Training camp is now underway for the Seattle Seahawks. There are a lot of changes this year. And there may be more as the team works to try to keep free safety Earl Thomas. He’s holding out for a contract extension and more money.
KNKX sports commentator Art Thiel talked with KNKX Morning Edition host Kirsten Kendrick about the storylines he’s following, which include the return of Russell Wilson.
'Can't Rely On Magic'
"The quarterback is back," Thiel said. "And everyone thinks, 'Well, that's all taken care of.'"
"No, it really isn't. Because (coach) Pete Carroll was sufficiently dissatisfied with Russell's performance to fire Darrell Bevel, the offensive coordinator, and the line coach, Tom Cable."
"It wasn't all about Russell. But I think the new guys coming in - Brian Schottenheimer is the new offensive coordinator, Mike Solari is the new line coach - I think a part of their responsibilities is getting more out of Russell."
"A lot of people say, 'How much more can he do?' Well, sometimes he does too much. And there are other times, like in the first quarter, when he doesn't do enough."
"The Seahawks can't rely on magic. They need to be a much more sustainable offense than they were. They need to get out ahead because it changes the came when you're in the lead early."
"I think that's a big impetus for Carroll to make the coaching changes to try to get something more out of Russell Wilson than he's already providing."
Boosting The Running Game
Thiel said the second storyline he's following is the Seahawks' first-round draft pick of running back Rashaad Penny from San Diego State University.
"It was remarkable that they took a running back first. The only other times in the Seahawks history that that's happened was with Curt Warner in the 80s and then in the 90s with Shaun Alexander."
"It's a big deal to take a running back so early because they are vulnerable assets. And you don't necessarily want to do that for a running back who might only last three or four years. You want eight-, 10-, 12-year players with your first-round pick."
"But the Seahawks have an urgency to reestablish the running game. He's not Marshawn Lynch but if he can just be NFL average, it would be a real upgrade from what happened a year ago when they finished 23rd overall in rushing and most of those yards came from Russell Wilson."
"Got to stop that. Got to have the running back get the running yards. So, that's going to be priority No. 2 behind Russell."
Filling Defensive Holes
The third storyline is a changing of the guard in the Seahawks defense with a lot of big names leaving in the offseason.
"It is going to be weird looking out on that defense and seeing no Michael Bennett, no Cliff Avril, no Richard Sherman," Thiel said. "These guys have been fundamental to the success of the Seahawks."
"Carroll's No. 1 priority has alawys been defense. He always wants the secondary - the cornerbacks and safeties - to be great. And these guys are going to be average this year."
"The biggest issue with the defense is that they have so many people of lesser experience and they have a suspect pass rush that this could be a middle-of-the-road thing."
"I don't know that Pete's ever had a defense like that in Seattle. He normally likes to go 'full dress' on the defensive side but he's going out here in flip-flops and shorts this year."
"I think those three elements are the biggest stories in Seahawks' camp. If they can get the defense going early with the new people, it's going to be decisive (in the) early part of the schedule."
"They've got to stay relevant and at least .500 because the NFC West as a division is much improved all the way around."
"It's going to be high drama this year because there's never been a makeover like the Seahawks have done this year."