Chemistry is immeasurable, unquantifiable, intangible, so that’s why it is best not used as a term of value when talking about any given team. “They have such great chemistry!” and “They have such terrible chemistry!” is lazy, ignorant, and useless rhetoric to describe why a team is doing well or doing poorly. We, as fans, have no idea what “chemistry” is like in the locker room or between players. Even players and coaches, to an extent, do not know. And even the ones who are most in the know, could not tell you whether or not bad relationships are helping or hurting.
But what I would feel comfortable saying is that a team of new guys who have not practiced or played together before, and a team of guys who are going through their second, third, or fourth year together, are going to have different kinds of chemistry. And again, we don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing; look at the relationships that seemed most strained on the Seattle Seahawks this year, where it seemed like the players and coaches rubbing each other the wrong way (Richard Sherman, Doug Baldwin, Kris Richard, Darrell Bevell) are ones who have been here the longest.
Here is one thing I am certain of though: The Seahawks are going to bringing back a lot more players from last season than they did to open 2016 from the previous season. Here is a rough draft of the changes that were made to open 2016 compared to the final 53-man roster (“final” as it can get, as there were moves made between final cuts and the first game) in 2015:
QB2: Tarvaris Jackson to Trevone Boykin
RB: Marshawn Lynch, Derrick Coleman, Will Tukuafu (Christine Michael traded to Cowboys) to Alex Collins, CJ Prosise, and Michael
WR depth: Ricardo Lockette, BJ Daniels, Chris Matthews, (Paul Richardson on PUP) to Paul Richardson, Tanner McEvoy
TE3: Cooper Helfet to Nick Vannett, Brandon Williams
Offensive Line: Russell Okung (starter), JR Sweezy (starter), Drew Nowak (starter), Alvin Bailey, Patrick Lewis, Kristjan Sokoli to Bradley Sowell, J’Marcus Webb, George Fant, Germain Ifedi, Rees Odhiambo, Joey Hunt
That’s 14 new players on offense. Here are the ones who stayed the same:
Russell Wilson, Thomas Rawls, Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, Tyler Lockett, Jimmy Graham, Luke Willson, Garry Gilliam, Mark Glowinski, Justin Britt
That’s 10 players. Now, how many should we expect back to open 2017? This is obviously an extremely early 53-man roster projection, but I’m going to try and be as logical as possible:
Wilson, Rawls, Prosise, Baldwin, Lockett, Kearse, Richardson, Graham, Vannett, Britt, Ifedi, Glowinski feel like “virtual locks” to me. (I have my objections to Kearse, but I’m going to be diplomatic here.)
Next up: Collins, Fant, Williams, Hunt, Boykin, Odhiambo all have a really good shot, I’d say.
That’s 18 of 24 players so far.
Next: McEvoy, Gilliam are going to compete for their spots, but I think they have plenty of opportunity. A lot of fans will be rooting for McEvoy, and I agree he could be a special player, but he’s still got a ways to go to be a “lock” or “close to a lock” for me.
Players they added during the season that could come back: Troymaine Pope, Marcel Reece
That’s 20 of 24 players. (This number 24 is not a guarantee or anything either.)
Players I don’t see coming back: Willson, Sowell
Openings: Definitely the starting right tackle position, potentially the starting left tackle position, better depth at guard, a backup first down running back, wide receiver five, backup tackle. Pete Carroll has said that he wants to move forward with these five offensive linemen, though he added that of course some of the guys would need to be “pushed,” namely Gilliam and Fant. However, it seems there will be more constants in the starting five than there were from 2015 to 2016, which was a pretty extreme turnover. The running back shuffle should also be pretty much set as long as Rawls and Prosise remain healthy, while they’ll probably bring in someone to compete hard against Collins. I still expect Collins to win the job, however. I also expect McEvoy to win the job.
Onto the defense.
DL: Brandon Mebane, Jordan Hill, Demarcus Dobbs, David King to Jarran Reed, Quentin Jefferson, Tony McDaniel, Justin Hamilton
LB: Bruce Irvin to Nobody (moved Cassius Marsh to LB)
CB: Cary Williams, Tye Smith, Marcus Burley, Tharold Simon (Jeremy Lane on PUP) to Lane, DeAndre Elliott, Dewey McDonald, Neiko Thorpe (Simon was inactive for Week 1, then released and the team added Thorpe to the 53-man roster)
S: (Kam Chancellor holdout), Dion Bailey to Tyvis Powell (LJ McCray deal cancelled and Chancellor wasn’t holding out this year)
LS: Clint Gresham to Nolan Frese
Defensive constants: Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, Frank Clark, Cassius Marsh, Ahtyba Rubin, Bobby Wagner, KJ Wright, Mike Morgan, Brock Coyle, Kevin Pierre-Louis, Richard Sherman, DeShawn Shead, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Kelcie McCray, Steven Terrell, Steve Hauschka, Jon Ryan
There was less turnover on the defense.
That’s about 11 new players on defense and special teams, and 18 returning. (Don’t check my math on this ... oh wait, doesn’t that add up to 53? Nice.) Still, I expect fewer new players for next season.
Players I think are locks to return:
Bennett, Avril, Clark, Reed, Marsh, Rubin, Wagner, Wright, Morgan, Sherman, Thomas, Chancellor, Ryan
That’s 13 players. Now, Morgan is a free agent, but I can’t see him separating from Carroll or him getting “starter money” somewhere else. I think he just signs one-year deals with Seattle until he retires. Other free agents include Hauschka, McDaniel, Thorpe, McCray, and RFAs Terrell, Coyle, and McDonald. Keep that in mind then for players I think probably return:
McDaniel, Thorpe, Terrell, Coyle, McDonald, Jefferson, Elliott, KPL, Hauschka.
For some reason I see McCray leaving as a free agent, it doesn’t seem that there was much there to cling onto when Chancellor missed four games. Try a new guy at backup SS, like Powell. (Powell was waived and we don’t know if he’ll be returning until after the Super Bowl to see if he was picked up by someone else.)
That’s nine more players who could return. That’s 22 players already. They could also bring back defensive tackle John Jenkins, who joined the team later in the year. And Damontre Moore or Jeron Johnson. People may also not be happy with Frese, and certainly there will be competition there, but it’s going to be less of a gut punch than getting rid of Clint Gresham.
With Shead likely starting the year on PUP, if not IR, there is a major opening at starting cornerback. They will also likely bring in fresh blood at linebacker, defensive tackle, and backup safety. Overall, the defense should look mostly the same.
En total, it looks like the 2017 Seattle Seahawks will be a lot more familiar than the 2016 version. That could be a good thing. Or a bad thing. We just don’t know yet ... and we certainly can’t measure how much it will matter.