Most of the starters return, but the offseason and training camp brought shake-ups to the offensive line, backup running backs and (for now) the secondary.
Russell Wilson not only is back, but now he’s in the fold through the 2019 season after signing a four-year contract extension worth $87.6 million. The Seahawks will expect more of the same from Wilson, who is 36-12 as a regular-season starter and 6-2 in the playoffs. Wilson hasn’t missed a meaningful snap since taking over as the starter in 2012. But if he does, the Seahawks have a capable backup in 32-year-old veteran Tarvaris Jackson, the last quarterback not named Russell Wilson to start a game for the Seahawks.
Marshawn Lynch is 29 years old and a veteran of eight seasons and 2,033 mostly punishing carries (and another 187 in the postseason). But there was no evidence in training camp that he’s on the decline, and the Seahawks are betting $12 million — his salary this year thanks to a contract signed in March — that he’ll be as good as ever. Seattle shook up the backups as the preseason ended, trading Christine Michael and placing Robert Turbin on injured reserve, bringing in veteran free agent Fred Jackson and keeping undrafted free agent Thomas Rawls. Derrick Coleman is dependable as the fullback (and a special-teams standout).
Consider this the most improved position on the team after the March trade with New Orleans that brought Jimmy Graham to Seattle. With the way the Seahawks run their offense, he might not make 85 catches, the number he had last season (let alone the career-high 99 he had in 2011). But he should greatly diversify Seattle’s red-zone options and easily could equal the 10 touchdown receptions of last season. Luke Willson is back as a speedy No. 2, probably his better role after serving as the starter much of last season after an injury to Zach Miller.
The most-debated position on the team the past few years figures to again elicit a lot of discussion. If you consider Graham a receiver — he lined up off the line roughly two-thirds of the time with the Saints and might do so again with the Seahawks — then this could be a vastly improved core. Otherwise, it’s a group that again likely will find plenty of chips to put on its collective shoulder. Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse project as starters, with Super Bowl hero Chris Matthews also likely a regular member of the rotation, though still needing to prove he’s not a one-hit wonder. Rookie Tyler Lockett also should make his share of plays.
The Seahawks spent much of the preseason trying to sort out the offensive line, specifically deciding on replacements for departed center Max Unger and left guard James Carpenter. But after some early shuffling, the team settled on a quintet of left tackle Russell Okung, left guard Justin Britt, center Drew Nowak, right guard J.R. Sweezy and right tackle Garry Gilliam. Only Sweezy and Okung have been regular starters at those positions before, and Gilliam and Nowak have never started at those positions. Preseason results appeared spotty to the naked eye, but the coaches said they liked the way it was coming together, with line coach Tom Cable saying it had the potential to be the best group he’s had. To many observers, though, the jury on the line is out until proven on the field.
The Seahawks hope they will have depth this season approaching what they had in 2013, when a seven-man rotation up front was an underrated key to the Super Bowl title. They didn’t have the same depth last season and it caught up to them in the Super Bowl. The starting four of ends Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett, nose tackle Brandon Mebane and defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin should be solid. Avril, Bennett and Mebane seemed to be playing as well as ever in the preseason. The key will be the production out of younger players such as rookie Frank Clark (a standout in the preseason), Jordan Hill and Cassius Marsh, among others.
The Seahawks again should have one of the better linebacking corps in the NFL, led by middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, fresh off signing an extension paying him $10.75 million a year, essentially the most of any player at his position in the NFL (though Carolina’s Luke Kuechly will make just over $11 million this year on a one-year option). K.J. Wright is back at weakside linebacker and looking improved on pass coverage this season. Bruce Irvin is back on the strong side. Kevin Pierre-Louis, in his second NFL season, serves essentially as a fourth linebacker, with Wright able to move to the other spots if needed.
The secondary often looked a little unfamiliar throughout the preseason. But assuming everything comes together the way the Seahawks expect, it again should be one of the best in the NFL. Earl Thomas, if recovered from offseason shoulder surgery, should again be as good as there is in the back end. Richard Sherman anchors the left-cornerback spot. One key will be how free-agent signee Cary Williams does replacing departed free agent Byron Maxwell. And the depth is largely unproven. The mysterious Kam Chancellor holdout continues. That could force Dion Bailey, who has never suited up for an NFL game, into the starting lineup.
Rookie Tyler Lockett looks like the real deal as a kickoff and punt returner, solving what became a big issue for the Seahawks last season, particularly after the October trade of Percy Harvin. Coaches also feel improved depth throughout the roster should make the coverage and return units better. The kicking battery remains the same as it has been since 2011 — kicker Steven Hauschka, punter/holder Jon Ryan and snapper Clint Gresham. No reason to think there will be a drop off now.