Chris McClain: 1. The Seattle Seahawks surprised some when they traded for tight end Jimmy Graham. How has he fit in with the offense? Has him and Russell Wilson developed a nice chemistry?
Rob Rang: Trading for Graham certainly was an aggressive move by Seahawks general manager John Schneider but every indication so far is that it could pay off. Graham will never be a dominant in-line blocker but he's responded to the criticism of his toughness and physicality with greater tenacity at the point of attack in training camp and during preseason games. It is clear through Seattle's play-calling and Graham's own words with the media that he knows Seattle's offense is still going to focused on Marshawn Lynch and the running game and that he was brought in as a complementary threat.
Graham and Wilson have already developed impressive rapport on and off the field. In recent games, Wilson has shown a willingness to throw the ball in Graham's direction even when the tight end looks covered -- something that Seattle's young quarterback generally doesn't do. Graham is expected to contend for all of Seattle's receiving marks this year but he's unlikely to post the kind of numbers that he did with Sean Payton calling the plays (and Drew Brees tossing the ball) in New Orleans.
CM: 2. New Raiders defensive coordinator Ken Norton, Jr. has already made his stamp on the Raiders defense. He also brought over former Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith from the Seahawks, who seemingly has won the starting job after already showing his talent. From someone who has seen him over the years, what are Smith's biggest strengths? Biggest weaknesses?
RR: In a word, Smith's greatest asset is his athleticism. He demonstrated his all-around athletic ability while at Southern Cal and the world saw his speed and playmaking ability on display against the Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII.
Smith isn't the stoutest linebacker in the league but he's physical and aggressive. He wasn't asked to rush the quarterback often in Seattle but is athletic enough to explode through gaps if sent on blitzes. His speed and awareness make him very effective in coverage, as well -- something that I believe makes him actually a better fit in Oakland than in Seattle due to high number of athletic running backs and tight ends catching passes in the AFC West rather than the brutal downhill running games so common in the NFC West.
CM: 3. It seems the Seattle Seahawks have been so stacked with talent the last couple of years that they have had some tough cuts to make. What players do you think may get cut that have a legitimate chance of making a significant contribution to other teams they may land on?
RR: Yes, over the past several years several players released as part of Seattle's final cuts wound up signing elsewhere. Your division rival Kansas City Chiefs and the Jacksonville Jaguars have been especially fond of former Seahawks and Benson Mayowa has flashed for the Raiders, as well.
The Seahawks were set to release wide receiver Kevin Norwood this week but when it became clear that other teams were interested in him, Schneider was able to coax a 7th round pick in the 2017 draft out of the Carolina Panthers. Another veteran - center Lemuel Jeanpierre - was released Monday and could offer a club a proven solid addition.
A few other players on the bubble in Seattle who are legitimate NFL players and would likely get signed elsewhere include nickel cornerback Will Blackmon, defensive end Demarcus Dobbs, tight end Anthony McCoy and running backs Robert Turbin and Christine Michael. Seattle isn't likely to cut both Turbin and Michael and perhaps either but met with former Buffalo Bills standout Fred Jackson on Tuesday.