Seattle begins camp with questions at QB
When Pete Carroll and the Seattle Seahawks broke from minicamp in mid-June, all the focus heading into training camp was on a three-way competition for starting quarterback.
While figuring out that key position is still a major concern, it's no longer the biggest story as the Seahawks prepare to start training camp Saturday.
Marshawn Lynch's arrest for driving under the influence in California and the subsequent debate on whether he faces suspension from the league, has become the No. 1 topic surrounding the Seahawks. Not far behind is the decision to release wide receiver Mike Williams two weeks before the start of camp, and whether defensive end Chris Clemons will report on time after holding out from minicamp, unhappy with his contract situation.
For being stuck far away from the football epicenter, the Seahawks are getting their share of attention lately - not all of it good.
What type of discipline Lynch might face from the league has become the top concern for the Seahawks after a breakout 2011 season. Lynch was one of the top running backs in the league during the second half of the schedule. His reward was a $31 million, four-year contract and affirmation that Lynch is the current face of the franchise.
Much of that luster faded when he was arrested in Oakland in the early morning hours of July 14. Lynch has been charged by the district attorney in Alameda County, Calif., and faces an initial court date of Aug. 14.
Lynch had two previous run-ins while he played in Buffalo, the last resulting in a three-game suspension in 2009. He's been clean of problems since, and it's unknown if the latest incident will get lumped in with previous transgressions and result in another suspension.
While the Seahawks wait to get answers on Lynch, they have a number of critical questions to answer on the field before the opener Sept. 9 at Arizona None is bigger than deciding who the starting quarterback will be.
Seattle will enter training camp with Matt Flynn, Tarvaris Jackson and Russell Wilson splitting reps, Jackson getting the first snaps with the No. 1 offense, as was the case during offseason workouts and minicamp. But all three will get equal time - at least early in camp - with the No. 1 unit. All Carroll has said about the timeline for the competition is it'll likely go into the start of exhibition games, which begin Aug. 11 at home against Tennessee.
''Tarvaris has an advantage. He's been with (offensive coordinator) Darrell (Bevell) for a long time,'' Carroll said. ''So those guys have caught up quickly and it'll be really important to see how they come back when we're top speed and going, and see how it all fits together. So I'm just as anxious to see as you guys.''
Each quarterback brings his own strengths to the competition. Jackson is the incumbent and won over the locker room last year by playing through a painful pectoral injury, yet helping Seattle go 5-3 in the second half of the season. Flynn flashed in his few opportunities playing behind Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay and was one of the hottest free agent commodities, getting a three-year, $26 million deal.
Wilson was a star in college with all the skills NFL coaches want, just lacking height at 5-foot-11.
''I don't think we look at it like we're going against each other. We're trying to help each other out,'' Flynn said. ''If they make a good throw, I'm the first one there telling them good job and whatever. It's not like there's any bad blood coming out here. It's not like that. Everyone's trying to compete. Everyone's trying to get better and everyone's trying to make the team better. I think that's really the overall goal.''
Whoever wins the QB competition will be throwing to a mostly unproven receiving corps. Sidney Rice will get his first extensive work since having offseason surgery on both shoulders and is the clear No. 1 receiver if he can stay healthy. But the decision to cut Williams opens up opportunity for Golden Tate, Kris Durham, Ben Obomanu or someone else to step into the No. 2 role, with Doug Baldwin working inside as the slot receiver. Seattle also traded for tight end Kellen Winslow Jr., who could become a major piece in the passing game.
Defensively, the Seahawks are hopeful Clemons will report to camp on time. Clemons cost himself $1 million by not attending the minicamp and was already annoyed that, with his contract due to expire at the end of the 2012 season, Seattle drafted his presumptive replacement in rookie Bruce Irvin.
Other than making Clemons happy, the Seahawks' main defensive question is at middle linebacker, with rookie Bobby Wagner and veteran Barrett Ruud expected to compete for the starting job.
''We feel very good about the progress we've made. So we'll move forward with that and we'll see how it goes,'' Carroll said. ''We expect to really come out flying in camp. We're going to hit it going full speed.''
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