel in running backs from the backside and set the edge when plays ramble in his direction. Each of these assignments come second nature to Griffin, who is ready to cut loose this season after a disappointing rookie year that left him somewhat frustrated. 

"It just snapped right back to me as soon as they put me there and I'm having so much fun out there again," Griffin said following the final day of Seattle's minicamp at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center. "It's just such a big difference because I feel so comfortable out there."

Following trading defensive end Frank Clark to Kansas City prior to the NFL Draft, Seattle became in desperate need of edge pass rushers. Defensive end Ezekiel Ansah could be the answer, but he recently signed free agent and former Pro Bowler from Detroit is recovering from shoulder surgery and could be eased back into action with no set timetable to do so. 

"I don’t think we’ll rush him when there won’t be a need to start him up right out of the chutes, and we’ll see how it goes in the weeks to follow," Carroll said. 

Even when Ansah is full-go, the team will need additional pass rushers to spell him or line up on the other side of the formation on obvious passing downs. Griffin is a candidate to fill that role. But he must prove that he is up to the task.

In college, Griffin showed out as a pass-rushing menace. He made 33 1/5 tackles for loss including 18 1/2 sacks during his final two years at Central Florida. He said running around and playing fast is all he knew in college. Then he arrived in Seattle and suddenly he found himself playing a stacked linebacker position that didn't exactly suit him. Injuries to K.J. Wright to begin catapulted Griffin into the starting lineup at in season-opening loss at Denver and the day didn't go well for the rookie. He rarely saw game action outside of special teams the rest of the season and finished the year with just 11 tackles and no sacks. 

Griffin remains in the process of learning the regular outside linebacker positions and said that middle linebacker Bobby Wagner and Wright have encouraged him to embrace learning multiple positions in order to expand his knowledge base of the entire defense. 

"It makes you show your worth a little more knowing that I can go from off the edge to back to being a stack backer," Griffin said. 

But Griffin's heart is on the edge. 

“At this point, it’s about being available, and giving us a chance to move you around and play hard," defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. said of Griffin.  "The guy has real good speed as you know. He really understands the game. And that much speed and that much ability, you’d like to find a place to play him because he’s a weapon.”

Griffin admittedly has been a bit rusty out there in space. He said some of the pass rush moves that came so naturally to him while at Central Florida have been slow to fully return. The nuances of taking proper angles and mixing up moves to throw at pass blockers are still being refined. 

"There's so much that goes into rushing that I've got to get acclimated to that again," he said. "It's all muscle memory and habit."

Griffin hopes to play at a lean, mean 230 pounds. He and his twin brother, Seattle cornerback Shaquill Griffin have hired a chef to help them improve their nutrition and thus their playing ability. Shaquem said he's eliminated fried foods, fast food, chicken wings and pork fro his diet that no consists mainly of lean chicken and fish. 

Another aspect of his life that is different this year is the reduction in attention being thrown his way. Last year, Griffin was one of the top stories in the NFL given his unique story. Now he is old news and likely won't receive that type of attention again until he actually produces on the field. And that's fine with him. 

"I've been able to focus on my stuff," he said, "instead of everyone focusing on me."

Will WR David Moore be the Seattle Seahawks' choice at No. 2?

Will WR David Moore be the Seattle Seahawks' choice at No. 2?

RENTON, Wash. - Seattle wide receiver David Moore appears to be unassuming. He displays no preconceived notions that he should be the one to replace Doug Baldwin in the starting lineup after a strong second year in 2018. Moore doesn't seem to expect the job to be handed to him. He respects the moves Seattle has made at his position and has embraced the three rookies brought in to compete for playing time. 

All Moore covets is a shot to excel, which lays before him. The only question is if he is ready to seize it with his play. He certainly isn't about to verbally claim it. 

"I'm ready to take on the role that I need to take on," Moore humbly stated following a minicamp practice. "Doug left some big shoes that we all have to fill."

Tyler Lockett will be the No. 1 receiver. The candidates to start at No. 2 are Moore, veteran Jaron Brown and rookie second-round pick D.K. Metcalf. Moore, a seventh-round pick in 2017 out of Division II East Central (Okl.), started seven games last season and delivered 26 receptions for 445 yards and five touchdowns. He accumulated most of that production while injuries held back Baldwin. Late in the season, when Baldwin returned to being himself on the field, Moore managed just five receptions for 32 yards.

"Nothing really changed. Just got some more players into it," Moore said. "They showed up and they showed out like they were supposed to."

Baldwin was the key "they" that took opportunities away from Moore, and rightfully so. Now that proposition is non-existent, placing the onus on Moore to seize a prime opportunity. Those around him believe he is up to the challenge.

"He's ready," quarterback Russell Wilson said. "He can play any position. We're excited about moving him around and letting him make plays...He's a true threat all across the field and when he gets the ball he can score."

Seattle coach Pete Carroll made a point of bringing up Moore when asked about the strong spring had by Metcalf. 

"David Moore has made a big jump," Carroll said. "He looks like a complete guy."

Moore appeared in one game as a rookie before last year elevating his play enough to warrant playing time in all 16 games. Still, Moore had to overcome his inexperience, which led the team to limit him to one position rather than move him around. Even so, according to Carroll, Moore would blow some alignments and miss some adjustments. 

"It's not like that anymore," Carroll said. "He can play any of the spots."

That versatility will create opportunities for Moore even if he does ultimately lose the starting job to Metcalf, who by all accounts looks like the real deal, at least in helmets and shorts. The addition of rookies Gary Jennings and John Ursua also created more threats to Moore's playing time. 

Seattle's selection of three rookie receivers, Moore said, didn't bother him or necessarily provide added motivation. 

"It didn't really motivate me that much," he said. "I was just looking at it as we got some more receivers and they are going to help out with the room or they are not. And they all are."

Carroll appeared to assess the dynamic differently. As he sees it, Moore was ready to elevate his game in year three and the presence of more competition may have accelerated the process.  

"Sometimes competition is a beautiful thing," Carroll said. "It brings out the very best and you can see that David has really stepped up."

Russell Wilson bites: The Seattle Seahawks' QB touches on a variety of topics at minicamp

Russell Wilson bites: The Seattle Seahawks' QB touches on a variety of topics at minicamp

RENTON, Wash. - Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson met with the media following the second day of minicamp at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center and had plenty to say about his evolving relationship with offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, the receiving corps, the offensive line and facing the pressure brought by a signing a huge, new contract 

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Year two with offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer: Wilson went through the experimental phase with his new OC last year and the product turned out well. In year two, Wilson hopes to see the offense take another step because the synergy between the two has naturally improved.

Now, according to Wilson, when the two arrive for a meeting following practice they both have an idea of what the other is thinking and more easily share ideas. That enhanced relationship has helped the pair work on expanding the downfield passing game .

"How we're trying to attack defenses, how we're trying to make plays, it's very exciting," Wilson said. 

Last week Schottenheimer said he believed Seattle is the best play-action team in the league and that statement is not farfetched.

"Russ’s ability to throw the ball deep down the field, that was evident last year the last eight games, we were, I think, top three or four," Schottenheimer said. "He’s just got a great feel for it."

D.K. Metcalf and the rookie receivers: The shimmer and shine that covers rookie receiver D.K. Metcalf has yet to wear off. He's so far lived up to expectations this offseason, albeit in non-live action without pads.

"I think DK is looking really, really special," Wilson said. "He can do anything and everything. He's tremendous."

Seattle also drafted Gary Jennings - banged up and out of practice - in the fourth round and John Ursua in the seventh round. Having three rookie receivers can often prove daunting but according to Wilson, all three have assimilated well. 

"To be honest with you, not in a negative way, I'm kind of shocked at how good we've been in terms of the young guys coming in...," Wilson said. "Just how everything has clicked in such a smooth way. I feel like I've been doing it for years with these guys and so that's a good thing."

Wilson said he's been impressed with both the intelligence and skill of the new receivers. 

"The amount of guys that we have across the board from left to right that can really make a lot of plays and do a lot of special things is exciting," Wilson said.

At the forefront remains Metcalf, who is impossible to miss at 6-foot-3, 228-pounds of blazing beastliness. But there's more to Metcalf than physical prowess. Wilson said Metcalf is a very cerebral receiver, which has helped him make a strong transition thus far. 

"How he processes information and how he quickly he understands it, he is really intelligent," Wilson said. "He understands the game really well. He takes coaching well. He gets extra work. He's a legit pro wide receiver. He's everything that everybody was talking about in terms of what he's capable of and more."

Wilson said he learned quickly what Metcalf had to offer during a 20-minute conversation with him shortly after the Seahawks selected him in the second round of April's NFL Draft. . 

"You can sense it," Wilson said. "When you've been around and you've played and you've understand and you've played yourself, you can tell the guys that really hunting for something special. And I think he is."

Of course, all of the praise now ultimately won't mean much if the rookies don't shine when things get real come late July. 

"The biggest things is, the reality...we'll find out a lot when we strap on the pads and make plays," Wilson said. "That's when you find the true stars and the true players."

Wilson said he plans to host the receivers to Los Angeles, Calif., later this summer for some additional work, something he's done since following his rookie year. 

Surging offensive line: Left tackle Duane Brown said last week that he believes Seattle's offensive line could develop into the best the NFL has to offer. Right tackle Germain Ifedi said yesterday that he didn't believe Brown's assertions were out of bounds. 

Wilson said today that the continuity of the line (four starters return) gives the group a chance to be great.

"I think that finally we've got some consistency upfront of what we know what we want to do and how we want to do it," Wilson said. "If we continue to run the football really well, pass protect and make our explosive plays but also just be great in clutch time, then there's nothing we can't do.

Does $140 million bring added pressure?: Wilson signed a four-year extension this offseason that made him the highest paid player in the NFL and gave him five years total under contract with the Seahawks. Such status, Wilson said, does not come with added pressure.

"No, not at all," he said. "I think I always put enough positive pressure on myself. You look forward to the moments, you look forward to the challenges, you look forward to the opportunity, you look forward to greatness, you look forward to having success, and then it doesn’t waver. My mindset from my first year to this year, it didn’t change anything. I always say pressure was when my dad was on his death bed. And this is a game I get to play. I get to throw a football for a living and get to do what I love to do and get to be around a lot of great guys and a lot of great fans. So I think there’s an excitement to do what you set out to do, and that’s to win a Super Bowl."

 

Seattle Seahawks' offensive tackle Germain Ifedi enters pivotal season

Seattle Seahawks' offensive tackle Germain Ifedi enters pivotal season

One of the major obstacles that stood between Seattle's offensive line and achieving respectability last year came at right tackle where the Seahawks had spent a first-round pick on Germain Ifedi in 2016 but hadn't seen much in the way of return on investment. 

Ifedi wrestled with both injuries and inconsistent play while making a rough transition from Texas A&M to the NFL. Then came last year when the mastering of his craft began to take shape for Ifedi and, not so coincidentally, Seattle's offensive line improved across the board allowing the team to lead the NFL in rushing while providing ample protection for quarterback Russell Wilson. 

Now entering year four, Ifedi finds himself in a strong position to continue elevating his play because his body isn't under repair as it was last year when he had to contend with a hip issue and a sports hernia.  

"Coming to the end of the offseason program, being healthy for the first time in a couple years for the offseason program, it’s been exciting being able to do everything and work with my teammates out there," he told reporters following the first day of minicamp at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center in Renton, Wash. 

Being healthy is great news for Ifedi, who is entering a pivotal season for his career. Seattle declined to pick up his fifth-year option on his contract making this a make-or-break season for Ifedi with the Seahawks. 

"Reading into their not picking it up, I think football’s a business, man," Ifedi said. "They made a business decision, and I can’t feel one way or another about it. It is what it is. Going into the last year of my contract, that’s what it means."

It also means that this could be his final season in Seattle, even if he has a great year. Doing so might price him out of Seattle's plans with so many other big contracts already on the ledger and another huge deal likely to be worked out at some point with middle linebacker Bobby Wagner. 

"It's football, nothing is promised," Ifedi said. "This could be my last day out here. Take it one day at a time...work as hard as you can and everything will work out."

At this time last year many wondered if the offensive line would doom the team's playoff hopes as it did the previous season. By season's end, Seattle had one of the most productive lines in the league. This year they aim to be known as the best, as boasted by left tackle Duane Brown during voluntary offseason training activities.  

"I don't think it's blowing smoke," Ifedi said. "I think we all believe that. We're working everyday for that to be the reality."

[ALSO READ: Could the Seattle Seahawks feature the NFL's best offensive line?]

A second year under offensive line coach Mike Solari could help the unit reach a higher level of excellence. 

"He continues to pound details and we’ve all bought into that and, we all hold ourselves to that standard to start with," Ifedi said of Solari. "So, before he ever asked us anything where it’s self correcting and, they were getting coached up on it, but it’s been exciting and I think we’re still breaking new ground every day on where this O-line can go."

Seattle coach Pete Carroll said he has no problem with Brown or Ifedi believing the line could become the league's best. But... 

"I don’t know if we’re setting our sights on that yet," Carroll said. "Maybe they are in the room, which is great, but we’ve got to come back and run the football like we did and find more ways to be effective in short yard situations. But it’ll come back to really the pass pro. We want to give Russ a really clean pocket back there so he can do his work. That that’ll come along I think as we get together and the guys learn how to make their calls and fit together."

Ifedi's play will have a lot to say about the pass protection's success. He certainly improved his stock last year but clearly needs to show Seattle that he can be productive two consecutive seasons before the Seahawks reach into their pockets to pay the man beyond 2019. 

Now healthy, Ifedi has a strong chance of proving his value. 

"Being able to start from January after the season ended, a couple of weeks," he said, "and being able to work my way through the spring and the summer has been a real big advantage for me this year."

Bobby Wagner and Seattle Seahawks still doing the contract dance

Bobby Wagner and Seattle Seahawks still doing the contract dance

The Seattle Seahawks began their three-day mandatory minicamp today and one person not adhering to the "mandatory" part is middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, who again was on hand but not in full participation. 

Wagner, who has one year remaining on his contract, is putting forth a mini holdout until a new deal has been consummated. "Mini" because unlike former safety Earl Thomas last year, Wagner is at least on hand for workouts but not actually taking part in them, as he did during the voluntary organized team activities held the previous two weeks. 

The five-time Pro Bowler is acting as his own agent and has made it clear that he wants his new deal to eclipse the contract the New York Jets gave to D.J. Mosely when they lured him away from Baltimore with a five-year, $85 million deal that included $35 million in guaranteed cash (originally reported to be $51 million). So far, Seattle coach Pete Carroll says the negotiations with Wagner have gone well. 

"He’s handled it beautifully," Carroll told reporters today. "You know, Bobby’s an incredible player in this program and everything that he does, just his presence is obvious. He’s been around for everything. He’s been involved with everything and he’s handled it exactly the way he should under these circumstances."

Doing things the right way matters. Outside linebacker K.J. Wright said he believes that Seattle gave him a two-year extension following last year's injury-plagued season in part because he didn't hold out and participated like a player under contract should. Thomas, on the other hand, conducted a lengthy and contentious hold out in an ordeal that concluded with him breaking his leg at Arizona and then directing a middle figure gesture toward Carroll as he was carted off the field. 

Seattle did not even entertain the idea of resigning Thomas, who landed with Baltimore.

But while everything between Wagner and Seattle appears to be peaches and cream at the moment, let's not forget that we're talking about minicamp here. Not training camp. Wagner, a seven-year veteran, is not in need of minicamp. But Seattle will certainly want him in pads and fully participating when training camp starts in late July. 

By then, Wagner will either have a deal in place or Seattle could have a full-blown stalemate on its hands with the second best player on the team and most important player on defense. 

Seattle Seahawks' CB Shaquill Griffin is leaner, more focused and in need of a big year

Seattle Seahawks' CB Shaquill Griffin is leaner, more focused and in need of a big year

Seattle cornerback Shaquill Griffin admittedly played a bit selfishly last season. He overvalued statistics. He believed that big plays would define him rather than consistency. That mindset prevented him from performing at the high standards he has set for himself.

He's set out to reverse that narrative. 

"Just focused on individual goals I felt like I put too much pressure, because if I didn't meet that, I felt like I was doing something wrong or that I wasn't good enough," Griffin told reporters following a voluntary offseason training workout. "So that pressure was all on myself and the mindset that I had. That's the mindset I had to change."

Now we're seeing the new and what Seattle hopes is an improved Griffin entering his third season in the NFL. He proclaimed to have matured. He's better focused, ready to take his game to another level, but in the right way. As a bonus, he's 12 pounds lighter, quicker and with more endurance. That is the product of more adult-like diet. 

This is all good news for Seattle because, let's fact facts; Griffin did not perform well enough last season to justify letting Richard Sherman walk down I-5 to San Francisco. Griffin started the season well with two interceptions in a loss at Chicago during Week 2. Those were the only two offerings he would snag all season. His total passes defended declined from 15 as a rookie in 2017 to eight last season. 

According to ProFootballFocus.com, Griffin took a step back as an overall cover corner. In fact, the site rated last year's No. 3 corner Justin Coleman as the better overall coverage guy with a grade of 77.8 (19th among qualifying corners). Griffin received a grade of 50.7, down from 65.3 his rookie season. Coleman is now with Detroit while Griffin could be under a microscope in 2019. 

Griffin is equally as harsh regarding his play. He gave himself a D grade for last season during a recent radio interview. 

"I could give myself any type of grade," Griffin said following practice. "But the only way I can get better is if I'm hard on myself. Last year was just an average year. Being the No. 1 corner I can't have average years...I've got to be that guy. I've got to be more than just good. I've got to be great."

A change in mindset could help. Starting with the new diet, Griffin said he and his twin brother and roommate, linebacker Shaqeem Griffin - more on him later - hired a chef to provide them with healthy, pre-prepared meals in order to help the DB slim down and the LB to bulk up a bit. 

Shaquill Griffin said he has greatly reduced the senseless eating of unhealthy foods. A new diet of more frequent but smaller meals that include chicken, fish and a reduction in carbohydrates, along with working out daily, has allowed Griffin to shed 12 pounds of excess weight while not losing muscle or strength. 

"I'm feeling fast now," he said.

More importantly, now back down to his rookie weight of 194 pounds, Griffin said he has more endurance. At times last year weighed as much as 210 or 212 pounds, pretty hefty for a 6-foot corner. The added weight, he claimed, didn't impact his speed but it did hurt his ability to maintain his quickness throughout a game. 

"I feel like I had my speed but it took so much out of me because I was carrying so much weight," Griffin said. 

Now he hopes to be able to play an entire game at optimal abilities. 

"My energy level continues to stay up so I can run a lot faster for a lot longer," he said. 

His mental approach also had to change and that led him to the film room where he studied the 2013 season when the Seahawks, led by the famed Legion of Boom, won the Super Bowl. He marveled at how they they played together, celebrated together and demonstrated such confidence and bravado while achieving excellence. 

"It's kind of cool to see the type of environment they created with each other," Griffin said. 

He had other Seattle defensive backs download the video and watch it as well in hopes that it would become infectious and inspire the entire crew to raise it's level of play to at least come close to meeting the standards set by that championship crew, already gone from the roster six years later. 

"It kind of opened people's eyes to the things that we want to be, the things that we want to get back to," Griffin said. 

To help that happen Griffin has taken it upon himself to be more of a leader, and not just by example. He's being proactive and more vocal. 

While Shaquill is trying to improve his play as a starter, his brother, a fifth-round pick last year, is trying to put himself in position to make an impact on defense.

According to Shaquill, his brother is trying to bulk up while not losing speed and is thoroughly enjoying getting an opportunity to do more of what he did in college at Central Florida, cover and rush the passer.

Shaquem excelled on special teams last year but didn't deliver when given an opportunity to start early in the season because of the absence of K.J. Wright. However, Shaquem was just a rookie then and not quite ready for that role. He, according to his bother, hopes to be better prepared this season.

"I think it's going to be a different year for him," Shaquill Griffin said. 

That's the goal for both Griffin brothers. 

"I want to be an elite player," Shaquill Griffin said. "I want to be one of the greats. But first I've got to become a better person before I can truly change my game."

Seattle Seahawks' WR Tyler Lockett faces new challenges at No. 1

Seattle Seahawks' WR Tyler Lockett faces new challenges at No. 1

RENTON, Wash. - Tyler Lockett is about as unassuming as they come in the NFL. His physical presence at 5-foot-10 and 182-pounds doesn't scream "football player," let alone NFL star. His demeanor is more akin to that of an artist or as an educator patiently delivering a lesson. 

On the field, however, Lockett is all fire and fury with a heavy dose of dazzle. And now, he is the unquestioned No. 1 option in the Seahawks' passing game, which will require him to become a leader of a relatively young group as it moves forward without the invaluable Doug Baldwin. It's a role that on the surface Lockett doesn't appear to be well suited to embrace. But assuming as much would be underestimating someone who has overcome underestimations his entire life. 

"I think it’s all about how you approach it," Lockett said following a voluntary organized team activity at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center. "Obviously, it could be very uncomfortable, but every situation is uncomfortable whenever you haven’t experienced it before and that’s basically what growth is – it’s something that you’ve got to get accustomed to."

At the heart of Seattle's preparation for the 2019 season is the search of a No. 2 receiver after the team released Baldwin following a failed physical thus elevating Lockett to the top spot. The leading candidates are David Moore, Jaron Brown and rookie, D.K. Metcalf. Seattle his hopeful that a combination of rookies, a rising star in Moore and a veteran such as Brown can compensate for the loss of Baldwin and not force the team to search out a trade or sign an aging veteran as it did last season when the Seahawks brought in Brandon Marshall in what turned out to be a failed experiment. 

"Obviously we’re losing up Pro Bowl All-Pro type player in Doug Baldwin and what he’s able to do, but Tyler Lockett had a phenomenal year last year," Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson said. "It’s his time to step up again. He’s going to have to play a major, major role this year, which he’s one of the best receivers in the league and all the things he can do to separate."

Lockett separated from defensive backs so well last year that Wilson had a perfect passer rating while throwing his way. With Baldwin hobbled and not himself much of the season, Lockett had career highs in receptions (57), yards (965) and touchdowns (10). He scored seven touchdowns over the first nine games while a hobbled Baldwin was either out of the lineup or not at full strength. So it's not as if Lockett is not used to being the focal point of a passing attack. He's just not used to doing so without Baldwin around and unable to deliver as he did during the final seven games of last season when he had five touchdowns in six appearances to help Seattle reach the playoffs. 

Nevertheless, Lockett says he fully expects the synergy between him and Wilson to continue. 

"Yeah, I think a way to be able to build off that is now being able to work on being uncomfortable," Lockett said. "Obviously, we were very comfortable in the roles, in the positions that we ran last year and we allowed ourselves to be successful. But now some of those things that we haven’t really done together that we’re working on – which some routes that I haven’t really gotten to run like that because I wasn’t in the slot as much, now it’s being able to go off of that."

Ah, yes. The slot position so gloriously mastered by Baldwin with his jitterbug moves and sticky hands. He became Wilson's go-to receiver from that position running a variety of routes that got him open against virtually any type of coverage. The connection between Baldwin and Wilson was uncanny. Now Lockett, who has primarily played outside, will find himself attempting to duplicate some of what Baldwin did for Wilson. Yet, still expect Seattle to force opposing defenses into playing a game of "where's Lockett?"

“We’re going to move him around," offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said. "The best weapon for us is when they don’t know where Tyler is going to be, so we’ll move him around. He can do so many things so well. He sees the game instinctive so well that he’s a hard matchup.”

Lockett said he's fine lining up wherever. 

"Wherever I’m at, it’s all about trying to get open or get other people open," he said. "And that’s what it’s all about. A lot of people – some people in the league, they only know how to play one position. And to me that’s the fastest way to be out. So I want to be able to master every single thing."

One thing Lockett has certainly at least come close to mastering is returning kicks. He's returned 130 career punts and 112 kicks. He hopes to remain in those roles in 2019. 

"I want to do everything, everything that I could possibly do, whatever that is," he said.

No matter how much of the yardage-producing load Lockett takes on, he will need help, and that will likely require him helping the younger players along just as Baldwin did with him during their four seasons together. 

"They watch the way he works," Schottenheimer said of the young receivers that includes Garry Jennings and John Ursua. "He doesn’t have to say much, just because of the way he works. If I’m nitpicking, he dropped a big third down pass, right? We came right back to him and he scored; I think that’s the best example for a young player."

The young player the team is highest on is Metcalf, a second-round pick out of Mississippi that is 6-4, 229 pounds and seemingly glides across the field like a runaway stallion. 

"I think he’s way above what people from the outside probably expected him to be," Lockett said. 

In a perfect word, Metcalf would develop quickly enough to start opposite Lockett and Moore and Brown would round out the top four. 

However it shakes out, Lockett will be the focal point and the groups leader, a role Baldwin helped him prepare for. 

"I think the biggest thing that I learned when it comes to Doug is you have to be yourself," Lockett said. "I have to be able to understand who I am as a leader and what I bring to the team as a leader. The things that he brought, I was able to learn from that and I was able to see that. But he also taught me how to be myself because if I can’t be myself, everybody else won’t be able to accept the message that I’m trying to allow them to be able to receive"

Seattle Seahawks' running back Rashaad Penny a different player this spring

Seattle Seahawks' running back Rashaad Penny a different player this spring

RENTON, Wash. - Seattle running back Rashaad Penny has an uphill climb ahead of him to unseat starter Chris Carson. The first step in that process for Penny is demonstrating to the coaching staff that he is capable of matching the consistent displayed last season by his competition, who led the team with 1,151 rushing yards.   

So far through voluntary offseason training activities, Penny has been nothing less than impressive, according to offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, who said he sees in the second-year back a more mature and professional individual.

An example of Penny's versatility and talent offered up by Schottenheimer involved the 220-pounder running a choice route out of the backfield, deftly setting up a linebacker and then getting open for the reception. 

"You don't really see guys that big that can move like that," Schottenheimer said. "There's really nothing that he can't do."

That was the thought process that compelled Seattle last year to selected Penny in the first round of the NFL Draft out of San Diego State. An injury during training camp set him back while Carson, a seventh-round pick in 2017, emerged as the clear starter. Penny showed flashes during the season while rushing for 419 yards and two touchdowns with an average of 4.9 yards per carry. But Carson, who has been sitting out of OTAs with a tweaked knee, proved to be the more consistent professional and remained the starter when healthy. 

Penny has one trait that Carson does not and that's explosive speed. If Penny can put together the rest of this game, that breakaway ability would make him difficult to keep him on the sideline. Although it's only June, Schottenheimer said Penny appears to be a different man this time around. 

"I'm really pleased with the way he's attacking practice right now," Schottenheimer said. "Last year he didn't know what he didn't know. Now he's got some leadership ability. He's getting a ton of reps  because obviously Chris is out. It's been fun to watch him grow. The talent is there. We all know that. It's just him putting together consecutive days in a row. And I think he's done that the last couple of weeks. It's been cool to watch him mature."

Seattle coach Pete Carroll said that Penny appears leaner and faster than he did last year, which should only enhance his chances of making a bigger impact in 2019. 

"He looks great. He looks great," Carroll said. "He’s fast, he’s lean, he looks like the off season that he put forth and then also what he’s done with our guys has been working right on point. He’s doing really well. He’s trimmed a little bit. Yeah. He’s stronger than he was, I think, so he’s transferred some weight. But he looks great right now, so we’re really happy with them."

Could the Seattle Seahawks feature the NFL's best offensive line?

Could the Seattle Seahawks feature the NFL's best offensive line?

RENTON, Wash. - At this time last season the Seattle Seahawks' offensive line created a sense of dread regarding the 2018 season after the pitiful performance the group had put forth in 2017 and with the only addition being a seemingly average guard from a bad New York Giants team. 

That feeling is antithetical to the vibe surrounding the crew one year later. 

Seattle shockingly led the NFL in rushing last season and gave quarterback Russell Wilson the protection he needed to throw for a career-high 35 touchdown passes while Seattle went 10-6 to reach the playoffs. Four of the five starters from that group remain with only J.R. Sweezy, acquired last year during training camp, having moved on by signing with Arizona. Replacing him will be veteran Mike Iupati, who has also worked with Seattle offensive line coach Mike Solari and spent last season with the Cardinals. 

The 80 percent retention coupled with the addition of Iupati has left tackle Duane Brown believing that Seattle might become more dominant upfront. 

“I think him being in a system with Solari had some rapport with him and with the system and the terminology and everything," Brown said. "And I’m so happy we got him. I’ve been a big fan of his throughout the years, watching him play in San Francisco and Arizona. I mean, our line has the chance to be the best in the league. I think if we keep everyone healthy, the talent that we have, the mixture of youth and experience that we have, we have the chance to really be great and Mike has been a great addition for us.”

Those are lofty expectations but not at all completely unrealistic. Leading the NFL in rushing last season is a great place to start. What might keep this line from being hailed as the league's best, however, is the lack of Pro Bowl players. Brown made the Pro Bowl with Houston before the Texans traded him to Seattle during the 2017 season. Not one Seahawks lineman reached the Pro Bowl last season despite the team leading the league in rushing. Sweezy was named as an alternate. 

For Seattle to earn "best in the league" status it must see continued improvement from center Justin Britt and right tackle Germain Ifedi. The other projected starter at guard is D.J. Fluker, the lone new addition to the team last spring. He added nastiness and a veteran presence to the group that helped transform the line into a nasty, ground churning unit. 

That's a heck of a solid starting five and one that should at least have Seattle near the top of the rushing category once again. 

"You saw the production we had throughout the year, and this year, being a year better for it, this time of the year is about getting the information, getting back up to speed on things," Brown said. "And we haven’t missed a beat."

Another new addition to the group is rookie guard Phil Haynes, a fourth-round pick out of Wake Forest. Brown said Haynes has fit in well and appears to be a quick learner. 

"He’s catching on pretty quickly," Brown said. "He’s got a great demeanor. A lot of times, this kind of atmosphere can be overwhelming, being given so much information, the speed right now, you’re not used to practicing without pads on so fast and everything’s happening so quickly, but he’s handling everything well. Today he was in there with the ones and played next to me and communicated great."

He will have to learn quickly to keep up with a deep group of players that are looking forward to a second year together under Solari and blocking for Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny. Seattle might not become the very best, but it should continue to give the Seahawks a chance to run the ball well enough to make another run at the playoffs. 

"We’re communicating and everything well," Brown said of the benefits of entering year two as a group. "No one’s confused out there. I think once we get the pads on, the amount of physicality we’ll play with will be demoralizing for defenses, so I’m looking forward to it.”

Seahawks' LB K.J. Wright is healthy, happy and grateful to still be in Seattle

Seahawks' LB K.J. Wright is healthy, happy and grateful to still be in Seattle

RENTON, Wash. - Plenty of times last season K.J. Wright didn't believe he would remain with the Seahawks beyond 2018. He had plenty of reasons to doubt his future. 

A knee injury led to surgery that limited him to five games and 23 tackles. Also, he had one year remaining on his contract and had reached age 29 with eight body-crushing seasons under his belt. 

"All those signs say, 'thank you for your services, but we have to move on,'" Wright said today following a voluntary offseason training activity at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center.

Yet, here Wright remains in a Seahawks uniform for a ninth season, longer than any other man on the team, a fact that prompted a reporter to refer to him as the "old guy" of the team.

"Aw," Wright responded with a laugh as he took two steps away from the microphone. "Now I'm going to walk off."

He didn't. He remained and said that having put in more time with the Seahawks than anyone else remaining is "fun" for him. 

"Someone told me yesterday – longest tenured Seahawk – which is a blessing and an honor just to be in one program your whole career and it’s fun being in this position," he said. "It’s more of a mentoring role in this phase and when training camp comes, I’ll be out there hustling and bustling with the guys.”

Wright is one of three remaining starters from the Super Bowl teams of 2013 and 2014. He, middle linebacker Bobby Wagner and quarterback Russell Wilson are all that remains from the list of key players from those teams. Wilson, of course, wasn't going anywhere this offseason with one year remaining and coming off of one of his best seasons. Seattle singed him to a four-year, $140 million extension. Wager has one year remaining on his deal and is also coming off of one of his best-ever seasons. He is in the middle of negotiations with the Seahawks. Then there was Wright, coming off of his worst season as a professional, appearing in fewer than 12 games for the first time in his career. 

Wright might have not been brought back if not for his play late in the season. He had seven tackles and a pass defended on the final weekend of the regular season during a win at home over Arizona. In the Wild Card playoff loss at Dallas, Wright made eight tackles (seven solo) and intercepted a pass in the end zone. 

"I think it played a lot into it, " Wright said. 

He also credited the fans, media and people in the Seahawks' building who clamored for his return. 

"I thank everybody for making that happen," he said. 

Wright received a two-year, $15 million contract with $8 million in guaranteed money to be paid out in 2019. The remaining $7 million is not promised to him, which means Seattle could easily let him go after this season should he not perform well or once again become beset by injuries. 

But such unpleasant details are best left for the future. Right now, Wright is gearing up for a season in which he hopes to return to his former self. 

"What I went through last year really put things in perspective for me," Wright said. "Just approach every game, every practice with gratitude and thankfulness because you just never know when something may happen and it could be your last play. So I’m just real thankful and I’m just going to go into this season and just have fun and enjoy it and not sweat the small stuff.”

Maybe nobody on the team is happier about Wright's return than Wagner.

"Since I got here, he’s been one of the guys that has helped me grow into the player that I became and when we first get into the league, you think about getting to that second deal, a lot of guys don’t make it to the third," Wagner said. "So to see him make it to his third deal and see what he’s able to do for his family and the financial freedom that he’s going to have moving forward, life out of football, is amazing."

Wright has a very productive life away football. He's been very active in charities, including an effort to build wells in Kenya, a country in East Africa. Wright said he and about 20 family and friends will travel there next month. He has helped to raise about $70,000 that he said should provide two water wells at a school he visited last year. 

When he returns, training camp will be just around the corner. Seattle coach Pete Carroll has expressed excitement at having a healthy Wright alongside Wagner and veteran Mychal Kendricks. It's a group the coach has called potentially the best Seattle has had since Carroll became head coach in 2010. 

But long gone are many prominent names from the glory years, including safety Earl Thomas, not resigned, and safety Kam Chancellor and wide receiver Doug Baldwin, released earlier this month. 

"It is weird," Wright said. "And when Kam and Cliff (Avril) went down and (Richard Sherman) got traded, that's when you just saw the team shifting," he said. "But it is what it is. It happens."

Not to Wright. At least, not yet. 

"I'm glad they love me," Wright said. "They know what I bring to the table...I know that I'm a good football player but you just have to keep doing it because it's a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately-type business. nobody cares about what you did in the past."

Wright said he is feeling 100 percent healthy right now and plays to be smart during OTAs. Keep his legs fresh. Not put too much on his body until it matters. 

Seattle has added some depth at linebacker to help prepare for the future. When asked if that depth could lead to him taking some plays off in order to help remain healthy, Wright wasn't hearing it. 

"Nah, nah," he said. "I don't like coming off the field."

Seattle hopes he won't need to for at least another 32 games.