RENTON, Wash. — The list of concerns for the Seattle Seahawks as their mandatory team minicamp began Tuesday started with wide receiver and went through to questions about where the pass rush would come from. There is also uncertainly about the tight end position and how the secondary will shake out.
Noticeably missing from the list was Seattle’s offensive line, which is a significant turnaround from previous years.
After several seasons during which the offensive line was the primary concern for the Seahawks going into training camp, it’s now low on the list of worries for a team that should be a contender in the NFC. Last year’s success and the ability to bring back four of five starters made the line an afterthought.
Injuries could quickly change that, but the Seahawks believe they could have one of the better offensive lines in the league.
“No one is confused out there,” left tackle Duane Brown said. “I think once we get the pads on, the amount of physicality we’ll play with will be demoralizing for defenses, so I’m looking forward to it.”
A year ago, the Seahawks led the NFL in rushing in large part because of their success up front. The Seahawks averaged 160 yards per game rushing, an increase of more than 58 yards per game on the ground from the previous season. And the Seahawks led the league without getting major running contributions from Russell Wilson.
The foursome of Brown, J.R. Sweezy, Justin Britt and Germain Ifedi started at least 15 games. Guard D.J. Fluker started only nine, but may have been the most impactful of Seattle’s linemen. Between the stability of having the same starting group and the addition of offensive line coach Mike Solari, Seattle was able to make rapid improvement.
The Seahawks return four of those five with the only subtraction being Sweezy, who signed in free agency with Arizona. But the Seahawks countered by signing veteran Mike Iupati and drafting Wake Forest guard Phil Haynes, who has been getting significant time with the starting unit during offseason workouts while Iupati has rested a minor foot sprain.
Coach Pete Carroll said the way Seattle improves its pass protection will determine how well this group plays.
“We’ve got to come back and run the football like we did and find ways to be more effective in short yardage situations. But it will really come back to pass pro,” Carroll said. “We want to give (Russell Wilson) a really clean pocket back there so he can do his work. That will come along as we get together and the guys learn how to make their calls and fit together.”
Ifedi made arguably the biggest improvement last year under Solari. But his future in Seattle is uncertain after the Seahawks opted not to exercise the fifth-year option on his rookie contract.
“I had no reaction. I’m not sure the fifth-year option is the best thing as far as a player contract,” Ifedi said. “Reading into their not picking it up, football is a business and they made a business decision, and I can’t feel one way or another about it.”
NOTES: Unlike a year ago when Earl Thomas’ absence clouded the mandatory minicamp, the only absence Tuesday was an excused one as DT Al Woods was dealing with a family issue. ... Carroll said the DE Ezekiel Ansah is fully recovered from offseason shoulder surgery and is now working on strengthening the shoulder. Carroll said the team will get a better sense of his timetable when training camp begins but the team wants to avoid rushing him back too soon. .. Rookies RB Travis Homer (hamstring), SS Marquise Blair (hamstring) and LB Ben Burr-Kirven (sports hernia surgery) were all spectators but should be ready by the start of training camp. ... Carroll had no update on the legal situation of LB Mychal Kendricks but said the team expects to have the linebacker available to play this season. Kendricks has pleaded guilty to federal insider trading charges.