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Seattle Seahawks

Six things to watch as Seahawks open first OTAs under Mike Macdonald

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)
By Bob Condotta Seattle Times

SEATTLE – The first year of the Mike Macdonald era takes another turn Monday as the Seattle Seahawks gather for the first of their 10 Organized Team Activities or OTAs.

OTA, of course, is just an NFL legalistic term for “practice,” mostly denoting that the workouts are voluntary and cannot involve full pads or contact.

But what teams can do in OTAs is go 11-on-11, the most regular-season practice-like sessions they’ve had so far, which makes them valuable for Macdonald and the other new coaches as they assess what kind of roster they have.

Here are six things to watch as OTAs begin this week.

Macdonald time

Everything for Macdonald this year is a first as he embarks on not only his inaugural NFL season as a head coach, but also as a head coach at any level. Pete Carroll had completed his fifth season with the Seahawks when the 36-year old Macdonald became a full-time assistant for the first time.

As such, Macdonald’s every coaching step this year will be heavily scrutinized (Macdonald’s first OTA with the team Monday is closed to the media but Wednesday’s will be open).

More important than the outside perception is how Macdonald – and a coaching staff that includes just one holdover from the Carroll era – begins to build the necessary bond and trust with the players.

The next few weeks will be pivotal to set the right tone heading into the six-week summer break.

Two quarterbacks is enough for now

At some point the Seahawks figure to add a third quarterback to get through training camp and the preseason.

For now, they have just two – returning two-year starter Geno Smith and Sam Howell, the starter last year for Washington who was acquired in a trade in March.

Maybe it makes sense to give Smith and Howell as many reps as possible to get comfortable with the offense of new coordinator Ryan Grubb.

There is no quarterback competition in the normal sense of the word – Smith is the starter. But the Seahawks surely won’t mind if Howell’s presence stirs a little creative tension.

The Seahawks will also be watching the 23-year-old Howell closely to see if he confirms their view he is a viable candidate to be a long-term answer at quarterback.

Howell has two years remaining on his rookie contract, making just $985,000 and $1.1 million the next two years, which gives the Seahawks an inexpensive backup the next two years.

Now they need to begin to see their faith in Howell is rewarded, especially with the early view that the 2025 QB draft class may not be as strong as this year’s.

What is the makeup of the defensive line?

The Seahawks’ two most significant personnel moves of the offseason involved the defensive line – re-signing Leonard Williams to the biggest per-year salary the team has ever given a defensive player and taking defensive tackle Byron Murphy II with the first pick in the draft.

Macdonald said each will be used in multiple spots, and the three OTAs open to the media may not necessarily reveal the full depth of what their roles will be in the fall, but should provide a decent glimpse.

Even more interesting could be how defensive lineman Dre’Mont Jones is deployed.

The Seahawks’ big-money free-agent signee of 2023, Jones played the majority of his snaps on the inside last year but saw some increasing time outside as the season wore on.

The team has hinted he could be used more outside this year. Rumblings were further fueled recently via a social-media post from his trainer, indicating he was working out with the idea of playing mostly on the edge in 2024.

“Dre’Mont I feel like is gonna have a great year. I think we have a cool role for him,’’ is how Macdonald put it following the draft during an appearance on Seattle Sports 710-AM.

Using Jones primarily on the edge could help answer why the Seahawks didn’t do more to add to that group in the offseason. It would make sense after adding Murphy and veteran free-agent Johnathan Hankins to the interior group along with returning starter Jarran Reed.

“Their lack of edge rusher additions could be an oversight,’’ Pro Football Focus wrote this week in what was an otherwise positive review of the Seahawks’ offseason roster moves. They got a B-plus.

How are the rookies fitting in?

OTAs mark the first time the team’s eight-man rookie class – and 18 undrafted rookie free-agent signees – can work 11-on-11 against the veterans.

As such, the next few weeks will give the Seahawks their best view yet of what to expect from Murphy, third-round pick guard Christian Haynes and the rest of the draftees.

The real test of the readiness of the rookies – and especially the linemen – won’t come until pads go on in training camp. But OTAs will give a sense of how rookies are picking up their assignments and adjusting to the speed of the game.

Early competition on the O-line

Speaking of Haynes, OTAs will allow him his first 11-on-11 reps with the rest of the vets on the offensive line and give new line coach Scott Huff his first look at how that group is progressing.

One key will be the health of right tackle Abraham Lucas, the former Washington State Cougar who had knee surgery in January. He is expected to be ready for the season, but OTAs may give a better sense of where he is in his recovery.

The Seahawks brought back veteran George Fant as a swing backup and he would likely work with the first team at right tackle if Lucas can’t go.

Charles Cross is entrenched at left tackle and veteran Laken Tomlinson is expected to be the left guard.

Center and right guard appear to be competitive positions.

Haynes and second-year player Anthony Bradford – who started 10 games last season – appear in a battle at right guard with second-year player Olu Oluwatimi and free-agent signee Nick Harris, a former UW standout who played for the Huskies under Huff, will vie for the center job.

Nothing figures to get settled until training camp and the pads go on. But first impressions, at least, will be made over the next few weeks.

How is the team’s health?

OTAs sometimes reveal news about the health of specific players. It was during OTAs last year that Lucas sat out some time while recovering from shoulder surgery, foreshadowing the injury-riddled season that was to come.

And it was just before OTAs last year that cornerback Riq Woolen suffered a knee injury that required arthroscopic surgery. Woolen missing all of the offseason program surely impacted his preparation for a 2023 season that was more of a struggle than his breakout rookie year.


Haynes signed his four-year rookie contract Friday, as announced by the team. Haynes, the 81st overall pick out of UConn, gets a contract that can pay him up to $5.8 million overall and includes a $1.04 million signing bonus. All of the Seahawks’ draft picks are under contract except sixth-round pick Michael Jerrell.