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Larry Stone: As their roster comes into focus, how good can the 2021 Seahawks be?

UPDATED: Wed., Sept. 1, 2021

Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll walks off the field after an NFL preseason football game against the Los Angeles Chargers, Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021, in Seattle. The Seahawks won 27-0.  (Associated Press)
Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll walks off the field after an NFL preseason football game against the Los Angeles Chargers, Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021, in Seattle. The Seahawks won 27-0. (Associated Press)
By Larry Stone Seattle Times

SEATTLE – The Seahawks unveiled no seismic changes Tuesday, no shocking cuts or mind-blowing trades that would shake the roster to its core.

Oh, they did add former Husky Sidney Jones in a low-key deal with Jacksonville, giving up a 2022 sixth-round draft pick to shore up the cornerback position that remains worrisome (at least to the outside world; it’s quite possible the Seahawks’ brain trust believes it has the personnel to thrive, or at least survive, back there).

Running back Rashaad Penny survived the cutdown to 53 players and so did cornerback Tre Flowers. Those are the two most prominent players perceived to have been on the bubble, yet the Seahawks avoided the sort of startling veteran subtractions that left mouths agape around the NFL.

For the most part, in the process of trimming 29 players from the roster in one fell swoop, the Seahawks went the chalk route – at least for now. As we have learned, there is always plenty of 11th-hour maneuvering that goes on after the initial roster limits are set, and this year will be no different.

The Seahawks, in particular, are disposed to supply at least one major surprise in the lead-up to the regular season, or shortly thereafter. Remember the trade for Sheldon Richardson on Sept. 1, 2017, to shore up the defensive line? Or the Jadeveon Clowney acquisition Sept. 1, 2019, that was heralded as a major boost to a concerning pass rush? October of that same year saw Seattle get safety Quandre Diggs from Detroit, further changing the parameters of the defense. And last October marked the significant addition of Carlos Dunlap, which coincided with the revitalization of the Seahawks’ defense.

So put aside an asterisk for the potential nimble handiwork of general manager John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll, who will no doubt burn the phone lines but have less draft capital than normal to barter.

But, for the most part, these are the 2021 Seattle Seahawks, give or take a few tweaks. The roster came into much sharper focus Tuesday, and now, with less than two weeks until the season opener, we can sit back and ponder just how good they can be.

The answer: very, very good. It’s not hard at all to conjure a championship scenario for the Seahawks, who won 12 games and the hotly contested NFC West title last year and can claim to have improved a variety of weaknesses. With that as a baseline, and a few breaks (and breakouts), one can foresee a playoff run that finally gets them beyond the early ousters that have plagued them since their last Super Bowl appearance after the 2014 season.

An alternate answer: very, very vulnerable. Few teams in the NFL are as confounding to handicap as the Seahawks. You can squint your eyes one way and see them defending their NFC West title as a jumping-off point. You can squint them another and see Seattle finishing at the bottom of an extremely rugged division.

The good news is that with an elite quarterback such as Russell Wilson, their floor is still extremely high.

Since Wilson came aboard in 2012, the Seahawks have had a winning record every season, reaching double digits in victories and making the playoffs every year but one.

Wilson flashed some dissatisfaction in the offseason with his protection. Indeed, the offensive line is high on the list of question marks.

Even more so is the impact of new offensive coordinator Shane Waldron, who is being counted on for strategic wizardry that will increase the offensive tempo and provide schemes that maximize Wilson’s big-play talents, satisfy Carroll’s burning need to establish the run, and negate any offensive-line deficiencies.

Don’t be surprised if Schneider is combing through the waiver wire in search of one more wide receiver to boost that position.

Even with Jones on board, the Seahawks’ cornerback situation is definitely one to scrutinize. The roster churn this week – John Reid in, John Reid out, Sidney Jones in – is a sign of some internal concern. Under Carroll, Seattle hasn’t had much luck bringing in outside vets to try to master the Seahawks’ techniques. Jones is appealing because he played in a similar system in Jacksonville and thus has familiarity.

In just a matter of days, however, we can stop theorizing and finally see the reality. Tuesday provided some clarity, but left enough blurred lines to maintain the suspense.

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