NFL Team Report - Seattle Seahawks - INSIDE SLANT


When the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks get back in action with their first training camp practice July 25 at the Virgina Mason Athletic Center in Renton, Wash., they will not hear or fear those naysayers who whisper this is a team that has only one way to go -- down.

In fact, the Seahawks boldly proclaimed at the end of the June minicamp they are far better off than they were last year at the same time.

"I definitely believe we are way further ahead and it's exciting," quarterback Russell Wilson said after minicamp ended. "It's something that you have an itch because you know how to do it at a very high level. And the best part about it is we can continue to do it better. There are a lot more ways that we can be better."

Ever upbeat coach Pete Carroll agreed, of course, saying "I'm hoping that in a lot of areas we have improved some."

But the grind of training camp comes complete with a reality check, especially in those areas of interest, such as:

KEY POSITION BATTLE

--Right tackle: Seattle won the Super Bowl last year despite giving up 44 sacks, eight more than in 2012 and despite the presence of athletic quarterback Russell Wilson.

Last season, right tackle Breno Giacomini and left tackle Russell Okung each missed eight games. Okung sat out OTAs after having offseason surgery to repair the toe injury that hampered him last season. Giacomini is gone to the Jets as a free agent.

Second-year player Michael Bowie is competing with rookie second-round pick Justin Britt for the right-tackle job. Bowie was one of Seattle's pleasant surprises in 2013, a seventh-round pick who ended up starting at right tackle when Giacomini was out, then started the playoff game against New Orleans at left guard.

WEAKEST POSITION

--Offensive line: Seattle won the Super Bowl last year despite allowing 44 sacks on one of the most elusive quarterbacks in the NFL in Russell Wilson. One key to possible improvement is a return to health of center Max Unger and left tackle Russell Okung, each former Pro Bowlers who played hurt much of last year.

Seattle also has high hopes for this year's second-round pick Justin Britt (Missouri), who is battling second-year pro Michael Bowie to replace the departed Breno Giacomini as the starting right tackle. How well they can do that job will also go a long way toward improving the line this year.

PLAYER WITH MOST TO PROVE

--James Carpenter, LG: The Seahawks sent a message to Carpenter, the team's first-round pick in 2011, when it did not pick up an option on his contract for 2015 that would have paid him more than $7 million. The team could re-sign him later, and general manager John Schneider said the decision had more to do with salary-cap procedure than anything else.

Still, the team undoubtedly wants to see if Carpenter is worth a long-term investment -- something he will get every chance to prove this season having been handed the full-time starting job at left guard when the Seahawks let Paul McQuistan walk in free agency.

Carpenter, who played at Alabama, started 26 games with the Seahawks but has been bothered at times with knee injuries that also have hampered his conditioning and stamina. He has appeared healthy in workouts so far.

BEST LONGSHOT ROOKIE

--Garry Gilliam, T, Penn State, undrafted rookie: Gilliam was primarily a tight end at Penn State and the Seahawks think his relative lack of experience at tackle gives this 6-foot-6, 303 pounder a ton of upside. The team also suffered a loss at the tackle spot when it was learned that sixth-round pick Garrett Scott will not be able to play for the foreseeable future due to a heart condition.