The Seattle Seahawks have added pieces to the offense and defense to improve further on last year's 11-5 season. They have a lot of roster positions to figure out, mostly backup positions.
With the departure of some veterans, including Leroy Hill and Alan Branch, there are open spots on the defense for the young talent on the roster to make its mark.
Training camp will have to be where the young guns make their mark in an effort to get a starting job, or for that matter, to make the team.
1. Wide Receiver
Candidates: Percy Harvin, Sidney Rice, Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin
Russell Wilson had two solid wide receivers to throw to last season in Golden Tate and Sidney Rice, with Doug Baldwin proving a reliable target off the bench. With Percy Harvin joining in, the group is that much better.
It also makes the wide receiver picture a lot more muddled. Harvin should get the first wide receiver spot. The Seahawks traded with the Vikings to acquire him for a reason, after all.
Even that's not cut and dry when you look at the games played the past three seasons by the receivers (note that Doug Baldwin has only played two seasons):
|WR Stats (2010-2012)|
Suddenly that second wide receiver spot looks a lot closer than it may have been. Sidney Rice has some chemistry with Harvin and had by far his best year while playing alongside him on the Vikings.
Golden Tate, meanwhile, appears to be the most durable of the bunch, or at least more so than Rice, and looked much better with Wilson at quarterback.
Doug Baldwin has shown promise, but his production took a step back last year. While he will see a good amount of playing time, it will be a shock if he beats out both Rice and Tate.
Right now, neither Rice nor Tate has the clear inside track. This battle could very well go down to the final preseason game.
2. Nickel Cornerback
Candidates: Antoine Winfield, Jeremy Lane, Walter Thurmond
The Seattle Seahawks have the secondary pretty much locked up. Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner will be the two starters heading into 2013.
They will be using nickel formations on defense, however, so knowing who the nickel cornerback is will be important. In this battle, we have a young gun against a seasoned veteran, with a third player somewhere in between.
Antoine Winfield's stats cannot be disputed. He has had an interception every year since 2003. He was a starter for the Vikings last year at 35 years old. A transition to a nickel role should be easy for him.
Jeremy Lane, meanwhile, started to show some promise late in his rookie season, and he seems to factor into the Seahawks' long-term plans, especially since Richard Sherman will be a free agent after the 2014 season.
Walter Thurmond played well in the past and looked to be the future, but he continues to battle injuries, playing in eight games the last two seasons.
On the surface, Winfield is a safe bet to win this job. But if there's one group of people you can never count out, it's late-round secondary draft picks that the Seahawks make.
Lane will be a player to watch in training camp as he battles Winfield. Given his injury history, I don't believe that Thurmond has a shot as winning the job, but maybe he will return to 2010 form and surprise everyone.
3. Running Backs
Candidates: Marshawn Lynch, Christine Michael, Robert Turbin, Michael Robinson, Spencer Ware
There's no question that Marshawn Lynch will continue to be the starting running back, but there's the question of not only how many carries he will see, but who will be his primary backup and who will be the fullback.
Michael Robinson has been the starting fullback for three seasons, but he will be a free agent at the end of the season. The selection of Spencer Ware in the draft could be an attempt to find Robinson's replacement.
Meanwhile, Robert Turbin showed promise as the primary backup for Marshawn Lynch last year. But he will face tough competition from Christine Michael. The three together make up the most physical trio in the league.
What does this mean? This may mean that they will trim down Lynch's carries this year after having 315 last year. If that's the case, then the backup role becomes that much more important. Michael and Turbin both have the ability, so this is a battle that will last throughout training camp.
All three running backs will make the team; it's just a question of which roles all three have, and their performance in training camp will determine that.
Backup Quarterback: Tarvaris Jackson and Brady Quinn will compete for the backup job. Jackson appears to have a leg up given his experience with Seattle, but Quinn could snag the job. The Seahawks won't keep three quarterbacks, so one will be a late cut.
Backup Tight End: With Anthony McCoy on the injured reserve, the backup tight end spot will be won by someone without NFL experience. Luke Willson and Sean McGrath are the two most likely candidates, and Willson seems to have the advantage. If there's any spot where an undrafted free agent can make the team out of nowhere, however, it's here.
Backup Linebackers: Bruce Irvin will likely win the second outside linebacker spot, but the backup spots appear wide open. Malcolm Smith and Mike Morgan have the edge after seeing some starting time, but with so many linebackers currently on the roster, there could be some surprise cuts at this position, or surprises making the team.