SEATTLE – The Seahawks initial 53-man roster of the season is set, as is the stage for the season opener Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams at Lumen Field.
Which means it’s time again for our annual ranking of the Seahawks’ position groups as a new season begins.
The goal here is to try to assess the overall strength of every position, including depth, and not merely front-end talent.
It feels like a more difficult exercise than the past few years, with the Seahawks boasting a sturdier roster from top-to-bottom.
One of the biggest reasons for that is the presence of 22 first- and second-year players (41.5% of the roster) as well as what is now a proven (or maybe we should say re-proven) commodity in quarterback in Geno Smith.
1. Wide Receiver: Too high for a group that will open the season depending on two rookies among its top four? Not when DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett return as one of the best duos in the NFL (with Lockett showing no signs of a drop-off in camp despite being 30 years old and in his ninth season) and not when one of the rookies is first-rounder Jaxon Smith-Njigba, who gave every sign in the preseason of living up to the hype. While it’s going to be a big step for Jake Bobo from the preseason to the real thing, he hasn’t seemed awed by anything. It goes without saying how important health is here.
2. Specialists: It may be easy to forget that kicker Jason Myers is coming off a Pro Bowl season after leading the NFL with 143 points scored, while punter Michael Dickson turns in a Pro Bowl-worthy season every year. Rookie snapper Chris Stoll seemed to acquit himself well enough in the preseason.
3. Tight End: This was the most stable position on the team in camp with Will Dissly, Noah Fant and Colby Parkinson back in their roles of a year ago, and dependable Tyler Mabry again sneaking through to the practice squad to add depth. That quartet ranked third in the NFL among all tight-end groups last year in receptions with 110 and fourth in yards with 1,164.
4. Quarterback: Smith is coming off a year that surprised everyone on the outside, if not himself or teammates, and while there are the fair questions about whether he can do it again, there was nothing in the offseason to suggest he won’t. The Seahawks have one of the better backup situations with Drew Lock, who looked more comfortable this preseason than a year ago.
5. Running back: Kenneth Walker III appears fully healthy as the season begins and rookie Zach Charbonnet showed signs of promise in the preseason while DeeJay Dallas is ever dependable in his complementary roles.
6. Safety: That Quandre Diggs is coming off a third straight Pro Bowl and Julian Love appears as steady as advertised is enough to put this group high. The team seems confident Jamal Adams will be back in a month or so and it may have found something in playing Coby Bryant at safety and corner. Adams’ return to his 2020 playmaking self is a key here. If he returns to that 2020 level, this group will be a lot better than this ranking.
7. Cornerback: Maybe this seems too low given the presence of returning Pro Bowler Riq Woolen on the right side, more experience than the Seahawks had a year ago on the other side with Tre Brown and Michael Jackson, and at some point soon the addition of the fifth overall pick in Devon Witherspoon. But Witherspoon has missed enough time to make it hard to know exactly how it’s all going to look once he returns, and the group will need to be more consistent than a year ago.
8. Inside linebacker: Bobby Wagner is back in the middle, so how can this spot be here? The two questions are: Can Wagner at 33 be the same Wagner he was for his previous Seattle tenure? Nothing in the preseason suggested he won’t be, but that question will linger until it’s answered. And can Jordyn Brooks make a seamless return to action nine months after an ACL injury? In terms of depth, Devin Bush is the only one with real experience.
9. Offensive line: Yes, this does feel too low for a spot that had five set starters throughout camp, all with at least a year as a full-time starter. If second-year tackles Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas take the next step and one or both emerge as among the better at their positions in the NFL, than this will be too low. The team does need each to take that next step to become better in the red zone and on third downs. The other question is whether Evan Brown can provide the same kind of savvy and cohesion at center as did Austin Blythe a year ago.
10. Outside linebacker: Darrell Taylor, tied for the team lead in sacks last year, was sidelined for the last month with a shoulder injury and rookie second-round pick Derick Hall also hurt his shoulder in the preseason finale. If each is ready for the opener, the Seahawks should have a pretty good OLB rotation. To make this an above-average group by NFL standards, they need consistency out of Taylor, second-year player Boye Mafe to make a big step and Hall to contribute substantially immediately. The Seahawks are hoping those things happen to take some pressure off Uchenna Nwosu, who the team felt it had to keep on the field too much last season.
11. Defensive line: It’s possible we’re merely being caught up in the general skepticism that is out there about the defensive line, which features three new starters from a year ago. Until we see how the trio of Dre’Mont Jones, Jarran Reed and Mario Edwards Jr. play together it’s certainly fair to put this group in the “prove it to me’’ category. Depth is an issue, with the Seahawks counting on big contributions from rookies Cameron Young at nose and Mike Morris at end, both of whom battled injuries in the preseason. Jones is maybe the biggest X Factor on the team, being paid $17 million per over the next three years, 13th most of any NFL interior DL, to be the kind of playmaker on the line the Seahawks have lacked the last few years – the last Seahawk defensive lineman to make the Pro Bowl is Michael Bennett in 2017. The Seahawks are paying Jones as if he can snap that skid – certainly, they need him to play to that level.