The Seahawks end a three-day minicamp today (really a one-day camp in terms of field work, since the NFL stripped Seattle of two days of on-field practice for #BallingTooHard last year), so as the dead part of the offseason begins, it's worth taking stock of the roster. With the thought in mind that "depth charts" are fluid and are sure to change as we get into training camp and the preseason, I want to take a stab at how I think things will shake out at each position. This way, you can all make fun of me when I'm wrong.
First up, the defensive backs.
Seattle currently has sixteen DBs on the roster, and they'll typically roll with nine, ten, or eleven at any given time during the season. Defensive backs are typically big-time contributors on special teams, and thus depth is important.
It would be tough to beat Seattle's 2013 training camp group at that spot -- probably the deepest group of defensive backs ever assembled in NFL history, honestly -- a depth chart that featured Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas, and Brandon Browner as starters, and listed Byron Maxwell, Walter Thurmond, Antoine Winfield, Jeron Johnson, Ron Parker, Chris Maragos, and Jeremy Lane as backups. Phillip Adams was in there as well, as was Will Blackmon. Good grief.
Nonetheless, Richard Sherman is bullish on Seattle's group going into 2015, and said recently: "I think this is going to be one of our better years at defensive back. We're going to have great depth."
Players say a lot of things and generally are optimistic about the future, but this stood out to me because of the prior history in Seattle's defensive secondary. I don't know if he's right, and over the first six weeks, it's not quite awe-inspiring, with the assumption in mind that Jeremy Lane and Tharold Simon won't be back on the field until Week 6.
CB1 Richard Sherman 6'3, 195
CB2 Cary Williams 6'1, 190
CB3 Tye Smith, 6'0, 190
NB1 Will Blackmon 6'0, 204
NB2 Marcus Burley 5'10, 189
CB Tharold Simon 6'2, 205 [PUP?]
CB Jeremy Lane 6'0, 190 [PUP]
Right now, I'm just penciling in Simon and Lane as PUP-listers to begin the year. That's not necessarily what will happen, particularly with Simon -- but I'm just being conservative in the face of Pete Carroll's typical hyper-optimism (Carroll said Simon should be ready for training camp but you know Pete).
I've got Sherman and Williams as the starters on the outside, with Blackmon starting in the slot in nickel sets. Assuming Simon and Lane are on the PUP, rookie Tye Smith could have a shot at contributing early on in his career, particularly on special teams. He's penciled in as the "CB3" above, but in reality, Will Blackmon would probably move outside and substitute in the case of a Sherman or Williams' injury. If that happened, Marcus Burley would be the next man up in the slot.
Of course, by Week 6, the depth potentially looks a lot better, and injury returns would shakes things up both inside and outside. Simon would likely move above Smith on the depth chart and would see action in the case of a Sherman/Williams injury.
Smith and Simon will be the two main players to watch in the preseason (if Simon plays). I think it's fairly safe to say that Cary Williams will start opposite Sherman, but these two guys have a shot at an upset there. Weirder things have happened in the Pete Carroll era, and you'll remember Richard Sherman getting a shot at starting his rookie year, then never looking back.
The darkhorse for added depth at cornerback would be safety DeShawn Shead, who Pete Carroll has touted as a capable backup there as well.
FS1 Earl Thomas 5'10, 202
FS2 Steven Terrell 5'10, 197
FS3 Dion Bailey 6'0, 215
FS4 Triston Wade 5'11, 185
SS1 Kam Chancellor 6'3, 232
SS2 DeShawn Shead 6'1, 225
SS3 Ryan Murphy, 6'3, 214
SS4 Ronald Martin 6'2, 220
SS5 Keenan Lambert 6'0, 209
The foundation of the Seahawks safety position is stronger than any team in the NFL and is made up of Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor, but the depth behind them is a little more on the unknown side.
DeShawn Shead is the next longest tenured Seahawk and can play either the deep middle as the free safety or in the box as the strong safety. He'll be a key piece on the depth chart and for all intents and purposes, replaces Jeron Johnson for 2015. Behind him, I'm guessing that Steven Terrell is the next man up into the rotation -- not the true "backup free safety" because I think Shead would sub for either Kam or Earl if either got hurt -- but he's a guy that could come in in dime sets and in emergency situations.
Dion Bailey was a stud at USC but is a virtual unknown here. He bounced around on and off the practice squad last year so he's got a chance to make a little noise this season, but I really don't know how much to expect, nor do I really understand how they plan to use him. His speed is the main question mark about his game -- he's got great instincts and at one time was a linebacker for the Trojans -- but trying to play single-high in the Seahawks' system does have some requirements for range.
I don't know a ton about Ronald Martin other than he's a former SEC starter and likely will be limited to the box as a de facto linebacker, but Triston Wade will be an interesting one to watch in training camp and the preseason as well. Wade's a bit of a ballhawk - per PFF, the UT San Antonio product had 7 passes defensed and 4 interceptions last year, most for eligible C-USA safeties -- and Justin Higdon at DraftBreakdown listed him as one of his hidden gems for this year's class. As Higdon notes in his breakdown, Wade could be a candidate for the nickelback/slot corner spot for Seattle this year.
At strong safety, I'd probably list draft pick Ryan Murphy as the next man up behind Shead, then it's anyone's guess as to how it looks past that. Kam Chancellor has been touting his half-brother Keenan Lambert on his twitter page, and noted he made a pick against the first team in one practice. We'll see how everyone looks in camp.
That's it for the defensive backs for now. I'll try and go through each position group over the next week or two.