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Pete Carroll is asking for a lot from these 4 Seahawks

From a quartet of players who don’t project a ton of reliability.

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Seattle Seahawks
please sir can i have some more
Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

If the 2018 Seattle Seahawks are going to make the playoffs (and they will), probably three of the following four key players will need to perform at or above their career norms, which is no sure thing (as if the NFL ever had one). The problem is, these four Seahawks’ career norms have been interrupted by serious injury, suspension, or are threatened by the undefeated opponent known as Age.

The troublesome four are your presumptive starting defensive end Dion Jordan, presumptive starting or No. 2 running back Chris Carson, probable No. 2 or 3 wide receiver Tyler Lockett, and Sebastian Janikowski, the front-runner to win the placekicker job.

Jordan: Still an enigma

The 2013 first-rounder out of Oregon (EDIT: not UCLA, oops, sorry to the early readers, and Dion too) notched four sacks in five games for the Seahawks last season. He was productive, to say the least.

Problem is, those four sacks represent more than half of his career total, a whopping seven. Jordan’s barely seen the field: he’s played in all of 31 games over five seasons. He missed all of 2015 for substance abuse and all of 2016 for non-football injury reasons.

Now, with Michael Bennett in Philadelphia and Cliff Avril in KJR’s radio booth, Jordan’s the strongest candidate to start at defensive end opposite Frank Clark. Why is he so essential? Because there’s not a lot of proven pass rush behind him, and pressure means a lot more than it often gets credit for.

Football Outsiders calculated that in 2016, 70 percent of series without a sack included a conversion for a first down. The presence of a sack dropped the conversion rate down to 16 percent. Casual observers know pressure matters, and getting home to the quarterback matters even more. Turns out we might even be still underestimating its value.

That being said, Jordan doesn’t have to get double-digit sacks to have the kind of impact Seattle needs. Just opening up gashes for teammates, like this one time,

would be game-changing. But first, Jordan has to be present and healthy.

Carson: A compadre, competitor and/or complement to Rashaad Penny

Drafting Penny means the Seahawks won’t need to rely on Chris Car—

—vicious record scratch

A, who’s to say Carson doesn’t win the starting job; B, even if Penny gets more carries, there’s still a role for his backup, and maybe a large one; C, you need redundancy at every position, because injuries; D, the rookie hasn’t played a single NFL game. At least Carson’s produced, albeit for four games only.

Counting on Penny, who is seeing his first set of NFL-level defenders, to be the workhorse right out of the gate, is a degree of wishful thinking you’re free to run with, but permit me to to, uh, pass. Even if Penny is the Alvin Kamara of this new season, and approaches 8 TD on 120 carries, Kamara had Mark Ingram beside him. The veteran actually got more touches and scored more often, finishing with a somehow quiet 230-1124-12-4.9 season. If the 2017 Saints are the model, with their 2,070 yards rushing, pinpoint-accurate quarterback, and division title, then Penny and Carson and Russell Wilson need each other. (Just like Mark and Alvin and their chipmunk quarterback.)

For a team that used this offseason to rebrand itself around its running and defense, the second — or first — Seattle RB needs to put up numbers. No matter that Carson only lasted four games last season and ended up on IR in October. Because if you’re left relying on C.J. Prosise, who’s missed twice as many games (21) than he’s attended (11) in two seasons, that’s an even riskier bet.

Lockett: The return man who’ll need a... return to his rookie form

The broad strokes of Lockett’s pro career are familiar by now to Seahawks fans: All-Pro returner his rookie year with two touchdowns, only one score on special teams since. Six receiving TDs his rookie year and a not-so-grand total of three since. A player who turned in the most auspicious debut for a Seattle receiver under Carroll has since settled in to a solid, but unspectacular, pro.

Tremendous route runner and technician, too. Undersized at 5-10, 182 pounds, but adept at creating separation. Broke his leg Week 16 of his sophomore season. Came back for the next season, to doubts that he’d retained his original explosiveness. That’s the Lockett story, in two inadequate paragraphs.

Well, with the departure of Jimmy Graham, Paul Richardson and Luke Willson in a single offseason, Seattle loses 20 combined receiving touchdowns. Among other Seahawks, Lockett will be expected to score like he did as a rookie. If the Seattle offense is to be at all feared, that is.

Lockett got 35 touches in the first half of 2017, then just 20 in the second half. But he scored three times in the second half. He had a catch rate of 59 percent in the first half, then 71 percent in the second. Weird year.

So it’s difficult, with the addition of wild cards Brandon Marshall and Jaron Brown, to figure what Lockett’s projected role in 2018 might be. But he’s the only receiver besides Doug Baldwin with any experience whatsoever in the Seahawks system.

Career receptions and touchdowns, returning WR only:

Baldwin: 443 and 44

Lockett: 137 and 9

Everyone else combined: 22 and 2

To be completely fair, “everyone else” consists of Amara Darboh and Tanner McEvoy. If you want to include Prosise and J.D McKissic, who both will line up as receivers from time to time, the collective numbers rise to 81 and 4. Still not what you’d call a blend of continuity and experience. With all the turnover among pass-catchers, it’s very possible that Seattle will need Lockett to produce like a WR2 or WR3.

A gratuitous Lockett clip here would make a great transition. Enjoy the one that seems most relevant to our discussion, that showcases some scramble skill savvy.

Janikowski: Who even knows

The 40-year-old former Raider (17 seasons!) was a machine on extra points even after the kick was scooted back. He’s 75 of 78 for one point since.

Stands in sharp contrast to Seattle kickers, who’ve missed 11 extra points in the past three seasons.

If Janikowski is his usual self, it will remove one bit of uncertainty from the Seahawks’ offense and perhaps even cut down on Carroll’s decisions to go for two, which have led to poor results (4 of 12 in the past three seasons).

But he’s 40. Granted, kickers survive professionally into their fifth decade. Adam Vinatieri is 45; Phil Dawson and Matt Bryant both turned 43 this year. Let’s not assume kickers expire on a given date like a vulgar carton of milk. However, just as dangerous would be to assume Janikowsksi will still be an 83 percent FG kicker, with 97 percent on extra points, who makes more than half his attempts from beyond 50 yards, just because those are his numbers from the past three years.

Especially because Janikowski’s recovering from a herniated disk. Even if he wins the job he’s not indestructible.

Making a full recovery from a broken leg, broken ankle, or dealing with an aging back aren’t the impossible physical tasks they used to be. Medical treatments and rehabilitation programs are superior to what they were a generation ago. Peyton Manning played at a high level for two years after vertebrae were fused in his neck. Adrian Peterson tore his ACL and MCL on Christmas Eve of 2011 and came right back to win the 2012 MVP. Right here, Earl Thomas turned in an Earl Thomas-y 2017 after his unfortunate break the previous season.

But for every superstar who returns to glory, many others fail to recapture their explosiveness or even duplicate their prior statistical performance. The Seahawks will need three of the four guys listed above to play with their past behind them, if the team wants this season to be one to remember, rather than one to forget.