The Seattle Seahawks enter their 2014 training camp as defending Super Bowl champions for the first time in franchise history. While the team lost a handful of contributing pieces to free agency, the Seahawks return most of their impact players from their championship squad. In addition, the team locked up Michael Bennett, Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman and Doug Baldwin to long-term contracts to keep them in Seattle for the foreseeable future.
However, Seattle still has some questions to answer as training camp gets set to open on Friday. Can Thomas, Sherman and others play with the same drive after getting paid this offseason? How does Seattle replace Chris Clemons, Red Bryant and Clinton McDonald on their defensive line? Can Percy Harvin stay healthy enough to contribute all season?
Despite the few question marks, Seattle still enters the year as a strong candidate to return to the Super Bowl and become the first team to win consecutive titles since the New England Patriots in 2003-2004.
Even without Brandon Browner, the “Legion of Boom” will continue to cause fits for opposing offenses this year. Earl Thomas has become the premier safety in the game and Richard Sherman arguably the best cornerback. Kam Chancellor remains as the muscle of the quartet and Byron Maxwell has become dangerous as well with four interceptions in five starts to end the regular season.
Assuming the Seahawks and Marshawn Lynch can resolve any potential lingering contract concerns, Seattle’s rushing attack should be as good, if not better, in 2014. Seattle finished the season fourth in rushing with Lynch accumulating 1,257 yards and 12 touchdowns. Second-year back Christine Michael has drawn praise from the coaching staff and could give the offense a home run threat out of the backfield. Defenses still have to be aware of quarterback Russell Wilson rushing as well as he ran for 539 yards last season.
The offensive line was the biggest problem area for the Seahawks last season and many of the same issues remain as the season approaches. Russell Okung, Breno Giacomini and Max Unger combined to miss 18 games due to injury and the line struggled in their absence.
Giacomini is now gone to the New York Jets and Okung didn’t participate in offseason workouts while recovering from foot surgery. Former first-round pick James Carpenter has slimmed down and in the best shape of his professional career, but has mainly been a disappointment up to this point. Seattle also needs to find a starter at right tackle between Michael Bowie and second-round pick Justin Britt.
While still ranking as the best defense in the league last year, the Seahawks did struggle every once in a while against the run. St. Louis and Tampa Bay rushed for 200 yards against Seattle in consecutive weeks. With Red Bryant released for cap reasons, one of the stalwarts of Seattle’s rush defense is now gone.
James Carpenter is slotted to take over full-time at left guard in place of the departed Paul McQuistan. The position had been a timeshare for most of last season. Breno Giacomini will also need to be replaced at right tackle.
The Seahawks had found a nice pass rush package late in the season that caused problems for opposing offenses. However, Chris Clemons and Clinton McDonald have departed and Seattle will need to find replacements. Benson Mayowa, Greg Scruggs, Jordan Hill, Kevin Williams and Jesse Williams should all be vying for time in passing situations.
Bryon Maxwell will take over the starting cornerback job opposite Richard Sherman after assuming the role last season following the suspension of Brandon Browner.
Despite Pete Carroll’s “always compete” mantra, there aren’t many battles for starting jobs expected during training camp. Michael Bowie and Justin Britt will compete for the starting job at right tackle.
Beyond that, the wide receiver position should be fierce for roster spots and playing time. Percy Harvin participated in all offseason workouts and appears truly healthy for the first time since injuring his ankle in 2012 with the Minnesota Vikings. Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, Paul Richardson and Sidney Rice will be among the group competing for the next spot in line behind Harvin.
The same applies for the defensive line rotation with a slew of players competing for playing time. Greg Scruggs, Jesse Williams, Jordan Hill and Benson Mayowa were “redshirted” for lack of a better term due to being buried in the depth or injury. Along with the redshirt class, draft picks Cassius Marsh and Jimmy Staten will also have a chance to factor in the rotation.
Seattle will also need to find a punt returner to replace Golden Tate.
The Seahawks roster remains supremely talented and young. They were the youngest team to ever win a Super Bowl last February and Seattle has done a very good job of preparing their roster to absorb the larger contracts given to their emerging superstars.
The defense remains a physically imposing unit. Marshawn Lynch is a battering ram at running back and Russell Wilson the calm, distributor that directs the offense.
There are few areas of concern from a roster standpoint for Seattle as training camp approaches. The biggest question may be if they can handle being the hunted as reigning champions.