Seattle Seahawks

This Seahawks roster built to be Seattle’s best ever

Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch (24) runs against the New England Patriots during the second half of NFL Super Bowl XLIX football game Sunday, Feb. 1, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz.
Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch (24) runs against the New England Patriots during the second half of NFL Super Bowl XLIX football game Sunday, Feb. 1, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz. AP

Just look at that roster.

That list of celebrated talent says that these 2015 Seattle Seahawks are not only the best team in the NFL, but they also should be better than the two previous teams that went to back-to-back Super Bowls.

Every season unfolds like a mystery, with so many unforeseen twists that make pinpoint predictions nearly impossible. Whether they can maintain their health and competitive wherewithal will determine how close they come to reaching that potential.

But that roster screams championship material. Better than they’ve ever had, in fact.

Eight of the 22 starters have Pro Bowls on their résumé, six or seven others qualify as upper tier at their positions. And the bulk of these standouts are young and just entering the prime of their careers.

It doesn’t mean they’ll pancake opponents all the way through Super Bowl 50. That path might be determined by various X-rays, MRIs and gut checks along the way.

But even with some physical or psychological reversals, it’s wise to note that the hallmarks of this group have been resilience and adaptability. Seemingly on the threshold of unraveling any number of times, they tend to regroup and flourish.

Start with quarterback Russell Wilson. He led them to a Super Bowl as just a sophomore. He’s now in his fourth season, a stage when a quarterback’s body of knowledge and experience adds to his effectiveness.

But has Wilson become spread too thin with off-field activities? Will the magazine covers, White House visits and celebrity social life diminish his competitive zeal? How could somebody not be changed by all that?

Wilson has proved himself the rare exception in other regards, so maybe this is another. I think he’s still just growing into the job.

Can back Marshawn Lynch, the indisputable key to the Seahawks offense, sustain his productivity at an age when others have declined? He certainly heads into the 2015 season healthier and less distracted than the past two years.

The offensive line is absolutely the biggest question mark, but this unit is not necessarily worse than the last two Super Bowl seasons.

In 2013, they had eight players starting in 10 different roles, with the presumptive starters aligned as expected just twice in 16 games. Last season, they had a rookie right tackle for 16 games and four players start at center.

Although raw and unproven at most spots, the line is now more athletic than it has been in years, and that implies the potential to improve as the season goes on.

One noted upgrade on the offensive side minimizes the downside of all those concerns. Tight end Jimmy Graham is the game-changer who balances the offense and bolsters it in a prime area of weakness — the red zone.

Last season, the Hawks were 20th in touchdown percentage inside the opponent’s 20-yard line (51.52) despite being ranked No. 9 in total offense.

The 6-foot-7 Graham changes all that. He has averaged 10 TD catches a season with the pass-happy Saints. For context, the Seahawks have not had a double-digit TD receiver since 2006 (Darrell Jackson, 10).

Graham won’t get nearly the frequency of targets, but he will force defenses into special coverages. He will be a target like Wilson has never had, and a threat that will cause defenses to divert focus from Marshawn Lynch.

The defensive depth chart is far more impressive. It looks very familiar, although there are concerns over the manpower in the secondary, as Earl Thomas missed most of the preseason protecting his surgically repaired shoulder and Kam Chancellor was absent in a contract dispute.

The degree of health and wealth of these two could change the outlook of the season, no doubt. And any cornerback opposite Richard Sherman will be tested every week.

But the starters otherwise might still be on the rise. Linebackers Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright might be more active than ever, while Bruce Irvin should be driven by a contract year and the challenge of an improving Kevin Pierre-Louis.

Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril and Brandon Mebane are three who haven’t been voted to Pro Bowls, although so many consider them deserving.

It’s on defense that it appears the Seahawks are not just built for this generation but for the future, too, with Cassius Marsh, Jordan Hill, Pierre-Louis, Tharold Simon and rookie Frank Clark quickly maturing and capable of contributing.

Not to overlook the special teams, kicker Steven Hauschka and punter Jon Ryan are two others still performing at top-tier levels.

It’s another area of significant improvement. Last season, the Hawks scored zero touchdowns on kick and punt returns. They were ranked 30th in the NFL in kickoff returns and 25th in punt returns.

Rookie Tyler Lockett will flip that in a hurry. Yes, coverage teams in the preseason are piecemeal collections, but Lockett scored on both a kickoff and punt return, showing rare instincts and speed.

All questions and concerns are valid at this point, as so much can happen before February.

But you don’t have to spend too much time evaluating this roster to see it’s built to pass around another Lombardi Trophy.

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