by Jackson Safon
One year ago. Just one short year ago our training camp storylines were completely different. It was Flynnsanity. Few truly thought Russell Wilson could break out in the way he did and not only take Flynn’s job, but take it and run. There were questions about Lynch’s health. Now it’s questions about Percy Harvin’s health. We were wondering if a rookie from Utah State could truly be the answer at middle linebacker. We thought this Richard Sherman guy could be a solid little player, and now he is going to be on the cover of Sports Illustrated. A lot has changed in a year.
This year the plot is very different, but much more exciting because of the success achieved by the Hawks last year. There are always story lines everywhere, but I will give a few of my favorites on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.
1. Percy Harvin-This story line became much more interesting today in wake of the news that Harvin has a potentially torn labrum and could require surgery. However the injury plays out I still think this is one of the most interesting and exciting story lines of this upcoming season. Let’s set aside the injury for a moment. Whenever Harvin comes back to the team it is going to be fascinating how they integrate him into the lineup. In the second half of the season last year the Hawks offense turned it up and was one of the top units in the entire league. So how are they going to add in one of the most dynamic players in the NFL? Last year they were a run first team, with Marshawn Lynch being the NFL’s third leading rusher behind Adrian Peterson and Alfred Morris. With the addition of Harvin and the progression of Wilson lead to a change in offensive identity? Do the Hawks play a lot more three or four wide receiver sets? Does Percy Harvin get a lot of time in the backfield? So many questions that I have about the offense this year and I am so excited to see how it plays out.
Percy Harvin will have to undergo surgery on his torn labrum. He will be out 3-4 months.
2. Running Backs-This is an interesting one because we have so much talent at this position. Lynch is obviously a beast. Everyone knows that. But we also have Robert Turbin who will be looking to improve off of a very solid rookie campaign, and recent draftee Christine Michael who I think is every bit the part of a beastly NFL running back. I personally think Christine Michael could be the incumbent to Lynch when his contract is up in a few years. But that is thinking too far ahead. The important thing is right now, and I wonder how the Hawks will get enough touches for all three of these guys. Lynch obviously needs his touches, Turbin showed he can be very explosive, and I believe Michael is going to be an absolute stud. Running backs coach Sherman Smith has raved about Robert Turbin in previous interviews and has said that he is the backup to Lynch, which begs the question is Christine Michael going to get any real playing time at all? With Percy Harvin’s versatility and the potential shift in the offense, I am interested to see how the running back situation gets sorted out.
Christine Michael could challenge Robert Turbin for the back-up running back position.
1. Bruce Irvin-This guy has showed so much potential at times, then at others (such as a crucial playoff game against the Falcons) he just disappears. He still had a fantastic rookie season with eight sacks, and I expect him to become not only a more accomplished pass rusher but a better run defender as well this season. Now that would be a story line as it is, but that’s not to mention the four game suspension Irvin has to serve because of violating the league’s drug policy. Losing him for the first four games, plus having Chris Clemons already out for a good while because of his injury, the front seven will have to play a bit shorthanded to start the year. I look to see how the rest of the guys respond, but also how well Irvin plays coming off his suspension.
2. Front Seven Versatility-This sort of ties in with the last part about Bruce Irvin, but I personally think it deserves a segment to itself. With the defensive line and linebackers shorthanded to start the year this won’t play nearly as large, but once Irvin and Clemons return to the team, the Hawks will almost have too many pass rushers. The question is what to do with them all. Once the team is fully healthy we will have Bruce Irvin, Chris Clemons, Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, Red Bryant, and Brandon Mebane. This doesn't even take into account guys like Greg Scruggs, or rookies Jordan Hill and Jesse Williams. Obviously this is too many guys for four spots on the defensive line which is actually a good problem to have. I believe Avril will move to the “Leo” linebacker spot which is essentially a pass-rushing guy who doesn't rush the passer all the time. He played this position in college as well, so I don’t think the transition will be too difficult. Even if that is how it plays out, defensive coordinator Dan Quinn will have an absurd amount of versatility with this group and I cannot wait to see what he does with them. But just imagine being a quarterback on third and long with Irvin, Clemons, Bennett, and Avril all coming to get you. It gives me Goosebumps just thinking about it.
Obviously there are more story lines and position battles, many of which relate to the rookies. A couple of rookie names I believe can make an impact in this season are Christine Michael (RB), Jesse Williams (DT), Jordan Hill (DL), and Luke Willson (TE) among others. Stay tuned for more information on training camp, but just think about how close we are to the season actually starting. Go Hawks.
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