The questions so far facing NFL teams have largely been about constructing the roster for the regular season.
Now that the Seahawks have a 53-man roster set and a regular-season game to play Sunday against Miami at CenturyLink Field, the questions have shifted.
Here’s a look at one key question facing each position group as the regular season is finally here.
Can Russell Wilson be even better than he was last year?
The disappointing end to last season might make it easy to forget how truly statistically remarkable Wilson’s 2015 campaign was. Wilson set team records for passing efficiency (110.1, almost nine points better than his 101.2 of 2013 that had been the record), touchdowns (34), completion percentage (68.12) and yards (4,024).
And in what seems to be forgotten by many outside Seattle who wonder how he will perform without Marshawn Lynch, he did much of that without Lynch, who played in only seven games. But opponents might be better versed this year for the changes Seattle made to the offense down the stretch — more quick throws, more spread and empty sets — and then there’s the rebuilt offensive line to consider as well.
As Pete Carroll’s pointed criticism of Wilson for taking four sacks in the second exhibition game shows, though, the team’s expectations for Wilson are higher than ever.
How will Thomas Rawls and Christine Michael split the carries?
Rawls is back, with Carroll saying after the final exhibition game that he should have no limitations, no reason to be eased back into things.
Still, Michael was enough of a revelation in the preseason to warrant continued usage. Seattle basically let Lynch carry the ball as much as he could since 2010 so this’ll be somewhat new territory. Fantasy owners, in particular, will be analyzing breathlessly every development.
What is a fair expectation for Jimmy Graham?
All the talk that dominated the first half of last season about how the Seahawks used Graham is muted for now until Graham shows he is fully healthy. The team seems confident that will happen soon. Once he does return, what might be more important to the team than Graham’s overall stats is getting him more involved in the red zone — he had just two touchdowns last season in 11 games after scoring five or more every other season.
Who will be the starting right tackle?
Seattle went into the final exhibition game with four starters set — center Justin Britt, left tackle Bradley Sowell, left guard Mark Glowinski and right guard Germain Ifedi. Garry Gilliam started at right tackle in the preseason but alternated series in the preseason finale with J’Marcus Webb. Gilliam appears likely to be the starter to open the season.
Can the Seahawks get what they need out of the tackle spot?
Ahtyba Rubin is set as Seattle’s three-technique tackle. But the nose tackle and backup spots have been a bit of a revolving door in camp with Sealver Siliga and Jordan Hill injured, and the team re-signing veteran Tony McDaniel, and on Sunday claiming Garrison Smith of the 49ers to go along with rookie Jarran Reed, who played well early but has been nursing a toe injury, and fellow rookie Quinton Jefferson. How it all comes together will be a key in Seattle’s ability to again lead the NFL in run defense.
How will Mike Morgan adapt to starting at strongside linebacker?
Morgan, with the team as mostly a reserve since 2011, has won the SLB job that last year belonged to Bruce Irvin. The team isn’t expecting Morgan to replicate all that Irvin did — Frank Clark, for instance, will take on some of Irvin’s pass-rush roles. But in the base defense, the job will fall to Morgan, with helping set the edge on running plays a particularly key role.
How will the depth hold up if needed?
The Seahawks made some interesting roster deadline moves in the secondary, waiving Marcus Burley and Tye Smith — who were essentially the fourth and fifth cornerbacks on the active roster last season — with oft-injured Tharold Simon and undrafted rookie free agent DeAndre Elliott stepping into those spots. Burley, who was waived as injured, was claimed Sunday by the Cleveland Browns after having been a dependable backup nickelback for the Seahawks the past two seasons.
Will the coverage units rebound?
Also easy to forget now is that the punt and kickoff coverage units each had some shaky moments in 2015, with the Seahawks allowing their highest yard-per-return average in each since 2011, or essentially since the team turned the corner into one of the elites in the NFL. The roster deadline day trades for safeties Dewey McDonald and L.J. McCray, whose primary NFL experience has been on special teams, are still looking to beef up the coverage teams.
— The Seahawks claimed defensive tackle Garrison Smith off waivers from the 49ers, the second San Francisco defender they have added in two days. Saturday, the Seahawks traded for safety Dewey McDonald. The Seahawks waived defensive tackle Justin Hamilton, who had been a part of the 53-man roster for a day, to make room for Smith, a 6-1, 300-pounder from Georgia who was one of the defensive standouts for the 49ers in the preseason with 15 tackles and two sacks.
— Two players waived the day before by the Seahawks found new opportunities. Running back Troymaine Pope was claimed by the Jets and cornerback Marcus Burley by the Browns.
— Former Huskies receiver Kasen Williams was reported as one of the players the Seahawks signed to their 10-man practice squad. Williams was waived Saturday after battling a hamstring injury throughout training camp. Others reported as signed to the practice squad include: DL Tylor Harris, who was with the Seahawks in training camp; tight end Marcus Lucas, who was with Carolina, and linebacker Jordan Tripp, who was with Jacksonville.