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2014 Team Report: Seattle Seahawks

Quarterbacks

Starter: Russell Wilson
Backup(s): B.J. Daniels

Starting QB: Russell Wilson threw for more yards last year than he did during the previous regular season, but he regressed on the whole as a passer. Wilson played with a hesitation that made many believe that his receivers couldn't separate and cost him chances for big plays down the field. Instead of throwing the ball effectively, he relied heavily on his running ability to help carry the offense. While his elusiveness and explosiveness was effective, he will need to return to throwing the ball well to sustain success moving forward.

Backup QB: B.J. Daniels is the only quarterback of note behind Wilson at this stage of the off-season as Tarvaris Jackson remains a free agent. Jackson should sign somewhere before the season starts and it makes sense for him to return to the Seahawks where he has been a reliable backup and starter in previous years.

Running Backs

Starter: Marshawn Lynch
Backup(s): Robert Turbin, Christine Michael
Fullback(s): Derrick Coleman, Will Tukuafu

Starting RB: Despite the almost annual speculation about Marshawn Lynch's future this off-season, he remains the Seahawks starter for the 2015 season. Lynch is old, but he doesn't take as much punishment as most backs who make their living between the tackles because of how he runs. Lynch is one of the few backs in the league who can expect to be a feature back and three-down player at the position. His fantasy value remains as high as anyone's until signs of physical decline can be seen in his play. The only concern with Lynch is the state of his offensive line.

Backup RBs: Christine Michael remains a fan favorite for many, but his career continues to be non-existent on the field. Michael enters another training camp as the Seahawks' third option, with the ever reliable and effective Robert Turbin slated to be Lynch's primary backup again. Michael has the physical talent to take Turbin's job from him and the Seahawks may be more willing to give him some of Lynch's snaps as their starter ages, but right now it's difficult to expect anything from a player who has done so little over his career.

Fullback: Will Tukuafu and Derrick Coleman both played fullback for the Seahawks last year, but neither player carried a prominent role in the offense. With Russell Wilson gaining more and more experience, it makes sense for the Seahawks to continue to surround him with more weapons by neglecting the fullback position.

Wide Receivers

Starters: Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse
Backups: Chris Matthews, Kevin Norwood, Paul Richardson, Ricardo Lockette, Tyler Lockett

Starting WRs: The Seahawks have had very little luck at the wide receiver position in recent years. Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin were supposed to be the starters two seasons ago, but now neither player is even on the roster. Jermaine Kearse and Doug Baldwin were the starting options last year because neither rookie Paul Richardson or Kevin Norwood could supplant them. Richardson eventually tore his ACL at a time when he was emerging into a potentials tarter. Kearse and Baldwin are listed as the starters, but there should be a true competition for every spot around Doug Baldwin.

Backup WRs: Chris Matthews could have been the Super Bowl MVP as he enjoyed his breakout game on the biggest stage of them all. Matthews offers the Seahawks something they don't have, a big athletic receiver with impressive ball skills. Ricardo Lockette played much more than Matthews last year, but he is a limited player, limitations that were highlighted on the Patriots' championship-sealing interception. Richardson's recovery from his second ACL tear will likely land him on the PUP list to start the season, while Norwood needs to show major development into his second season. The Seahawks traded up for Tyler Lockett in the draft, but primarily spoke about him as a kick returner rather than a receiving option on offense.

Tight Ends

Starters: Jimmy Graham
Backups: Luke Willson, Anthony McCoy, Cooper Helfet

It could be argued that Luke Willson will be the Seahawks starting tight end and Jimmy Graham will be used more as a receiver. Graham was the highlight addition for the Seahawks this off-season and he should be Russell Wilson's primary deep threat. Wilson understands how to put the ball in a spot for his receivers to go and get, so Graham should excel in an offense that will likely be more aggressive in getting him the football. Willson's snaps may be hurt if Graham lines up inside more, while Anthony McCoy is just hoping to make the roster after missing the past two seasons with injuries. McCoy and Cooper Helfet will likely be the only training camp competition at this spot, with Helfet being the early favorite.

Place Kicker

Steve Hauschka: Clint Gresham is back for a fifth season as the long snapper. Back for a seventh year is punter is Jon Ryan, who also serves as the holder. Potential free agent kicker Steve Hauschka was re-signed to a 3-year deal in March. He comes off his best year yet in 2013, when he hit 33 of 35 (94.3%) on field goals and added 44 extra points. The Seahawks ranked 7th in attempted kicking points last year for their first top ten finish since 2007.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Tyler Lockett [R], Paul Richardson, Paul Richardson

Seattle saw rookie receiver Tyler Lockett as the best returner in the draft and traded up to get him. Coach Pete Carrol has already said he imagines Lockett will handle the first kickoff of the season. Lockett had a 28.5 yard average on kickoff returns in college, including 4 touchdowns. His backup could come out of preseason competition, though receiver Paul Richardson was best last year with a 23.5 yard average on his 16 kick returns.

Punt Returners: Tyler Lockett [R], Doug Baldwin, Paul Richardson

Tyler Lockett had a phenomenal senior season in college as a punt returner, with 21 returns at a 19.1 yard average and 2 touchdowns. Lockett should move into Seattle's primary punt returner position left vacant when Bryan Walters moved to the Jaguars in free agency. Doug Baldwin was the backup for Walters and stands a good chance to continue in that role this year.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: LT Russell Okung, LG James Carpenter, C Max Unger, RG J.R. Sweezy, RT Michael Bowie
Key Backups: T Alvin Bailey, T Justin Britt, G Greg Van Roten, C Lemanuel Jeanpierre, G Steve Schilling, G Jared Smith, T Garrett Scott [R]

Despite some changes in the lineup, the Seahawks’ offensive line still grades out as one of the best units in the entire league. Right tackle Michael Bowie is the likely starter after Breno Giacomini departed via free agency. Bowie is no stranger to the lineup as Giacomini battled injuries last year and Bowie started eight games in his place. The coaching staff has faith in Bowie but still drafted competition, as third round pick Justin Britt will likely also see reps at the right tackle spot during preseason. On the other side, left tackle Russell Okung is rehabbing after offseason foot surgery, but is likely to be full go by week one. Okung made his second Pro Bowl last year, but could not attend as he was participating in the Super Bowl. Okung is a supremely talented player but has never made it through a complete sixteen game season. While Okung is recovering, Alvin Bailey will man the position during organized team activities. Bailey is likely to be the swing tackle when the season starts. At left guard, the team has high hopes for former first round pick James Carpenter, who is reportedly in the best shape of his career this spring. Center Max Unger is another player who made but could not attend the Pro Bowl last year. Unger continues to be one of the league’s better centers. Lemanuel Jeanpierre should be the backup behind Unger, and he’s reliable as a spot starter. At right guard, J.R. Sweezy is another player who the coaching staff favors. Sweezy is a former defensive lineman who started most of last season and played relatively well. One small footnote the team drafted Garrett Scott in the sixth round but then placed him on waivers/injured list after diagnosing him with a heart condition. Scott could still have a future with the team but it won't be in 2014, as he is on the shelf for the season. Overall this line should be a dominant unit, especially if they can keep Okung healthy.

Team Defense

This unit has lost (and reloaded) a lot of talent and depth in the offseason. One person they made a point to bring back was Michael Bennett to play opposite Cliff Avril on the defensive line. There's still plenty of talent, and a lot of bodies, but the drop off may be greater when hey start subbing than it was last year. Behind them will be a group of young athletic linebackers led by Bobby Wagner. As good as the LB were last year there's reason to believe they should be even better in 2014. of course the back of the defense is covered by the Legion of Boom. Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman, and Kam Chancellor bring big hits, big plays, and big numbers. Again, the Seahawks lost a little depth here, but the other three are so good they may not need any help.

Defensive Line

Starters: DE/DT Michael Bennett, DE Cliff Avril, DT Brandon Mebane, DT Tony McDaniel
Backups: DE Greg Scruggs, DE Cassius Marsh [R], DT Jordan Hill, DT Jesse Williams, DT Jimmy Staten [R]

Starting DL: Bennett’s playoff and Super Bowl heroics could have parlayed his one year deal into a more lucrative free agency contract (his brother, Chicago Bears TE Martellus, reportedly tried to recruit him), but he opted to help the reigning Super Bowl champs defend their trophy, signing a four year, $28.5 million contract, with $16 million guaranteed. While Red Bryant and Chris Clemons weren’t retained, Seattle prioritized re-signing the 28 year old ex-Tampa Bay DL (who actually began his career with the Seahawks, albeit briefly, before the former UFA was cut and claimed off waivers by the Bucs). Even as a situational player, they value his versatility to play inside and outside, and his pass rushing ability from anywhere on the DL is a key part of their wave rotation. Former Lion Avril, signed to a two year deal in 2013, is undersized at a LB-like 6’3” 252 lbs., but has been a very productive pass rusher, with 47.5 sacks and 22 FFs since entering the league from Purdue in 2008. Both Bennett and Avril were impact signings, leading the team in sacks with 8.5 and 8, respectively, and made their presence felt in a big way during the Super Bowl. Mebane has good agility and quickness for his size. He isn’t a sack artist, but his interior pressure is disruptive to opposing offenses and creates playmaking opportunities for his teammates. McDaniel is a journeyman run stuffer with nice length at 6’7” 305 lbs. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts with the Seattle pass rush. Scheme, athletic DL with flexible skill sets and positional versatility enabling multiple fronts, as well as the wave rotations keeping the DL fresh, all contribute to the aim of generating relentless, intense, withering pressure for 60 minutes (contributing to a league leading 28 INTs last year).

Backup DL: Scruggs tore his ACL last off-season and has had a lot of time to recover for the 2014 campaign. At 6’3” 285 lbs. he has the size of a 3-4 DE and helps harden the DL against the run. Rookie fourth rounder Marsh is an intriguing prospect with the de rigueur athletic versatility and positional flexibility to fit Seattle’s multi-tasking DE/DT template. He began his career at UCLA as a 300 lb. DT, and after re-purposing his body, finished as a 254 lb. DE. Marsh has NFL bloodlines (his father played WR for the Jaguars and Steelers in the mid-90s). Williams starred at NT for the 2012 Alabama team that won a national championship. Despite not playing last season due to a knee injury, he became the first indigenous Australian to receive a Super Bowl ring.

Linebackers

Starters: MLB Bobby Wagner MLB, WLB K.J. Wright, SLB/DE Bruce Irvin
Backups: WLB Malcolm Smith, WLB Mike Morgan, WLB Kevin Pierre-Louis [R], MLB Heath Farwell

Starting LBs: Wagner has been a sensational second round pick from the 2012 draft. He is a gifted athlete (well put together 6’1” 240 lbs.) with the speed, range, coverage ability and instincts to be a factor in the pass as well as the run game. The brilliant former Utah State star improved on an outstanding rookie season, again filling up the box score with nearly 90 solos, 5 sacks and 2 INTs. Wagner played an integral role for one of the top defenses in recent memory, and was instrumental in the stop unit’s dominating Super Bowl run. He has played with a maturity beyond his years, turns just 24 this season and is an ascendant player with his best football probably still in front of him. Wright is another young rising star at LB (turning 25 in 2014). The 2011 fourth rounder is one of many signature day three revelations for GM John Schneider and HC Pete Carroll. Taller and nearly as big as DE Avril (6‘4“ 246 lbs.), he has nice length for a LB. Like Wagner, Wright is also an instinctive, athletic, second level Swiss Army knife that can run, hit and cover, and play in any down and distance situation. A broken foot caused him to miss most of the last month of the regular season and limited his snaps in the playoffs during the Super Bowl run. Wright's contract runs through this season. Irvin is proof (with Earl Thomas) that Seattle values speed as well as size. Somewhat of a tweener and liability against the run (an undersized DE at 6’3” 245 lbs, learning to play in space as a SLB), Irvin took an unusual path to the NFL. Dropping out of high school, he became a JUCO star, than one of the top sack artists in the nation at West Virginia. Clocking a freakish-for-a-DE 4.50 40 time (unofficial 4.43) at the combine rocketed him up the draft board, where the Seahawks took him in the top half of the first round. Irvin was suspended for the first four games of the 2013 season.

Backup LBs: Smith was a rotational, situational player for much of the season, until replacing the injured Wright towards the end of the season and in the playoffs. By improbably becoming the Super Bowl MVP, he was emblematic of how much of a TEAM victory it was for the franchise’s first ever Lombardi Trophy. A former USC Trojan like his brother, ex-NFL WR Steve (the other), and reunited with collegiate HC Pete Carroll, the 2011 seventh round pick is another in a litany of testaments to the organization’s acute day three drafting savvy. For most of his NFL tenure a back up and special team player, he made the most of his opportunity once Wright's injury thrust him into the spotlight (4 INTs with two return TDs in his last five games, including the NFC Championship game and Super Bowl), and may have earned more time in 2014. While somewhat undersized (6’0” 226 lbs.), he has the speed (4.5), range and coverage skills of a safety. Like Wright, Smith's contract runs through 2014. Pierre-Louis (6‘1“ 232 lbs.), like DL Cassius Marsh, is a 2014 fourth rounder and also has some freakish athletic traits. He had one of the most impressive combines from the LB position group (a blazing 4.51 was the top 40 time for a LB, and he also launched a 39” VJ), will start out at WLB and have a chance to contribute and make a name for himself on ST at first.

Defensive Backs

Starters: FS Earl Thomas, SS Kam Chancellor, CB Richard Sherman, CB Byron Maxwell
Backups: SS Jeron Johnson, SS Eric Pinkins [R], CB Jeremy Lane, CB Therald Simon, CB Phillip Adams

Starting DBs: Historically, there have been front fours with the talent and notoriety to justify a nickname, such as the Fearsome Foursome, Purple People Eaters and Steel Curtain. But how many secondaries, such as the Legion of Boom? While they earned their moniker by hitting like a fist loaded with a roll of quarters, they also led the NFL with 28 INTs in 2013. Thomas (3 X All-Pro) has emerged as not only the top FS in the game, but arguably the best safety, period, and had a career year in 2013, setting new personal highs in solo tackles (78) and FFs (2), as well as tying his previous mark in INTs (5). The 14th overall pick of the 2010 draft compensates for his lack of height (5’10” 202 lbs.) with an unsurpassed combination of speed and instincts, as well as being an explosive open field tackler. Like Ed Reed, Thomas is a film junkie that takes football and his preparation seriously. He is the most singular and irreplaceable player on the defense, with the range and optimal blend of skills to perform the critically important function of keeping plays in front of him while providing single high coverage over the top so the CBs can play aggressive press man coverage. Before the draft, Seattle locked him up to a richly deserved four year extension worth $40 million ($27+ million guaranteed), making him the highest paid safety in the NFL. Chancellor is ominously designated the Deathbacker (named for a roaming hybrid safety/LB used in his alma mater Virginia Tech's defensive scheme). The 2 X Pro Bowler and 2013 All-Pro has the size of a LB (6’3” 232 lbs.), the athleticism and movement skills of a safety and is a physical, punishing, intimidating tackler and tone setter for the defense. He also set a new high in solo tackles (80), had as many assists as his first three seasons combined (54 - new stat keeper?) and added 3 INTs. Chancellor signed a four year extension last year that runs through 2017, for $28 million ($17 million guaranteed). Sherman (2 X All-Pro) is a true shut down CB and signed a four year, $57+ million contract extension ($40 million guaranteed) just before the draft, making him the highest paid DB in the league. He led the NFL in INTs in 2013 (8), and was the top vote getter among defensive players for the Pro Bowl. Sherman is very bright (Dominguez High School, CA salutarian and Stanford graduate), has great length at 6’3” and is a gifted athlete, a former California state champion in the triple jump with a personal best 10.7 100 meters and 38" VJ. He led Stanford in receiving as a Freshman All American, before making the position switch and CB conversion his final two seasons, following a knee injury. In addition to his physical tools and athletic gifts, it is his off-the-charts instincts and football IQ that separates him from most of his peers. All three All-Pro DBs have field tilting talent with skill sets that mesh very well together. On the bonus plan, Chancellor and Sherman were fifth round picks. They are just 26 (Thomas is only 25). Maxwell (6’0” 207 lbs.) takes over opposite Sherman with the departure of Brandon Browner.

Backup DBs: Pinkins (6‘3” 220 lbs.) could be sent from central casting as far as fitting the Seattle super-sized CB template. The former San Diego State rookie safety is another imposing physical specimen and freakish athlete, running an eye-popping 4.45 at his pro day. Seattle could experiment with him at CB (more a positional reacquaintance than conversion, as he played there in high school). Pinkins, Lane and Simon, like starters Sherman and Maxwell, were all drafted in the fifth or sixth round and are at least 6‘0“.

Last modified: 2015-05-10 21:08:10