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Seattle Seahawks

Analysis: Answers to 4 questions about Seahawks now that minicamp is over

Seattle offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb, left, and Geno Smith talk during practice at Virginia Mason Athletic Center on June 3 in Renton, Wash.  (Getty Images)
By Bob Condotta Seattle Times

SEATTLE – The roughly two-month offseason program the Seahawks completed Wednesday was a good start, rookie head coach Mike Macdonald said.

“I hope we’re building what we’re trying to build,’’ Macdonald said Wednesday after announcing that he had canceled the final practice of mandatory minicamp set for Thursday, which marked the end of the offseason program. “I think we’re on our way.’’

Macdonald acknowledged the obvious point – there is a long way to go.

“I’m really excited about where we’re at,” he said. “(But) I told the guys, ‘We haven’t stopped anybody yet, we haven’t scored any touchdowns yet.’ It’s not the time for that. But I feel really good on the foundation we’ve been able to build.’’

As the summer begins, here are four questions about the Seahawks that linger.

How will Geno Smith adjust to Ryan Grubb’s offense?

To reiterate one more time, Smith is the team’s unquestioned starter at quarterback despite the March trade for Sam Howell.

The media only saw five of the 11 OTAs or minicamp practices the team held over the last month. In those, Smith was generally sharp, though there were moments when the offense seemed to still be finding its way – such as the last practice Wednesday when there were five interceptions, including two thrown by Smith.

Smith’s history shows he’ll do what it takes to learn and master the scheme.

When asked what he wants to see from Smith, Macdonald mentioned a more intangible goal.

“I think when things start to happen, he needs to be the voice of poise in the (quarterback) room; and he’s doing that,’’ Macdonald said. “But we’re on record. He’s the tip of the spear in our operation, and just to understand when to step on the gas, when not to. But he’s communicating those things. There are some situation things that popped up today that we’ll go back and attack those type of deals. I think he’s playing pretty well right now.’’

How will Dre’Mont Jones be used?

One of Macdonald’s biggest tasks is to get the most out of Jones, a defensive lineman who signed a three-year contract worth just over $51 million in March 2023 – the largest contract the team had ever handed out to an external free agent. Jones’ deal was restructured this week to create more than $7 million in cap space while pushing some money into the future, which might put more pressure on Jones this year to prove he’s worth the final season of his deal.

Jones put up respectable numbers in 2023 – 4.5 sacks, 12 quarterback hits – but not what was expected given the investment the team made in him.

Jones played mostly inside to start the 2023 season and played more at end following an injury to Uchenna Nwosu.

Macdonald said the team will continue to move him around to try to find the best spots for him, and he indeed spent some time working with the outside linebacker/edge rush group during minicamp as well as with the defensive tackles and ends.

“I think his skill set lends to trying to play a little matchup ball with him or setting another guy up,’’ Macdonald said. “He can do a lot of things.’’

Jones was not around for the voluntary OTAs, so there wasn’t a lot of information gleaned and exactly how his snaps will be split once the season rolls around remains unclear, but he’s likely to line up at multiple spots on the line inside and out – with that potentially changing some each week.

“We don’t know how it’s going to look come the beginning of the season, how it’s going to progress throughout the whole year,’’ Macdonald said.

Is the inside linebacking position really a concern?

Maybe the biggest disappointment of OTAs/minicamp was the absence of projected starting inside linebackers Tyrel Dodson and Jerome Baker while each recovers from injuries. Each signed one-year deals as free agents after the Seahawks decided not to re-sign the 2023 inside linebacking duo of Bobby Wagner and Jordyn Brooks.

Both are expected back for camp, and the team knew each would likely be in rehab mode at this point. Baker suffered knee and wrist injuries late last season with Miami, and Dodson missed a playoff game with Buffalo with a shoulder injury in January, though he returned the following week (Macdonald did not say the shoulder is why Dodson was sidelined during OTAs/minicamp).

Both took part in meetings and were able to get all of that learning done, and it’s not thought the team is overly concerned that neither was on the field.

Still, it would obviously have been better if they had been. The Seahawks had Jon Rhattigan at middle linebacker at Patrick O’Connell at weakside with the No. 1 defense throughout the offseason program. The good news there is each appeared to show some promise and the Seahawks could have decent depth inside.

How is the right side of the offensive line shaking out?

The Seahawks didn’t get as much information on that topic as they would have liked as right tackle Abraham Lucas did not take part in on-field work while still rehabbing from January knee surgery. Right guard Anthony Bradford – who started 10 games there and would appear to be atop the depth chart – was limited with an ankle injury. It doesn’t appear serious as Bradford was on the field for the final minicamp practice, though he didn’t appear to do much work in 11-on-11s.

With Lucas out, veteran George Fant worked with the starting offense at right tackle backed up by Raiqwon O’Neal.

The Seahawks remain hopeful Lucas will make it back in time for training camp in late July.

Macdonald said this week he had no updated timeline on Lucas but added, “He’s working his tail off. I can tell you that.”

The addition of Fant, who has 72 career starts, gives the Seahawks some valuable insurance in case Lucas’ injury lingers, and they could consider a rotation there to ease Lucas back. Either way, Fant or Lucas figures to be the right tackle.

The right guard spot appears a little muddier.

The Seahawks drafted Christian Haynes out of UConn in the third round to compete at right guard with Bradford. But with Bradford out, it wasn’t Haynes who usually worked with the starting offense at RG, it was second-year player McClendon Curtis. Haynes typically worked with the second unit.

That seems to indicate that for now, Haynes is third on the depth chart at right guard (he didn’t appear to get snaps on the left side with veteran free agent Tremayne Anchrum Jr. typically backing up Laken Tomlinson there).

Macdonald said the team will get a better assessment of where Haynes is in his progress once pads come on during training camp.

“He’s doing some good things,’’ Macdonald said. “I think Christian’s game is when pads are on, when he’s moving people, getting to the next level, things like that. Right now it’s hard to feel the offensive line pushing the pile, moving the line of scrimmage. Hopefully we see that when pads come on.’’