The Seattle Seahawks kick off mandatory minicamp this Tuesday, wrapping up their offseason workout program before July’s training camp. While minicamp and organized team activities share a lot similiarities, minicamp is mandatory and players can be fined for not attending.
Seattle is coming off a 10-6 season and after losing key players like Doug Baldwin and J.R. Sweezy, a lot of questions remain with training camp only six weeks away. Who will lead the wide receiver group? Will Wagner take the field?
Here are five storylines to watch as the Seahawks begin minicamp this week:
Offensive line looks solid
The Seahawks offensive line took leaps and bounds forward in 2018, moving from dead last in the league to 17th overall at the end of the season. Now, in his second year with the Seahawks offensive line, left tackle Duane Brown believes Seattle's O-line has a chance to be the best in the league.
“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. And we haven’t missed a beat," Brown said. "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.”
The Seahawks also have consistency on their side, as four of the five offensive line starters will return again this year.
No early favorite for backup QB
One of the bigger storylines heading into OTAs was the battle at backup QB. Former New York Jets starter Geno Smith and former first-round pick Paxton Lynch were signed this offseason to compete for the backup job behind Wilson. While they've only been around for a brief period of time, offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer says both players have been "terrific so far."
“It has been fun to work with both of those guys, that’s kind of my baby—I love developing quarterbacks, I love watching them,” he said. “Paxton’s got a bigtime live arm, he really does. For a big guy he’s really quick and athletic. He picked up the system well. Geno hasn’t been here nearly as long; he’s got a lot of moxie about him, great huddle command, which is cool to see. I think the big thing for them is kind of learning what our standards are, what our expectations are in that room."
Rashaad Penny shines with Chris Carson sidelined
One thing is for certain: Second-year back Rashaad Penny is a different player this spring. After sustaining a broken finger in training camp last year and a late season knee injury, a more mature Penny has spent this offseason focusing on his health and learning what its like to be a true pro.
“I’m really pleased with the way he is attacking practice right now," Schottenheimer said. "I think 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. But it’s been fun to watch him grow. The talent is there—we all know that. It’s just him putting consecutive days in a row and I think he has done that the last couple of weeks.”
The Seahawks hope Penny and Carson, who underwent knee surgery this offseason, will be able to bring the one-two punch to the Seahawks backfield. Carson was present at OTAs, but continues to focus on rehab and recovery. Coach Pete Carroll said it would be "a couple weeks" before Carson rejoins the team, so it is unlikely he will take the field for minicamp.
Wagner still without a deal
The Seahawks and middle linebacker Bobby Wagner have yet to come to terms on a new contract deal. Wagner, who turns 29 this month, sat out of Seattle’s OTAs while he negotiates a new contract. While Wagner didn’t suit up to protect himself from possible injury, he was on the sidelines coaching and supporting his teammates.
"I will be here -- that will be my participation," Wagner said during OTAs. "I will be here helping the young guys, doing whatever I can. ... You want to send the right message. You want to support the guys. I do feel like the quarterback of the defense is pretty important, so not having that piece would put a damper on the defense. I just feel like it's important for our success, so I'm here."
It’s unclear whether or not Wagner will continue to holdout as the Seahawks begin minicamp this week. Players can be fined up to $84,435 for skipping minicamp, but all indications are that he doesn’t plan to hold out. Wagner's teammate, K.J. Wright, feels confident that the five-time Pro Bowler and Seattle will agree to a deal soon.
Tyler Lockett ready to lead
This offseason also marked the end of an era of one of Seattle's elite wide receivers: Doug Baldwin. With Baldwin's depature came an uncertainty of who would lead Seattle's young wide receiver group. Enter Tyler Lockett, who recorded 57 catches for 965 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2018, and is now primed to lead the charge at receiver using some advice he received from Baldwin.
“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. So I have to be able to speak from a willing heart.”