Every new season starts with a series of questions that can only be answered when the team takes the field. The first day of OTA practices occurred yesterday, and provided step one of what will be marathon leading up to the season opener in September. There are no conclusions that can be made at this point, but a few tidbits were worth exploring.
3-Technique DT Battle
Pete Carroll mentioned that Tony McDaniel is trying to "own" the 3-technique spot on the line. That is where McDaniel played last year, so it was interesting that Carroll brought this up unprompted. He was explaining how excited he was to have McDaniel back, so it was not a warning shot, like when Carroll publicly said McDaniel had to play to make the team back in training camp last year after he missed a number of practices with injuries. Carroll went on to talk about Jesse Williams and Jordan Hill "nipping at [McDaniel's] heels." I'll have to see that to believe it. Neither appeared capable of doing what McDaniel did in the base defense last year in terms of holding the point versus the run. The news of note here was how clearly Carroll slotted Williams and Hill in the 3-tech role. That has always been Hill's spot, but Williams is a guy who could be a nose tackle or a 5-tech end. He still could be, but it appears 3-Tech is top of mind when Carroll thinks about him.
Doug Baldwin outside
The days of thinking about Doug Baldwin as a slot receiver may be coming to an end. Baldwin played flanker a lot after Sidney Rice went down. He shared the duties with Jermaine Kearse. Percy Harvin was out as well most of the time. In the first practice of the new year with a healthy Harvin, Kearse and Baldwin, and no Golden Tate, Baldwin was making plays on the outside. He has always admired Steve Smith's game, both in result, and as a proof point of what a shorter receiver can do outside if he has the right combination of make-up and explosiveness. Some hoped the Seahawks would inquire about Smith when he was available this off-season. They already have a younger version on the roster, and appear ready to use him in that role. This will be a position to watch as camp rolls around.
The shrinking James Carpenter
I'd like to get excited about the reports of how Carpenter looks to be in great shape and has lost weight, and I am to a certain extent. But we have heard similar stories before, only to see the big fella go down with a foot injury or something else. And when he has played, his performance has been uneven. His contract is up after this year, and I have questions about whether it is in the team's best interest to spend a year developing chemistry with a player on the line who probably will not be back. Carpenter, in my mind, has to be far and away the best left guard on the roster to win the starting role. If it is a close call with anyone else, the team should install the longer-term solution.
Plenty of folks are up in arms about the idea of Earl Thomas as a punt returner. I get it. He is the hardest player on the roster to replace, and returning punts can be a dangerous gig. My concern is more the position that Thomas plays. He runs around a lot at the back of the defense. How often is he going to tear across the field to break up a pass play or close off a passing lane, and then have to turn around and return a punt? I would prefer an offensive player, who catches a ball for a living, and has been resting on the sidelines to be the primary return man. If Percy Harvin can demonstrate a knack for the punt thing, he should climb the depth chart quickly. Punt returns are very different than kickoffs, and Seahawks fans were spoiled with the reliability Golden Tate provided, even when players were breathing down his neck. This competition is just getting started, and I expect more names to enter the fray.
Michael Bowie presumed starter
Not a surprise, here, but good to get some more insight. Bowie starts the heavy favorite to be the starting right tackle. Tom Cable can't love the idea of starting another rookie in Justin Britt if he can avoid it. For the line to get better, they need experience combined with talent. Bowie offers the best of those attributes for now. Britt will need to thoroughly outplay Bowie to win that spot.