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Seattle Seahawks

Six thoughts as Seahawks hold first minicamp of Mike Macdonald era

Seahawks coach Mike Macdonald watches during the first day of rookie camp on May 3 at Virginia Mason Athletic Center in Renton, Wash.  (Kevin Clark / The Seattle Times)
Bob Condotta Seattle Times

The first offseason of the Mike Macdonald era is nearing an end.

All that’s left is mandatory minicamp this week before a roughly six-week summer break before training camp begins in late July.

Minicamp, which is scheduled to include practices Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, marks the last chance for Macdonald and the rest of the Seahawks’ first-year coaching staff to get a good look at the team before training camp.

It also concludes an offseason program that started in mid-April and began to set the foundation for what the 2024 Seahawks will become.

Here are six thoughts on what we’ve seen so far:

1. Geno Smith is the unquestioned leader of the offense

Any idea that there might be a true competition between Geno Smith and backup Sam Howell — which was never said by the team but speculated upon from the outside — dissipated quickly as Smith has taken all of the reps with the first-team offense during the three OTAs open to the media. Howell has had his moments in OTAs. But Smith, who has praised the creativity and variety of new coordinator Ryan Grubb’s offense, has seemed to grasp it quickly.

Grubb said last week what has impressed him is Smith’s leadership.

“I think certainly Geno, when you’re out there with him, you can feel his presence and he does a really good job of that, of commanding the attention of his teammates,’’ Grubb said. “And I think even since our time here, I think Sam (Howell) has really grown in that regard.”

Minicamp will also give the Seahawks their first look at P.J. Walker, who officially signed a contract Monday to serve as a third quarterback behind Smith and Howell. Seattle waived as injured rookie defensive tackle Buddha Jones to make room on the 90-man roster.

2. Jaxon Smith-Njigba emerging in year two

An offensive standout of the open OTAs has been second-year receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba, the 20th overall pick in 2023 out of Ohio State. In an OTA last month, Smith-Njigba had four TD catches during one 11-on-11 red-zone session and several more in other sessions.

A caveat is that DK Metcalf has not been present for the OTAs open to media — they are voluntary, as opposed to this week’s minicamp — though he has been present for others, according to photos released by the team. Tyler Lockett was not present for one.

Smith-Njigba took advantage of their absence to look like the best receiver on the field, building some valuable chemistry with Smith to head into training camp. That’s something he was not able to do this time a year ago as a rookie when the team limited him in the offseason program because of a hamstring issue.

3. Offensive line still in some flux

One minor disappointment so far has been the inability to field a fully healthy offensive line so the starting five can learn Grubb’s scheme and how new offensive-line coach Scott Huff wants things to work.

Potential starting right tackle Abraham Lucas remains out while rehabbing from offseason knee surgery, while potential starting right guard Anthony Bradford was not on the field for the three OTAs open to the media after tweaking his ankle.

That had veteran George Fant working with the first team at right tackle and second-year player McClendon Curtis at right guard.

Given that teams usually play it cautious so close to summer break, that could be how the Seahawks roll during minicamp.

The good news is the rest has been consistent — center Olu Oluwatimi, left guard Laken Tomlinson and left tackle Charles Cross.

“We’ve got a little ways to go there and I just mean more about the reps and opportunity,’’ Grubb said last week. “Some of the guys are still working through things and getting back and so there’s been a lot of guys shuffling in and out there, but we’ve been working through some of that, and I think that they’ll continue to grow each week.’’

4. New linebackers yet to really be seen

Another mild disappointment of the offseason is that neither of the projected starting inside linebackers — middle LB Tyrel Dodson and weakside LB Jerome Baker — were on the field in OTAs open to media.

Baker is rehabbing from injuries suffered late last season with Miami and Dodson apparently is nursing an injury. Baker has not been seen at all while Dodson has been out there and taken part in some walk-through reps but nothing in 11-on-11 work.

That had Jon Rhattigan taking most of the reps as the starting MLB and second-year player Patrick O’Connell getting much of the work at WLB with rookie fourth-round pick Tyrice Knight also getting some.

As with the OL, that could be the way it looks this week, leaving it to training camp for Seattle to get the Dodson-Baker ILB duo on the field.

5. Secondary looking deep

The secondary has been at full strength with the likely starting five — safeties Julian Love and Rayshawn Jenkins and cornerbacks Riq Woolen, Devon Witherspoon and Tre Brown — available for everything open to the media.

That’s critical as Macdonald installs his new defense. The secondary is not only a big key to his hopes to improve that side of the ball but also full of young players who can use every practice rep. Neither Witherspoon nor Woolen were consistently on the field this time a year ago because of injuries but have been so far.

Brown, who projects to be the starting left cornerback when the team is in the nickel, with Witherspoon moving inside — which figures to be the team’s primary alignment — has battled injuries in his career but appears fully healthy.

K’Von Wallace and Coby Bryant have been working as the backup safeties, with veterans Michael Jackson and Artie Burns adding depth at cornerback — and likely having to stave off rookies Nehemiah Pritchett and D.J. James for roster spots in training camp.

Should everyone stay healthy and should Witherspoon improve on a sparkling rookie season, and Woolen return to his 2022 form, the secondary could emerge as one of the better ones in the NFL.

6. Defensive line evolving

Something worth monitoring throughout the preseason is how the Seahawks use their defensive linemen — though Macdonald is sure to try to keep as much of the new wrinkles in the defense as under wraps as possible.

One key component of Macdonald’s defense is his ability to use defensive linemen in multiple spots.

Macdonald said practices will be vital in figuring out who appears to be the best fit where up front as the Seahawks try to piece together a line filled with intriguing parts and talent. That includes veterans Jarran Reed, Leonard Williams and Dre’Mont Jones and first-round pick Byron Murphy II as well as the likes of second-year player Mike Morris, who played just one game last season.

Minicamp will give Macdonald one last bit of good information on how it might all look heading into the summer.