Tomorrow, the VMAC will come alive once again. The echo of screeching whistles, crashing pads, and hip-hop music will fill the air as training camp opens the gates to 2013 NFL season. The team enters camp with perhaps the most stacked roster in their history. For the first time in the Pete Carroll/John Schneider regime, very few question marks remain when it comes to who will be starting come week 1 of the regular season. But the culture of competition will always exude strongly when Carroll runs camp, bringing with it intriguing position battles between talented players. As camp rapidly approaches, here are 4 key position battles to monitor as it progresses.
Strong-Side Linebacker (SAM)
Believe it or not, strong-side linebacker is pretty much the only vacant starting spot on the team. It is quite rare to see an NFL team retain 21 of its 22 starters from the previous season. The SAM was originally supposed to be a wide-open competition between the likes of Malcolm Smith, Mike Morgan, Allen Bradford, and others. But when the team made the announcement that second-year pro Bruce Irvin would make the position switch to outside linebacker, it all but penciled Irvin in as the likely winner of the SAM starting spot. What keeps this situation intriguing, however, is the fact that Irvin will miss the first 4 regular season games due to suspension. Someone has to fill in for him during that stint if not longer, should they perform well enough! The other linebackers have been training and competing all offseason to compete for this one starting spot; the position switch of Irvin shouldn’t keep them from going all-out to win that starting gig.
Guard is an interesting position to watch. Even though the starters from last year are returning, both guard spots are still up for grabs between four players: James Carpenter, Paul McQuistan, John Moffitt, J.R. Sweezy. The logjam at guard all starts with James Carpenter’s health; if Carpenter is able to stay 100% healthy for the duration of camp and perform up to standard, he will automatically be the starting left guard. If not, it likely goes back to a serviceable starter in McQuistan. Right guard last season was patrolled by a combination of both Moffitt and Sweezy. There were games when each would literally take turns playing right guard on different possessions. Sweezy struggled early on as a rookie last year, but his game really picked up as the season progressed. His ceiling is higher than that of Moffitt, who is overall a good player in his own right, but has he done enough over the offseason to realize some of that potential? Camp should reveal plenty.
The saying “you can never have enough good cornerbacks” is never cliché in the NFL today. Or is it? With the group of cornerbacks currently on the roster now, we might just have too many good cornerbacks than available spots on the roster. The starting CBs and slot CB are set with Richard Sherman, Brandon Browner, and Antoine Winfield. But beyond those three, the depth is absolutely incredible. With the team likely to only carry 3-4 additional cornerbacks, it is fair to wonder who of these talented individuals will make the cut: Walter Thurmond, Jeremy Lane, Byron Maxwell, Simon Tharold (rookie), Will Blackmon, and Ron Parker. I would consider Thurmond and Lane as locks to make the opening day roster. Beyond that? Good luck choosing the last one or two CBs. Any of these CBs would compete for a starting spot on another team.
It was not long ago that NFL fans (myself included) were lobbying for the Seahawks to draft a dynamic wide receiver early on in the draft. In ways, that prayer was answered this offseason with the surprising addition of Percy Harvin via trade. The team has typically kept five or six receivers on the roster coming out of camp. The four locks to make the team would be Harvin, Sidney Rice, Golden Tate, and Doug Baldwin. There’s a good chance that fourth round draft pick Chris Harper makes the team as well. That means that there is really only one spot left on the squad! It’s going to be an intense competition between the likes of Jermaine Kearse, Stephen Williams, Phil Bates, and the other receivers to see who can nab that last spot on the opening day roster.