With the eagerly-anticipated matchup between the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers awaiting us on Friday night, we spoke to Danny Kelly of the SBNation Seahawks blog, Field Gulls, to talk about the team's offseason and training camp. Naturally, as a Wisconsin fan, I had to ask about Russell Wilson, but we dive into some other offseason issues that have been surrounding the Seahawks as well.
APC: Besides the trade for Percy Harvin, which dominated the headlines this off-season, what major moves have the Seahawks made to their roster this off-season?
FG: The Seahawks have made quite a few moves this offseason, actually. They signed free agent defensive linemen in Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril to help bolster their pass rush, and also went out and inked veteran DT/DE Tony McDaniel, a 6'7, 310 pound linemen that was with the Dolphins last year. These guys, assuming they're healthy, should all contribute on the defensive line.
To strengthen their already strong secondary, Seattle went and signed Antoine Winfield, one of the better slot cornerbacks in the NFL and probably the best tackling corner in NFL history. He should get significant action this year in the slot.
As for the rest of the defense, the Hawks made a few lower-level signings in CB Will Blackmon, DL Martin Parker, NT Dewayne Cherrington, and as of Tuesday, traded for DT Sealver Siliga. Michael Brooks is a UDFA out of Eastern Carolina that has impressed in the preseason.
On offense, they have been tinkering at receiver, and signed Brett Swain, Bryan Walters, Donavon Kemp, and grabbed a couple rookie free agents in Perez Ashford and Arceto Clark, both of whom are making some waves in camp. The Hawks signed TE Darren Fells, a 6'7, 280 former pro basketball player in Europe (brother of New England's Daniel Fells), re-signed a former draft pick of theirs in TE Jameson Konz, and picked up another rookie UDFA in Andrei Lintz.
Obviously, they also signed Tarvaris Jackson after he was released by the Bills, and he's played very well in the preseason thus far, supplanting Brady Quinn as the likely backup here.
Sheesh, I guess they've made a lot of moves. I've not even mentioned the guys they've signed and subsequently released.
APC: Wisconsin football fans love Russell Wilson for his contributions to the Badgers two years ago, and we Badgers fans enjoy seeing him succeed in an NFL uniform. What has been the most impressive part of Wilson's game so far?
FG: Mostly his maturity and quick acclimation to the NFL game. We all knew the guy had talent -- he dominated at Wisconsin and wowed in training camp and the preseason with his stoic demeanor, strong arm, and penchant for big plays, but when the bullets started flying, it only took him six or seven games to cement himself as the long-term answer at quarterback.
Wilson has shown that he's accurate, smart, athletic, savvy enough to run the read option, and has all the intangible leadership characteristics you could ever want. The height thing hasn't been a real issue - the Hawks drop him back deep into the pocket - kind of like the Saints do with Brees - and rely on passing lanes to mitigate the height issue, instead of trying to throw 'over' linemen.
With a strong running game, the Seahawks use play action a lot- and Wilson's one of the best deep ball throwers in the NFL even only after one season. He's confident throwing it up into one-on-one coverage, and he's very accurate, even on the run our moving outside the pocket or throwing against his body.
Wilson still has a lot of potential to get better - and that's the exciting part. The Seahawks' offense is still a low-volume passing attack, so he'll surely be working on improving his third-down percentage and the percentage of success in the red-zone. In other words, making each throw count.
APC: Is Breno Giacomini still expected to play a big role for the Seahawks this year? Packers fans remember him as a turnstile from his time in Green Bay a while back - what areas has he improved in to make himself into a legitimate NFL lineman?
FG: Yeah, Breno. He's a funny character - for some reason, Marshawn Lynch calls him The Big Russian (Breno is Brazilian) and that nickname has caught on with the fans as well. He's expected to be the starter at right tackle this year and he's come a long way since year one here, after John Schneider nabbed him off your practice squad (I think).
He was less than a fan favorite at the beginning of the year last season because he racked up crazy amounts of penalties (many on late-hit calls where he would just pile onto someone after the whistle), but he reigned those in after the mid-way point and was actually pretty good the second half of the year.
For the most part, I do think the front office, and fans, like him as a veteran, solid player with some nasty to him, but he's likely in his last year in Seattle and the team is developing young guys like Michael Bowie (7th round draft pick) and Alvin Bailey (UDFA) as his possible replacement.
APC: With big things expected of the Seahawks' young defense, what are your greatest areas of concern on that side of the ball?
FG: The defensive line is undergoing some big changes with all the additions I listed above, plus the Bruce Irvin suspension and the injury to Chris Clemons' knee. Also, Alan Branch, who started the last two seasons at the defensive tackle position, was let go in free agency, so things will be a little different on the line.
The scheme is changing some with a new defensive coordinator (we're not quite sure how, but it's looking more 3-4 than 4-3 at times) and with all the personnel changes, it's anyone's guess as to how well it'll function.
Past that, the depth at safety is certainly a concern. There is not much experience behind Earl Thomas or Kam Chancellor, so if either were to miss time with injuries, there would likely be a big drop off in production.
APC: The series of PED suspensions laid down by the NFL on Seahawks players recently drew some attention from divisional rivals and members of other organizations (Jim Harbaugh, among others), while Richard Sherman simply said "it is what it is". What exactly is it that is going on, if anything?
FG: Well, to be honest, I don't think there's anything 'going on,' institutionally. If you look at the amount of suspensions going down around the league since the Sherman/Browner announcement and subsequent Irvin announcement, it's easy to see that PEDs and drug suspensions are not an issue isolated to the Seahawks locker room.
Ultimately, I think some players gamble when they shouldn't in order to get an edge in a high-pressure, highly-lucrative business, and that seems to be what happened in Seattle. Bad choices. Got popped.
It's also somewhat overblown as a 'locker room problem', though, I think. Two of the six Seahawk players that have tested positive for PEDs over the last three seasons were practice squad guys from several years ago that are not with the team anymore, one was a prescription-snafu with the NFL where the player in question screwed up the form allowing him to use Adderall, and another was thrown out for improper collection (Sherman).
Considering the Seahawks have had literally hundreds and hundreds of players in their program over the last three years as they've rebuilt and set records for transactions (not even exaggerating, hundreds of players have been through here), five confirmed positive tests over three seasons doesn't seem super alarming to me as a statement against the front office. But, obviously, I'm biased, and obviously, these guys were trying to get an edge and got caught. I'm really hoping it doesn't happen again because they've already drawn so much negative attention to what I feel is an excellent program as it is.
Bonus: You guys know that touchdown call was BS, right? Just kidding. It's water under the bridge at this point. OR IS IT?!
FG: Now what play are you referring to?
Let me extend a big thanks to Danny for being thoughtful and a good sport with his answers. I'm sure we're all hoping for an exciting game on Friday, with lots of playing time for the starters on both sides and no injuries either way. Head over to Field Gulls to check out their coverage of the game, and keep it here for everything Packer-related.
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