Seattle Seahawks: Projecting the 2011 Opening Day Depth Chart
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Over two weeks removed from the NFL draft, the status of the 2011 season still remains in limbo.
Though nothing has officially changed from a personnel perspective, speculation remains rampant as to who could fill the remaining spots on the depth chart.
Undrafted free agency will be a key part of the roster-filling process for Seattle with free agency presenting the opportunity to fill holes but more importantly, the chance to find the right veterans to mentor the younger units on the team.
Who starts at quarterback, fullback, left guard, multiple spots on the defensive line and in the secondary and kicker are among the largest remaining questions surrounding the 2011 roster.
There is enough personnel in place for competition to largely determine how snaps are allocated among the receivers and defensive back seven, but that picture will remain fuzzy until official team activities take place.
Here is an updated projection for the 2011 opening day roster, including unrestricted free agents that I think Seattle could re-sign, and where could they stand on the opening day depth chart. Which holes will remain for the Seahawks to fill?
1. All roster information was taken from the Seattle Seahawks official website (if available).
2. Italicized players in the "free agent" category are players I believe have a chance of being brought back in 2011.
3. Some practice-squad players are signed to "futures/reserve" contracts, while others are signed to one/multi-year deals or rookie contracts. Seattle retains the rights to sign "futures/reserve" players when that contract expires, and if not, then release them to the free-agent pool. To be activated, a "futures/reserve" player must be officially signed. I will spare making the distinctions of who has what type of contract, but it's a minor detail to keep in mind.
Quarterback: Not Many Changes After All
Three fourth quarter touchdowns in the divisional playoff loss the tipping point towards Seattle's push to re-sign him?
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Charlie Whitehurst was the lone quarterback on the roster in my initial depth chart.
Hasselbeck is no sure thing to keep the Seahawks atop the division, but he is a sure thing as a tireless competitor and leader of this locker room. He also meshed well with the new regime in Seattle.
While I currently have him as opening day starter, I do believe he will be on a short leash if he is indeed re-signed. A poor camp or slow start for Hasselbeck would likely open the door for Whitehurst to take the starting job for the remainder of 2011; and vindication for those who have remained firm in their belief Hasselbeck should not return to Seattle.
Seattle will need to fill the third quarterback position, Matt Leinart popping up as a rumored addition to the Seahawks in recent days. With the hiring of his former USC quarterback coach Carl Smith, I think this rumor may actually have some traction.
Matt Hasselbeck, 6'4", 225, Boston College
Charlie Whitehurst, 6'5", 225, Clemson
Expected free agent: J.P. Losman
Offensive Backfield: Still in Need of a Fullback
The X-factor in the backfield in 2011?
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I highlighted the Seahawks' mostly stable backfield situation in my initial depth chart, but also acknowledged Seattle's need at fullback. I think Seattle may explore installing a role similar to Oakland's Marcel Reece, a Tom Cable conversion from receiver to fullback during the coach's final two seasons in Oakland.
Michael Robinson is a solid football player but not ideal for the Seahawks backfield in my opinion. Seattle needs to find a player to fit the Reece-like role.
I expect to see more of a three-headed monster in the Seattle backfield in 2011. Marshawn Lynch must hold onto the football and mature as a downhill runner to keep his starting job in 2011, as he will have competition for carries.
Marshawn Lynch, 5'11", 215, California
Justin Forsett, 5'8",198, California
Leon Washington, 5'8", 203, Florida State
Chris Henry 5'11", 234, Arizona
Expected free agent: Michael Robinson
Wide Receiver: All Hands on Deck
The improbable tip and run touchdown catch was less than two years ago. Thanks Gus Johnson for the call.
The major change from the initial depth chart for this group is the addition of Brandon Stokley.
As I highlighted last week, Stokley was a key addition to the roster in 2010, the consistent veteran that constantly helped keep a young but talented group headed in the right direction.
He battled injuries but was a near-automatic receiver when on the field. Seattle would ideally re-sign him for the veteran minimum; age is a factor as he enters his 13th season. However, a long offseason could be an advantage for the veteran.
The other wrinkle to the updated depth chart: the elevation of Kris Durham over Deon Butler. Two factors attributed to this change: first, Durham and Whitehurst have been throwing together during the offseason in Georgia, an advantage as they began to build a relationship before they officially became teammates; second, the Seahawks seem to really covet the selection of Durham and the niche he can fill in the offense, potentially a more dynamic role than Butler.
The combination of Durham's potential to develop into a full-field threat and the fact that Butler is rehabbing from a compound fracture in his leg—Carroll eased Leon Washington into his offensive role in 2010 after the same injury—could create some unexpected changes in 2011.
One point to note; if Stokley is re-signed and then cut before opening day, I believe that could be a sign the Seattle receiving core is primed for a breakout season.
Benjamin Obomanu, 6'1", 204, Auburn
Mike Williams, 6'5", 235, USC
Golden Tate, 5'10", 202, Notre Dame
Brandon Stokley, 6', 192, Louisiana-Lafayette
Isaiah Stanback, 6'2", 208, Washington
Kris Durham, 6'5", 216, Georgia (Rookie)
Deon Butler, 5'10",182, Penn State
Practice squad: Patrick Williams, Dominique Edison, Chris Carter.
Expected free agent: Ruvell Martin
Tight End: Fresh Faces to Lead the Way?
"J-Mo" is an athletic freak.
I do not believe John Carlson will lose his starting tight end spot by opening day 2011 or even in the 2011 season. However, the Seahawks have a versatile, young group with the potential to create a well rounded tight end unit.
I wouldn't be surprised to see Seattle experiment more with Cameron Morrah as a main receiving threat or give Anthony McCoy a chance to solidify a role as a blocker.
On top of that, Jameson Konz made enough of an impression to land on IR before the season started in 2010 but remain a Seahawk. His speed and size projects him as a down field threat, but his mobility and strength could be an asset as a blocker in the Seahawks backfield.
If the Seahawks do not add an H-back or fullback in free agency, I believe Konz could be the unexpected riser of this group by the end of 2011 but not necessarily in a traditional tight end role.
John Carlson, 6'5", 251, Notre Dame
Cameron Morrah, 6'3", 251, California
Anthony McCoy, 6'5", 259, USC
Jameson Konz, 6'3", 234, Kent State
Practice squad: Dominique Byrd
Expected free agent: Nick Tow-Arnett
Offensive Line: A Little More Clarity in the Line Dance?
Polumbus was a leader out in front of the "beastquake" rumble.
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The Seahawks' offensive line appears to be nearly set headed into training camp, the left guard position the major question mark.
The Seahawks are expected to pursue a starter in free agency, but ESPN's John Clayton brought up the possibility of the Seahawks being limited by the final eight rule.
"Unless they lose a high-priced free agent, the Seahawks could offer Robert Gallery (the most speculated name to fill that left guard spot on opening day) only a little less than $4 million in the first year. Top guards in free agency get $6 million to $8 million a season with huge up-front money. Unless they lose a free agent for that price, they'd have to settle for a lesser player and also not be able to fix other positions."
We will not know the status of the rule until a new CBA is reached, but I believe the Seahawks would be wise to bring back Tyler Polumbus as a low-priced option for 2011.
The Seahawks traded an undisclosed pick to acquire Polumbus less than two weeks before the 2010 season began, and he ended up becoming a solid contributor on the 2010 line; six starts at left tackle and Weeks 17 to 19 at left guard shows his versatility; furthermore, he worked his way into the starting lineup during "championship football" for Seattle, the-win-or-go-home stretch that started in Week 17.
Polumbus' size and potential make him an intriguing option for 2011, a player that can contribute at multiple positions and challenge for the left guard spot.
James Carpenter, 6'5", 321, Alabama (rookie)
Tyler Polumbus, 6'8", 300, Colorado
Stacy Andrews, 6'7", 340, Mississippi
Practice squad: William Robinson, Breno Giacomini
John Moffitt, 6'4", 319, Wisconsin
Mike Gibson, 6'3", 298, California
Practice squad: Lemuel Jeanpierre
Max Unger, 6'5", 305, Oregon
Chris White, 6'2", 295, Southern Miss
Practice squad: Paul McQuistan, Paul Fanaika
Russell Okung, 6'5", 310, Oklahoma State
Expected free agents: Sean Locklear, Chris Spencer, Ray Willis, Chester Pitts, Ben Hamilton
Defensive Line: A Muddled Picture
Alford delivers a solid blow to Brady; Seattle could use this type of pop in the rotation. Alford must prove he can regain his health and explosiveness.
The defensive line remains the largest question mark on the defensive side of the ball for Seattle.
With five unrestricted free agents, there is both room for improvement and the possibility of being undermanned in 2011 if Seattle is unsuccessful in free agency at the position.
Given the uncertainty at the position, I decided to shake things up on this updated depth chart.
I believe Raheem Brock is a must re-sign for the Seahawks and reserve Jay Alford has the potential to make an impact at the right defensive tackle position as an interior pass rusher. Junior Siavii brings potentially cheap depth and size inside and allows for Seattle to try and find the right role for Kentwan Balmer.
The Seahawks are in position to start building the defensive line of the future as a few veterans begin to close out their careers; two or three additional linemen are needed for the position to be complete headed into 2011.
Left Defensive End (Leo)
Chris Clemons, 6’3”, 254, Georgia
Raheem Brock, 6'4", 274, Temple
Dexter Davis, 6’1”, 244, Arizona State
Left Defensive Tackle
Brandon Mebane, 6'1", 311, California
Jay Alford, 6'3", 304, Penn St.
Barrett Moen, 6’4”, 282, Minnesota
Right Defensive Tackle
Colin Cole, 6’2”, 328, Iowa
Junior Siavii, 6'5, 315, Oregon
Kentwan Balmer, 6’5”, 315, North Carolina
Right Defensive End
Red Bryant, 6’4”, 323, Texas A&M
Lazarius Levingston, 6’4”, 292, LSU (rookie)
Practice squad: A.J. Schable
Expected Free agents: Craig Terrill, Jay Richardson, Amon Gordon
Linebacker: Not Lacking Competition
Herring tackles two players.
The Seahawks linebacker corps struggled through 2010 with injuries and inconsistent play, but change looms on the horizon as the team looks to get younger and more athletic at the position.
I highlighted this group in my initial depth chart not as a group of starters and backups, but as six players that could all see playing time in 2011.
The Seahawks appear to be building a linebacker corps that features many specialized roles and less three-down players. For a more detailed analysis of what each player may bring to the table, please click here.
David Hawthorne, 6'0", 246, Texan Christian (MLB/WLB)
Will Herring, 6'3", 241, Auburn (WLB)
Lofa Tatupu, 6'0", 250, USC (LB)
Aaron Curry,6'2", 255, Wake Forest (SLB/Leo )
K.J. Wright, 6'4", 246, Mississippi State (rookie, SLB/Leo/ILB /WLB)
Malcom Smith, 6'0", 226, USC (rookie, WLB)
Practice Squad: Anthony Heygood, Joe Pawelek
Expected free agents: Matt McCoy, Leroy Hill
Defensive Backs: Youth Injected
Will he give Seattle this type of presence as a member of the 2011 secondary?
I initially highlighted the defensive backfield as the unit that may undergo the most significant change into 2011 and beyond, as the Seahawks drafted three defensive backs they hope can contribute in the near future.
The Seahawks are focused on finding players that fit unique roles within the defense, the seven-defensive-back "bandit" package the most prevalent 2010 example exemplifying Seattle's tendency to tinker on defense.
Similar to the defensive line, the projection for the opening day secondary has seen some changes from the initial depth chart. The secondary is a group, similar to the linebackers, that I expect to field a variety of different players and packages in 2011.
I think the most surprising starter on opening day will come from this group.
Marcus Trufant, 5'11",197, Washington St.
Richard Sherman, 6'3", 195, Stanford (rookie)
Byron Maxwell, 6'1", 207, Clemson (rookie)
Walter Thurmond, 5'11", 190, Oregon
Marcus Brown, 6'0", 190, Arkansas State
Earl Thomas, 5'10", 202, Texas
Mark LeGree, 6'0", 211, Appalachian State (rookie)
Brandon Browner, 6'3", 215, Oregon St.
Sub Package Specialists
Roy Lewis, 5'10",190, Washington
Kam Chancellor, 6'3", 232, Virginia Tech
Kennard Cox, 6', 191, Pittsburgh
Practice squad: Josh Pinkard, James Brindley.
Expected Free Agents: Jordan Babineaux, Lawyer Milloy (Carroll said during his postseason presser this decision would be as "man to man" as possible. Hard to predict, but Seattle seemed to draft for his possible departure), Kelly Jennings.
Special Teams: A Special Unit in 2010 Could Be Missing One Main Piece in 2011
The powers of the 12th man and Leon combined...
Olindo Mare (5'11", 192, Syracuse) was the kicker in 2010, a free agent into 2011. I highlighted him last week as a player the Seahawks should bring back due to his experience, leadership and near 90 percent conversion rate on field goals over the past three seasons in Seattle.
Punter and Holder: Jon Ryan, 6'0", 217, Regina
Long Snappers: Clint Gresham, 6'3", 240, TCU, Caz Piurowski, 6'7", 272, Florida St. (practice squad, also OT/TE)
Kick Return: Leon Washington, Golden Tate, Justin Forsett
Punt Return: Leon Washington, Golden Tate, Justin Forsett
The Depth Chart Will Continue to Change
Carroll has plenty of time on his hands to prepare his staff for what lies ahead.
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The depth chart will remain a work in progress as the offseason wears on, the next changes happening whenever the lockout is lifted or temporary rules are put in place surrounding personnel changes.
Seattle should be active in both undrafted free agency and in finding a few veterans that bring a particular skill set and attitude to the locker room.
Until that point, I expect the Seahawks front office is working diligently to create schematic wrinkles to implement with the players under contract and continuing to prepare for the many possible scenarios that may arise in the coming months.