As the wins have increased for the Seahawks the past two years, the roster churn has decreased.
The makeup of every NFL team changes from one year to the next, of course. And the Seahawks had their share of personnel shuffling in the offseason.
But the days of the Seahawks leading the NFL in roster turnover, as they did early in the Pete Carroll/John Schneider era as they worked to assemble a Super Bowl champion team, appear over.
Consider that as they entered the 2011 season, the Seahawks had 26 new players on their 53-man roster.
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Three years later, as the Seahawks prepare to opening training camp Friday as the defending Super Bowl champs, they return 43 of the players who made up the 53-man roster that defeated the Denver Broncos 43-8.
No doubt, many of the departees were big-name and highly-valued players, notably receiver Golden Tate, defensive linemen Red Bryant, Chris Clemons and Clinton McDonald, cornerback Walter Thurmond and offensive linemen Breno Giacomini and Paul McQuistan.
But the bulk of an obviously proven roster returns.
And while the “Always Compete’’ mantra remains, it won’t be easy for new players to break through on a team attempting to make NFL history.
Here’s a quick overview of each position group as camp begins:
No question about the starter here, with Russell Wilson back for his third season, and will potentially be asked to take on an increased role in the offense. But there’s an intriguing battle for the backup spot between veteran Tarvaris Jackson and Terrelle Pryor, which will make exhibition games interesting. Pryor, acquired from the Raiders for a seventh-round pick, has undeniable physical gifts but figures to need to show more consistency in his passing to bypass Jackson.
The names don’t figure to change much at all in the backfield, other than the departure of retired Michael Robinson at fullback. The big question is whether the team again gives Marshawn Lynch 300 or so carries, or decides to decrease his workload a bit and get Christine Michael and Robert Turbin more involved. There’s also the specter of a possible Lynch contract holdout. Lynch showed up for minicamp, though he did not take part in practice due to an ankle injury that wasn’t portrayed as serious.
Despite the loss of Tate, the Seahawks ended the spring feeling they could have a better receiving group than last year, with a healthy Percy Harvin, the added experience of Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse, and the addition of draft picks Paul Richardson and Kevin Norwood. The big question might be the health of Sidney Rice, coming off a knee injury and now sporting a much smaller salary. If he’s good to go, Seattle could be deep at WR, and also have some pretty tough decisions.
There might not be much change here with Zach Miller returning as the presumptive starter and Luke Willson and now-healthy Anthony McCoy seemingly entrenched as the backups. The big question might be Willson’s progress and how much more the team will include him in the offense.
Four of five starters on the line could be the same as the Super Bowl — center Max Unger, left tackle Russell Okung, left guard James Carpenter and right guard J.R. Sweezy. The big question will be finding a replacement for Giacomini at right tackle, a battle between second-year player Michael Bowie and second-round draft pick Justin Britt that might be the most intense competition on the team.
There might be more subtle shifting of responsibilities here than at any other position group as the Seahawks try to make up for the losses of Bryant, Clemons and McDonald, and integrate younger players. But no matter the alignment, veteran ends Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett and tackles Brandon Mebane and Tony McDaniel will form the foundation. An early intrigue will be watching newly acquired veteran free agent Kevin Williams.
Bobby Wagner is back in the middle, and K.J. Wright and Malcolm Smith return on the outside. Smith’s battle with Bruce Irvin for the strongside spot could be one of the more interesting on the team. But Irvin first has to get healthy following offseason hip surgery. Solidifying the depth with younger players, such as 2014 draftee Kevin Pierre-Louis, will be a key.
The only real question is who fills the backup roles behind starting safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor and cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Byron Maxwell. Jeremy Lane seems to have a foothold as Thurmond’s replacement at nickelback.
There’s no question about the kicker (Steven Hauschka) or punter (Jon Ryan) with neither having any competition in camp. Also back is snapper Clint Gresham, also with no competition in camp. Harvin projects as the main kickoff returner. The big question is finding a replacement for Tate as the punt returner. Carroll said at the end of the spring minicamp that Thomas remained the leader for that job. But Sherman, Baldwin, Harvin, Richardson and receiver Bryan Walters could all factor in, as well.