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Analysis: Five things to watch as Seahawks open mandatory minicamp

By Bob Condotta Seattle Times

RENTON, Wash. – After two weeks of organized team activities – a fancy word for practices – the Seahawks’ offseason program takes its next step this week with a mandatory minicamp.

Nothing much changes during minicamp from OTAs, as there are still no full pads or contact allowed. But every player is expected to be in attendance, if not necessarily on the field. The rest of the offseason program is officially voluntary and not all players take part in every OTA.

Three straight days of on-field work from Tuesday through Thursday will give coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider – as well as fans and media – their clearest view yet of what they have before they all head into the summer.

Here are five things to watch as minicamp unfolds:

The status of Jamal Adams and Jordyn Brooks

Carroll said last week that both appear to be progressing well from their injuries – Adams a quadriceps tear suffered Sept. 12 and Brook an ACL suffered Jan. 1 – but that Seattle won’t have any real idea of when they’ll be healthy for another six to eight weeks. So, basically, right around when training camp begins. Still, both will be in town for the minicamp after having stayed in the Dallas area to continue with their rehab until now. And that will, at least, give coaches and others a good in-person look at each.

The competition at center

Seattle returns what are essentially four starters on the offensive line – tackles Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas and guards Damien Lewis and Phil Haynes – Haynes split time last year with Gabe Jackson, who was released in March.

That leaves center as the one position where they’re assured of having a new starter after last year’s, Austin Blythe, became a free agent and then retired.

Seattle signed former Detroit Lion Evan Brown – who started 12 games at center in 2021 and last year started at guard – as a potential replacement, and Brown has usually worked with the No. 1 offense during OTAs. But Seattle drafted Olu Oluwatimi out of Michigan in the fifth round, and also still has Joey Hunt on the roster, who started 11 games from 2016-19 before moving on and then returning to the Seahawks late last season.

Nothing will be decided at center until deep into the preseason in August. But how each of the three performs in minicamp will provide Carroll some good info.

Said Carroll last week of the competition at center: “It’s going to be a great spot to watch, it really will. Evan has come in here and commanded the leadership. He has more experience than Olu’s got. We’ll see how that all works out. Joey is an experienced football player, too, so we have a really good spot.

“We’re not going to set any timelines or anything like that. It’ll work itself out, but Olu’s done really nice. He’s done a nice job jumping in. He’s a really bright kid, and it shows up, and he gets it, and he’s confident. You could see him playing.”

The nose tackle shuffle

Aside from center, the other position that may be most wide open is nose tackle, especially for as long as Bryan Mone remains sidelined while rehabbing from an ACL injury last December. Seattle drafted Cameron Young out of Mississippi State in the fourth round, and if he doesn’t start, he figures to get significant playing time.

Myles Adams, now entering his fourth season with the Seahawks, also has worked some at nose tackle during OTAs. The Seahawks also signed Austin Faiolu, who starred with the Sea Dragons of the XFL this spring, and consider him a legitimate contender for the job. The Seahawks also like the potential of undrafted free agent Jonah Tavai of San Diego State.

But the Seahawks are sure to continue to explore all options at nose tackle throughout the preseason, which became evident Monday when Seattle waived Forrest Merrill, who signed last month, and replaced him on the roster with undrafted rookie free agent Jacob Sykes of UCLA. Sykes was briefly with the Seahawks last month. That gives Seattle six players listed as interior defensive linemen on its roster.

The progress of first-round picks Devon Witherspoon and Jaxon Smith-Njigba

Each player – Witherspoon, a cornerback who was the fifth overall pick out of Illinois, and Smith-Njigba, a receiver who was the 20th overall pick out of Ohio State – has been somewhat limited during OTAs due to hamstring issues, if appearing to do a bit more during each of the OTAs open to the media.

The Seahawks are not rushing either, wanting each to be fully healthy for training camp.

But they’d like to get one more good look at each going against vets before heading into summer.

Said Carroll following Thursday’s OTA: “Jaxon, he’s a little bit ahead of Spoon in that he’s doing a little bit more now. You saw Jaxon had full-speed reps today. These guys have been getting all of the walk-through periods. They’re accumulating tons of plays … Spoon, he’s not quite ready to really push it. He’s had a ton of work, though.

“Both these guys have looked great. They both have shown their awareness. First off, their awareness, their comfort with the game and understanding, they make it look right. I think next week, and even tomorrow (last Friday) we’ll see more out of Spoon, and we’ll just keep going. If it all worked out today with Jaxon, we’re in good shape to keep adding on.”

Which UDFA will stand out?

With 10 draft picks – all of whom at the moment would project to have roles on the team this season – Seattle doesn’t seem to have a lot of room for any undrafted rookie free agents to make the 53-man roster.

But a few have impressed during OTAs, most notably receiver Jake Bobo of UCLA, who at 6 feet, 5 inches and 215 pounds has literally stood out during the sessions open to the media.

“Jake has showed up, yeah,” Carroll said Thursday. “He’s stood out. He’s done that. Yeah, he’s been making plays. It’s been fun. He’s done a nice job. He does make things happen. He’s a really good target, big kid.”

And while spots on the 53-man might be tough to come by, Seattle has 16 practice squad spots to fill, many of which are likely to come from the ranks of the UDFA class – Seattle initially signed a whopping 25 following the draft.

Again, there’s a long way to go before Seattle has to make any roster decisions. But minicamp will give players a chance to make a good, lasting impression heading into the summer.