Michael Bennett

Five Seahawks Training Camp Mysteries: 4. Can the defense be revived?

Five Seahawks Training Camp Mysteries: 4. Can the defense be revived?

The Seattle Seahawks opened training camp on Thursday in Renton, Wash., and for the first time since 2012 did so after having missed the playoffs the previous year (9-7). With the Los Angeles Rams potentially on the verge of becoming elite and San Francisco showing signs of improvement, the Seahawks could be on the brink of sinking further down in the NFC West Division. To avoid such a fate, we present five mysteries the Seahawks must unravel during training camp:

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Mystery No. 1: Can QB Russell Wilson carry this team?

Mystery No. 2: Will safety Earl Thomas report?

Mystery No. 3: Can wide receiver Brandon Marshall still ball?

Mystery No. 5: Will the run game become respectable?

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Mystery No. 4: Can Seattle's defense be revived?

This is going to take some doing. 

Seattle fell to 11th in total defense (323.2 yards per game) and tied with Dallas for 13th in scoring defense (20.8 points per) last season. In reality, those are not hideous numbers, but they represent a far drop from the glory years a short time ago. From 2012 through 2016, Seattle ranked in the top five in both categories and it led the league in both in 2013 and 2014, reaching the Super Bowl both seasons and winning one. 

Four stalwarts from that defense are gone. Cornerback Richard Sherman is in San Francisco. Defensive end Michael Bennett is playing for Philadelphia. Injuries forced safety Kam Chancellor and defensive end Cliff Avril out of the league. 

Complicating matters is that safety Earl Thomas is holding out over a contract dispute. Plus, defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, who spent just one season in Seattle, left to Minnesota as a free agent. 

Fun times ahead for new defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. 

Although linebackers Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright, and cornerback Byron Maxwell, who left following the 2014 season only to return last season, remain, there is a huge void of proven stars on this defense.  

But all hope is not lost. It's not as if the defense fell into the abyss last season. Seattle's brass hopes that it has done a good enough job of drafting and signing free agents to plug in impactful replacements, and see the further development of already emerging talent. 

Defensive end Frank Clark had 19 sacks over the previous two seasons while mostly backing up Bennett and Avril. Defensive end  Dion Jordan, a former top five pick by Miami who is out for a couple of weeks with an injury, came to Seattle last season and had four sacks in five games. If he can stay healthy, Seattle will have two disruptive pass rushing defensive ends to work with. Then the Seahawks have to hope that 2018 third-round pick Rasheem Green out of USC pans out. 

Losing Richardson inside hurt, but Seattle countered by adding defensive tackles Tom Johnson and Shamar Stephen, who both happened to play for Minnesota's top-ranked defense last season.  Johnson started 15 games for the Vikings. 

Seattle also added cornerback Dontae Johnson, who started all 16 games for San Francisco last season. Maybe second-year cornerback Shaquill Griffin becomes a star, and/or Neiko Thorpe develops. Then there is the intriguing, 6-foot-3 cornerback Tre Flowers, selected in the fifth round this year, the same round where the Seahawks took Sherman out of Stanford in 2011. 

What we know is that Pete Carroll can coach and develop championship talent. We also know that he and general manager John Schneider can identify diamonds in the rough that eventually become stars. 

What we don't know is if they will work that combined magic again. 

Weekend wrap: Seahawks lose their marbles -- but haven't we all?

Weekend wrap: Seahawks lose their marbles -- but haven't we all?

WEEKEND WRAP-UP -- A summary of what I had my eye on for the last couple of days.

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  • ARMY-NAVY FOOTBALL : Fun game. Love seeing those kids caring so much about who they are and what they're doing. And what they're doing is preparing to protect us for a good portion of their lives.
  • YANKEES MAKE TRADE FOR GIANCARLO STANTON: Derek Jeter sent his former team a very nice Christmas present. Obvious bottom line to that deal was the group Jeter represents did not have enough money to buy and operate the Miami Marlins. When you have to come in and practically give away your best player and one of the biggest gate attractions in baseball -- along with laying off some very long-tenured people in the front office -- you probably shouldn't have made the purchase in the first place. And oh yes -- I am NOT one of those people who think baseball's better when the Yankees are great again. Just the opposite for me. I grew up watching them dominate the game and am still sick of it.
  • THE SEAHAWKS LOST A GAME SUNDAY -- AND THEN LOST THEIR MARBLES: Michael Bennett deserves a suspension for seemingly trying to hurt another player. And, confidential to pro players, I don't care if fans are throwing beer at you (and they obviously shouldn't be doing that) just keep walking to the locker room. Do you think you can climb into the stands and beat somebody up? Does that really sound like a good idea? You can't win by doing that. Go tell a security guard and keep moving. It's harder to hit a moving target.
  • THAT GOT ME THINKING:  I think everyone has lost their marbles these days. Literally. I haven't seen a marble in decades. Do they still exist outside of grandpa's attic?
  • ALAN TRAMMELL AND JACK MORRIS GO INTO THE HALL OF FAME courtesy of the Modern Era Committee. I would have voted for Trammel but not Morris. I would've voted for Dale Murphy, too -- but you already knew that. Murph being left out again proves that you can keep people out of the Hall for reasons of character and/or integrity, but those qualities won't help you get into the Hall.
  • BAKER MAYFIELD WINS THE HEISMAN TROPHY:  I had a vote again this year and Mayfield got it. Was really impressed with his accuracy, especially on the deep ball. I had Bryce Love second and that's where he finished. I voted San Diego State's Rashaad Penny third and he finished fifth. If you never saw him play, you missed out. He's a very exciting running back. And by the way, I'm still one of the stubborn guys holding to the rules of Heisman voting -- not revealing my vote until after the winner is announced.
  • CARSON WENTZ OUT FOR THE SEASON WITH A TORN ACL:  NFL quarterbacks just have to figure it out -- stop with the unnecessary running. Know who you are. Instead of dropping your head and trying to power for an extra yard, hook slide. Duck and cover. Marcus Mariota, in the midst of his worst season as a pro, has been playing through injuries all season due to his penchant for running.  Just sit back and throw the ball until you're in the fourth quarter of a Super Bowl, guys.