We’re between OTA practices – the first one was Tuesday, the next one is Thursday – so let’s delve into a few more entries from the rapidly expanding mailbag.
A lot of readers are asking about the same topics, so we’ll address those first.
Q: With LenDale White and Leon Washington now sharing the backfield with Julius Jones and Justin Forsett, it obviously creates competition. But where does Leon Washington stand with his injury that he received last year with the Jets and where does LenDale fit into our new offensive scheme? – Bryce, Anaconda, Montana (Trey in Las Vegas, Darik in Estacada, Ore., and Michael in California also asked about the running back situation)
A: In fact, this has been the most-asked question, Bryce, or at least some form of it. Who fits where? And what does the arrival of the new backs mean for the incumbent backs?
The answers to all these questions will play out through training camp and the preseason. That’s not a cop-out response, just the truth at this early point in the process. The X-factor is Washington’s recovery from the surgery to place a rod in his right leg after he broke the tibia and fibula last season. If fully recovered, Washington brings an element to the mix that no one else possesses – speed and big-play ability that has been characterized as dynamic. Washington expects he’ll be ready to start practicing when training camp opens in late July, and he’s not the only one in the building eagerly anticipating that return.
White, meanwhile, provides the more physical presence that coach Pete Carroll has been looking to add since he was hired in January. White reported in shape (223 pounds) to the last minicamp and views his draft-day trade to the Seahawks as a new start to his career.
That leaves Forsett, who averaged 5.4 yards per carry last year and has impressed Carroll this offseason; and Jones, who continues to run as the “starter” in minicamp and OTA practices. If the club carries only three tailbacks, as it has in the past, one will have to go. But it’s not out of the question to carry all four and go light at another position. At USC, Carroll preferred to have a stable of backs and use the competition generated by the situation to bring out the best in all of them.
So far, that seems to be the case with the Seahawks’ overcrowded backfield, which also includes former UW runner Louis Rankin and free-agent addition Quinton Ganther, who played for running backs coach Sherman Smith with the Redskins last season.
Q: I have heard a lot about the new wide receivers we have picked up such as Mike Williams and Golden Tate. Yet I have not heard anything about second-year man Deon Butler, who we got out of Penn State last year. He showed some flashes of being a pretty good receiver last season, I thought. Do you think he’ll get some more playing time this year? – Kevin, Boise (Troy in Canandaigua, N.Y., also asked about Butler)
A: Butler already is getting more time, Kevin and Troy. With T.J. Houshmandzadeh (sports hernia) and Deion Branch (knee) sidelined following recent surgeries, and Tate not eligible to rejoin the team until May 16, Butler was working with the No. 1 offense on Tuesday – along with Ben Obomanu. But the coaches continue to mix, match and move receivers to find the best combinations in the base offense as well as the three-receiver sets.
In their first year together, Carroll and GM John Schneider were looking to increase the competition at every position. They definitely have added to the pile at wide receiver – by drafting Tate and signing Mike and Reggie Williams after the first minicamp and the rookie free-agent duo of Victor James and Chris Duvalt after the most recent minicamp. They also signed Ruvell Martin and Sean Morey in free agency.
They have 14 players at a position where five or six will be kept on the 53-man roster. Who they are, and which role each fills, will play out during training camp and the preseason. But Butler remains very much in the mix.
Q: I know it’s way too early to ask, but do you see the Seahawks drafting Washington QB Jake Locker in the 2011 draft? If not, do you think they will get one of the great defensive lineman prospects that are out there? – Robert, San Diego (Nick in Spokane, Big Dave in Temecula, Calif., and Dave Wyoming also asked about Locker)
A: You’re right, Robert, it is too early to ask about Locker. But he will remain a hot topic because he plays just across Lake Washington from the Seahawks’ headquarters, passed on entering the draft this year to return for his senior season and, well, he could be the QB of the future for a lot of teams – not just the Seahawks.
But if Locker plays anywhere near expectations, it will take a Top 10, if not Top 5, pick to get him. Hopefully, the Seahawks will be drafting much later in the first round next year after having the fourth overall pick in 2009 and the sixth overall pick this year.
Would the Seahawks like to draft Locker? Who wouldn’t? But they do have other needs, especially after trading for Charlie Whitehurst this offseason. So that defensive lineman you mentioned likely will be a higher priority – especially if he can rush the passer.
Q: What’s going on with Lofa Tatupu? He’s not on the player roster, but there’s nothing on the site or the internet saying he’s not on the team. – Brittany, Surprise, Ariz. (Gary in Bremerton also asked about Tatupu)
A: Lofa is very much still on the roster, Brittany. In fact, he’s progressed far enough from the pectoral injury that ended his 2009 season that he has been taking part in all drills at the most recent minicamp and in Tuesday’s OTA practice. But because Tatupu went on injured reserve last season, he was removed from the 53-man roster and placed in the IR section – along with just-retired tackle Walter Jones, wide receiver Mike Hass, tackle Brandon Frye and long snapper Kevin Houser.
Gary wondered if Tatupu will remain healthy throughout the season. That, of course, is impossible to project. But Tatupu has been working diligently to regain his pre-injury form, and the defense needs him back at full strength. Carroll touched on Tatupu’s importance to the unit when asked about the play of rookie linebacker Aaron Curry last season, pointing out that Curry’s performance declined when Tatupu wasn’t on the field to help him out.
Q: I was just wondering what you think our starting offensive line will be going into the season? – Nick, Bonney Lake (“Adequate” Johnson in Boise, Idaho, also asked about the depth on the O-line)
A: It shouldn’t change from what it was at the last minicamp, Nick. That would be first-round draft choice Russell Okung at left tackle, free-agent addition Ben Hamilton at left guard, Chris Spencer at center, Max Unger at right guard and Sean Locklear at right tackle.
That leaves Ray Willis, who started on the right side last season, as the No. 1 backup at both tackle spots; with Mike Gibson, Steve Vallos and Mansfield Wrotto as the backups with experience for the interior spots.
The club still could add a player or two for more depth – they signed former UW tackle Joe Toledo after the last minicamp and also signed former USC lineman Jeff Byers after the draft. But it is unlikely the coaches will find a starting-caliber lineman at this point of the offseason.
Q: I notice that guard Chester Pitts of the Texans is still available. What are the chances of the Hawks picking him up? I mean, it’s almost perfect. We’ve got his old position coach, a rookie left tackle in Okung he can guide along the way and he knows the zone-blocking system really well. I think he’d slot in perfectly at right guard. – Will, Southampton, U.K.
A: Line coach Alex Gibbs seems to have found his guard/tutor in Ben Hamilton, Will. Pitts was available at the same time the club signed Hamilton, and Gibbs opted for the former Bronco – who also has played for Gibbs, knows the scheme and mentored Ryan Clady the past two seasons in Denver.
Pitts is coming off microfracture surgery, which is a delicate situation when you’re talking about a 308-pounder who plays a position where opposing linemen regularly fall into your legs.
While it’s not completely out of the question that Pitts could be signed, the club already made its move to add a player with a similar background who fits the same role.
Q: We can all see the potential that Charlie Whitehurst has, but I am a little concerned about his flowing locks of hair. While thick shiny hair is something to be desired in the worlds of acting, modeling, and figure skating, I am worried about his quarterbacking with all that hair. We have all seen the success that the Bald Bomber has had over the past decade in Seattle, thus begging the question: Hair or no hair in today’s NFL? – Jason, Sacramento
A: Are you sure this isn’t a tweet from Matt Hasselbeck, Jason? But you’re right; the first thing that jumps out about Whitehurst is all that hair.
Hasselbeck has done nothing to crack the door for Whitehurst, and all his hair, to win the starting job. So, at least for now, it’s no hair in today’s NFL – at least when it comes to the Seahawks.