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2013 Team Report: Seattle Seahawks

Quarterbacks

Starter: Russell Wilson
Backup(s): Tarvaris Jackson

Starting QB: Russell Wilson's rookie season in 2012 was quite a story. He slipped to the third of the draft largely due to the NFL bias against quarterbacks under six feet tall. He faced an uphill battle in training camp to beat out the newly signed presumptive starter, Matt Flynn. But Wilson did win the starting job in camp and then proceeded to lead the Seahawks to an eleven-win regular season followed by a road playoff victory. Wilson is extremely coachable, and fixes his mistakes quickly. He is both accurate and mobile, and he improved as the season progressed, throwing 16 touchdowns and just 2 interceptions over the final eight games of the season. His final appearence, a playoff loss to the Falcons, may have been his most impressive: he rallied the Seahawks from a 20-point fourth-quarter deficit to take the lead with just under 30 seconds left. The Falcons kicked a game-winning field goal after that, but Wilson's 385 yards (and two touchdowns) passing with 60 yards (and a touchdown) rushing were part of a phenomenal performance capping off a fantastic rookie season. Now with a year of experience under his belt and one of the more dynamic receivers in Percy Harvin acquired in a trade, Wilson is in a position to build on his first-year success. What might limit his fantasy value to some extent is that the Seahawks will seek to win, more often than not, with defense and a strong running game, rather than by putting the ball in the air a lot.

Backup QB: After Tarvaris Jackson was released by the Bills in June, the Seahawks picked him up to compete with Brady Quinn for the number two job. Jackson started 14 games for the Seahawks in 2011, but after the team acquired both Matt Flynn and Russell Wilson in 2012, Jackson was traded to Buffalo during the preseason. Jackson is familiar with the Seahawks offense, and like Russell Wilson, he is a mobile quarterback known for his strong leadership and his ability to play through injury.

Running Backs

Starter: Marshawn Lynch
Backup(s): Robert Turbin, Christine Michael [R], Derrick Coleman
Fullback(s): Michael Robinson, Spencer Ware [R]

Starting RB: Marshawn Lynch rushed for a career-best 1,590 yards last season, and by some scouts was second only to Adrian Peterson in causing defenders to miss tackles (either by eluding or breaking their attempted tackles). He runs with a very physical, determined style, and may see even more running room this season with the addition of Percy Harvin to keep defenses from stacking the box. That said, there are two concerns about Lynch's reliability. First, he has been troubled by back spasms for the past couple seasons. He did not miss any regular season games because of them last season (he did miss one in 2011), but he was frequently limited in practice, and was listed as "questionable" for most games. Second, Lynch was arrested for a DUI in July 2012, and the matter is set to go to trial this June. If Lynch is convicted, he would likely face a two-game suspension to start the season.

Backup RBs: Robert Turbin was the Seahawks' fourth-round draft choice in 2012, and he played well as a rookie in his limited opportunities. Turbin has good strength and quickness, and he's a downhill runner who doesn't waste steps behind the line of scrimmage. He will face competition for snaps this season from the Seahawks' 2013 second-round pick, Christine Michael. Like Turbin, Michael is a tough, decisive, one-cut runner, and he should contend for playing time right away. In the longer term, Michael could be the eventual successor to Lynch when Lynch's contract gets substantially more expensive in 2015.

Fullback: Michael Robinson was a quarterback and wide receiver in college, but the 49ers converted him to fullback after drafting him in the fourth round in 2006. He has a strong grip on the 49ers starting fullback position, having made the Pro Bowl in 2012 as an alternate. Spencer Ware played both fullback and halfback at LSU, and will most likely fit in as a long-term project at fullback for the Seahawks. He is a good candidate to spend the 2013 season on the practice squad.

Wide Receivers

Starters: Sidney Rice, Golden Tate
Backups: Percy Harvin [inj], Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, Brett Swain

Starting WRs: Percy Harvin would have been the Seahawks' featured wide receiver this season, but surgery on an injured hip before the preseason will keep him sidelined until at least November, and possibly all season. While Harvin is out, last year's starters Sidney Rice and Golden Tate will reprise their roles as the team's outside weapons. Sidney Rice has excellent hands, leaping ability, body control, and footwork near the sideline, but he is not a speed burner and is not much of a runner after the catch. Golden Tate is an adequate complementary receiver: a hard worker who has improved each year he's been in the league. He has decent quickness, will fight for the ball in the crowd, and is a willing blocker. His upside potential is limited, and he is not a dynamic runner after the catch, but he has become a solid route-runner.

Backup WRs: Percy Harvin is an electrifying player who has had trouble staying on the field. He struggled with foot injuries at Florida, illness and migranes in the NFL, and an ankle injury that landed him on Injured Reserve last season. In late July 2013, it was reported that Harvin had partially torn some cartilage in his hip socket, requiring surgery that will keep him sidelined until at least November, and perhaps all season. But when he is healthy, he is among the league's very best game-breakers. The Seahawks traded a 2013 first-round pick and a 2014 third-round pick to land Harvin from the Vikings. He can line up as an outside receiver, in the slot, or even in the backfield; he can be a security blanket underneath or a downfield threat; and he can be deadly on bubble screens, end-arounds, and any other way the Seahakws can come up with to get him the ball. Doug Baldwin led the Seahawks in receptions as an undrafted free agent in 2011. He had a smaller role last year. Jermaine Kearse, an undrafted rookie last year, made the team because of his versatility and his ability to contribute on special teams. He may face an uphill battle to make the final roster this season.

Tight Ends

Starters: Zach Miller
Backups: Luke Willson [R], Sean McGrath, Darren Fells

Zach Miller was a proficient pass-catcher for several seasons with the Raiders, earning a nice payday when he signed with the Seahawks as a free agent in 2011. The Seahawks, however, have not featured Miller in the passing game the way that the Raiders did, and he has not made a fantasy impact in Seattle. Miller is strong as both a blocker and receiver, so he is a solid starting NFL tight end even though he's no longer starting material as a fantasy player. (He did gain 142 yards receiving in the playoff loss to the Falcons -- his first 100-yard game as a Seahawk.). Rookie Luke Willson was overshadowed by Vance McDonald (the 49ers' second-round pick) at Rice, but he has excellent speed for a tight end, and his elite athleticism gives him much better upside potential than the steady and reliable (but unexciting) Sean McGrath. Wilson will have every shot to win playing time this season following the Achilles injury to Anthony McCoy (who has been placed on Injured Reserve). Darren Fells is an intriguing dynasty prospect. He is a former professional basketball player who last played football in high school. He is raw, but has excellent size and very good athleticism for a big man. He is a long-term project who could pay off in a few years.

Place Kicker

Steve Hauschka: Clint Gresham is back for a fourth season as the long snapper. Back for a sixth year is punter is Jon Ryan, who also serves as the holder. Kicker Steve Hauschka was re-signed just prior to the draft. He comes off a strong 2012 campaign in which he hit 24 of 27 (88.9%) field goals with all three misses coming from 50+ yards. He looked even stronger this preseason. The Seahawks have ranked in the bottom half of the league in attempted kicking points the past five years, with the highest being 17th last year.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Robert Turbin, Jermaine Kearse, Percy Harvin

Wide receiver Percy Harvin would be a near lock to receive most of the Seahawks kickoffs, but he had surgery on his hip that made him miss much of the season. Jermaine Kearse handled most of the returns until Harvin's brief return. Harvin underwent a second procedure and the team turned to Robert Turbin in the meantime. The team will be watching how Harvin responds to therapy, and could rest him until the playoffs or limit his return duties even if active.

Punt Returners: Golden Tate, Walter Thurmond, Bryan Walters

Head coach Pete Carroll has stated that Golden Tate will have the first crack at the punt return position. Two seasons ago, Tate returned 16 punts with a respectable 12.6 yards per return. Walter Thurmond is set to spell Tate when the team wants their starting receiver fresh for an offensive series. Walters only has a 5.6 yards per return average, though with 8 returns in the NFL the sample size is small.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: LT Russell Okung, LG James Carpenter, C Max Unger, RG Paul McQuistan, RT Breno Giacomini
Key Backups: T Michael Bowie, T Mike Person, G John Moffitt, G J.R. Sweezy, C Lemuel Jeanpierre

The Seattle Seahawks offensive line had some injuries, and limped to the finish line last season. This is how they finished seventeenth in last season's rankings. However, they are healthy and return all five starters, good for a perfect cohesion score. Left tackle Russell Okung finally reached his Pro Bowl potential and was rewarded for a top notch season with a trip to Hawaii. Center Max Unger was an AP All-Pro and was a dominant player in both phases of the game. These players are the stars of this unit, and drive this high ranking. However both guard positions and right tackle are more upgradable. Right tackle Breno Giacomini is a surprisingly decent player who started all sixteen games last season for the Seahawks, while playing with an elbow injury that required surgery after the season. Giacomini is far from a perfect player, but overall he is more good than bad, and is becoming a favorite of both fans and coaches. At left guard, James Carpenter is a former first round pick who has been beset by injuries. At right guard, Paul McQuistan has been the definition of "just a guy." Neither guard is particularly reliable. Both players will be pushed by an interesting list of depth names, including former Wisconsin Badger John Moffitt and former college defensive tackle J.R. Sweezy. Mike Person is likely to be the sixth man in at swing tackle, although he could be pushed for that job by seventh round pick Michael Bowie out of Northwestern State. The Seahawks have built a really tough and high performing offensive line, and few teams are better at pounding the rock.

Team Defense

The new darling in fantasy circles, the Seattle defense is all the range this season. There's good reason for that adulation as this is a really good defense. There are playmakers everywhere, and they are allowed to be aggressive. It would not be a surprise to see Seattle lead the league in forced turnovers and sacks. They'll be stingy with yards and points allowed as well. While the San Francisco defense has a longer track record, the Seahawks could easily be the first defense off the board in 2013.

Defensive Line

Starters: DE Cliff Avril, DE Red Bryant, DT Brandon Mebane, DT Michael Bennett
Backups: DE Bruce Irvin, DE Chris Clemons, DE Ty Powell [R], DT Clint McDonald, DT Tony McDaniel, DT Jordan Hill [R], DT Jesse Williams [R]

Starting DL: The Seahawks had the top scoring defense in the league in 2013 (15.3 PPG). They were in the middle of the pack with 36 sacks. Head coach Pete Carroll did lose former defensive coordinator Gus Bradley to promotion as head coach of the Jaguars. Former Seattle defensive line coach Dan Quinn returns as defensive coordinator after a two year college hiatus building top 10 defenses at Florida. With defensive end Chris Clemons (Seattle's sack leader in recent seasons) sidelined while rehabbing from a torn ACL suffered during the NFC Wild Card Playoff victory over the Redskins, the front office dialed up coveted 27 year old, ex-Lions defensive end Cliff Avril (nearly 40 sacks since 2008) in free agency, to keep the heat on opposing offenses. He signed a two year contract for a surprisingly modest, cap friendly $15 million. Red Bryant is an unusual defensive end at a listed 6'5" and 318 pounds and would typically be listed as a defensive tackle in a conventional 4-3 alignment. His role isn't about splash plays, but assignment sound gap control and making his teammates better. Brandon Mebane is agile for a big man and can bring inside pressure as well as stuff the run. Ex-Buc Bennett (9 sacks in 2012) began his NFL career as a Seahawk UFA and is another welcome free agent addition. He could be shunted inside in passing situations as a penetrating, three technique defensive tackle, while playing defensive end in the base defense (reprising the role within the Seattle scheme of departed Jason Jones from last year, and one Bennett already had himself in Tampa Bay).

Backup DL: Thought by some scouts to be a reach at 1.15 in the 2012 draft, Bruce Irvin led all rookies with eight sacks. Capable of clocking in the 4.4 range at 6'3" and 245 pounds, he has terrifying speed for an edge rusher. The trade off is that Irvin can be engulfed by bigger blockers, and needs further physical maturation and technical development to avoid being one dimensional and a liability against punishing ground attacks. Irvin has become the latest in an alarming number of recent Seattle suspensions for PEDs. Clemons status for the season (let alone the beginning) is uncertain as he rehabs his torn ACL from January. Tony McDaniel is a run stuffing nose tackle-type. Seattle drafted a couple of interesting rookie interior defensive line prospects. Third round defensive tackle Jordan Hill could provide rotational depth initially. Jesse Williams was the first known indigenous Australian to ever be awarded a football scholarship in the US. After paying his JUCO dues he landed in Alabama where he started at nose tackle. At 6'3" and 325 pounds, he can bench press 600 pounds, but his feet were improbably nifty enough to block on the goal line for an Eddie Lacy TD run. He probably would have been drafted higher than the fifth round if not for medical concerns about his knee.

Linebackers

Starters: MLB Bobby Wagner, WLB Malcolm Smith, SLB K.J. Wright
Backups: WLB Allen Bradford, LB Mike Morgan, MLB Heath Farwell

Starting LBs: Seattle was strong against the run, with their 103.1 rushing YPG allowed good for 10th in the league. A key piece of the puzzle for the overall defensive picture was brilliant second round, Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate Bobby Wagner. Despite the coaching staff giving him increasing responsibility, he continued to improve and got better and better as a three down middle linebacker throughout the season. The former Utah State star is a freakish athlete capable of making plays in the run and pass game. Wagner filled up the box score in 2012 with 85+ solo tackles, 3.5 sacks and 3 INTs, and already looks like one of the best young linebackers in the game and a Pro Bowl caliber talent. Former USC weakside linebacker Malcolm Smith has rare speed and explosiveness for his position (eye popping 4.45 40 and 39" vertical jump at his pro day). Drafted by his former head coach Carroll two years ago in the seventh round, he reportedly will get first crack at the weakside spot vacated by departed veteran Leroy Hill (he already acquitted himself in this role as an injury sub in limited action last year). Smith has NFL bloodlines, and is the younger brother of fellow Trojan alum and ex-Giants star wide receiver Steve Smith. K.J. Wright is a 2011 fourth rounder from Mississippi State. He has good size at 6'3" and 246 pounds and enjoyed a breakout season last year (69 solo tackles, with one sack, INT and FF).

Backup LBs: Bradford is a former highly recruited (by Carroll) two way prep running back/linebacker who focused on the former position while at USC. After failing to stick at running back with Tampa Bay, he began the conversion process back to linebacker last year, and could be in the mix to start at the weakside if former Trojan teammate Malcolm Smith falters.

Defensive Backs

Starters: SS Kam Chancellor, FS Earl Thomas, CB Brandon Browner, CB Richard Sherman
Backups: SS Jeron Johnson, SS Winston Guy, CB Antoine Winfield, CB Jeremy Lane, CB Byron Maxwell, CB Tharold Simon [R]

Starting DBs: The Seahawks were nearly top five against the pass, with only 203.1 passing YPG allowed, and tied for eighth in INTs (18). They sport the consensus top secondary in the NFL (though Tampa Bay is building a formidable rival). At 6'3" and 231 pounds, strong safety Kam Chancellor is a contemporary version of former Cards great Adrian Wilson in his prime. What separates him from his peers are his freakish movement skills and coverage ability for a king-sized, weakside linebacker-like defensive back. Just 25, Chancellor was a priority signing in the off-season, and he was recently rewarded for his Pro Bowl play with a five year, $35 million contract ($17 million guaranteed). Before the 2010 draft (where he went 1.14), Mike Mayock called Earl Thomas the most instinctive safety he had ever graded, and some NFL observers think he might be the best safety in the game today. Already a two time All Pro, his superior understanding of the game, lightning quick reactions and sub-4.4 speed allow him to drive on the ball like few others ever have. Seattle also has a gifted tandem at cornerback. Brandon Browner (6'4" and 220 pounds) and Richard Sherman (6'3" and 195 pounds) are both long, athletic, physical press corners with unusual coverage ability and ball skills for their size, as well as being strong tacklers in run support. Look for Thomas and Sherman to get future extensions.

Backup DBs: Long time Seahawk cornerback Marcus Trufant recently moved on in free agency by signing with Jacksonville. Replacing him will be long time Viking Antoine Winfield, who continues to defy the odds by playing at a high level well into his mid-thirties (turns 36 in 2013). Ticketed for a nickel role covering the inside slot receiver, it is impossible to describe Winfield without the obligatory reference - maybe the greatest pound for pound tackler in the game (and one of the best ever). Ex-LSU rookie cornerback Tharold Simon went in the fifth round. He ironically was arrested in his hometown on the eve of what was intended to be a day honoring him.

Last modified: 2013-12-03 19:55:51