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6 starters remain from 2015 Seahawks playoff team

NFL: Carolina Panthers at Seattle Seahawks Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

The Seattle Seahawks have had more turnover in the last two years than you may have expected, because I was surprised myself. That’s the basic premise of this quick post.

On February 1, 2016, the Seahawks were contemplating their recent playoff loss — a 31-24 first half disaster against the Carolina Panthers in the divisional round — and the changes for a team that had been to the Super Bowl in each of the previous two seasons started to take shape.

Key starters who were the first to go that year included left tackle Russell Okung (free agent representing himself and asking for considerable money despite frequent injury), right guard J.R. Sweezy (free agent getting paid more than expected by the Buccaneers), running back Marshawn Lynch (retirement), defensive tackle Brandon Mebane (aging free agent), and linebacker Bruce Irvin (pricey free agent).

Let me repeat that again because I think it’s important to read without all the parentheticals (a criticism of my writing in general that is usually warranted):

In 2016, the Seahawks lost Russell Okung, Marshawn Lynch, Bruce Irvin, Brandon Mebane, and J.R. Sweezy.

Another starter who was replaced from that team was center Patrick Lewis, with Justin Britt moving over from left guard, leaving a hole at that position that was filled by Mark Glowinski. Issues began to crop up the following season with some of these replacement players, including Glowinski.

Thomas Rawls and Christine Michael struggled at running back, Garry Gilliam/Bradley Sowell/anyone was a disaster at left tackle, Glow got just about one season at left guard, Germain Ifedi was drafted in the first round and had his own struggles at right guard, Gilliam disappointed at right tackle, and Mike Morgan basically made Irvin’s position into a non-position for 2016. On the positive side, Jarran Reed slid into defensive tackle in place of Mebane and gives the team great hope for the future at that position.

Not every test worked out in Seattle’s favor though and they slipped to 10-5-1, losing in the divisional round of the playoffs to the Falcons. And more changes were coming.

Starters gone from that 2015 team by 2017 included receiver Jermaine Kearse (traded to the New York Jets with Sheldon Richardson coming back, other pieces were involved), and defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin (aging free agent). The team retained more veterans for 2017 than they did for 2016, but the results were worse than the previous year and the Seahawks finished at 9-7, no playoffs.

That sparked the greatest change in the Pete Carroll era and now few starters remain from the end of 2015.

Following the departures of Jimmy Graham, Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, Richard Sherman, Thomas Rawls, Jeremy Lane, and potentially Kam Chancellor, these are the starters who remain from the 2015 playoff team: Russell Wilson, Doug Baldwin, Justin Britt (at a different position), Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, and Earl Thomas. That’s it.

You could count Jon Ryan too but a) punters and b) Michael Dickson.

Others who remain include Frank Clark and Tyler Lockett, and that’s it total: 10 players, and that includes Kam and Ryan.

This really isn’t that unusual — teams go through turnover all the time, especially the ever-churning Seahawks — but it does feel a little abnormal just because Seattle was such a dominant team for so long and we have to appreciate that they aren’t that dominant anymore because they are barely the same team anymore. Of course, Carroll also instituted many coaching changes over the last 18 months, which also plays a factor in how different the Seahawks are compared to that team that imploded against the Panthers two+ years ago and nearly completed a miraculous comeback thanks to the talent that still existed on the roster.

And it’s possible that you see today will one day be just as talented. Duane Brown is the best left tackle in Seattle since Okung; Ethan Pocic and Ifedi should give fans more hope than they would have had in Glowinski and Gilliam; four of five offensive line starters are different; four of four defensive line starters are different, but Clark, Reed, Nazair Jones, and Dion Jordan have legitimate 2013-2016 defensive line upside; to this point, the secondary has at least retained Earl Thomas and Shaquill Griffin would be drawing even more praise than he already has if not for the fact that he’s being measured against one of the greatest cornerbacks of all-time in Sherman.

The Seahawks are much different than they were 30 months ago and that’s a little bit scary, but also a little bit exciting.