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Seahawks depth-chart predictions: Defensive line

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Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The dead time of the offseason continues, as does my series that takes a look at each Seahawks position group and attempts to predict a depth chart of sorts. I've already broken down the defensive backs position group and the linebackers, so let's move on to the defensive line.

The "positions" on the defensive line are more vague than in most other groups, with hybrid defensive ends/defensive tackles, hybrid defensive ends/linebackers, and hybrid three-techniques/nose tackles making up the bulk of the "defensive line". Differentiating between edge and interior doesn't even really work totally correctly, but that's the best way I can think of to separate the two groups.

The Seahawks will typically run with anywhere from 8 to 11 "defensive linemen". That number can fluctuate during the season as injuries happen and other needs need to be filled. Let's break it down.

EDGE DL

LEO/DE Cliff Avril 6'3, 260
3T/DE Michael Bennett 6'4, 275
LEO Cassius Marsh 6'4, 250
LEO Frank Clark 6'3, 271

Seattle's main edge players this year, as I see it, will be Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett, Cassius Marsh, and Frank Clark.

Avril and Bennett get the vast majority of the base snaps on the edge and then on nickel downs, as Bennett moves inside, Bruce Irvin comes up to play as a pass rusher. Irvin was part of the linebackers group for this series, so we'll leave him there, but he's a big part of the defensive line rotation as well. Those five -- Avril, Bennett, Irvin, Marsh, and Clark -- will likely get probably 98% of snaps on the edge, assuming relative health there.

This is a very solid group because of the talent at the top -- Avril and Bennett have been and should continue to be extremely productive from a pressure-standpoint (hits, hurries, sacks) -- Bruce Irvin has been solid and could have his best season yet, and there's some definite potential in Marsh and Clark, however unproven.

You still worry a little bit about what the threat of an injury would do to the overall health of the defense, as we saw in the Super Bowl when Avril went out with a concussion, but there's still the thought that Bruce Irvin could make a jump as a pass rusher, and I'm very intrigued by both Marsh and Clark. It's tough to have more than two top-tier pass rushers on a defensive line though, and it's a luxury that Seattle has. They could have three or potentially four if Marsh shows up and if Clark is as advertised early on.

Past that, there's a smattering of depth style players.

5T/DE Demarcus Dobbs 6'2, 280
LEO Obum Gwacham 6'5, 245
5T/DE David King 6'4, 290
3T/5T Greg Scruggs 6'3, 280

I still haven't figured out what the Seahawks want Greg Scruggs to be, and I'd put him on the bubble for the roster, but his overall length and athleticism has always been intriguing. I believe he's cut weight this offseason in an attempt to get back some of the explosiveness he had early on in his career, and he could be a guy to watch in the preseason.

David King got a few appearances last year and seems to be more of a run-stuffing, force player type of defensive end than a pass rusher. Seattle seems to like to have a few of these guys around at all times, and they do place a relatively high premium on stopping the run. Demarcus Dobbs is a veteran that can play inside or out, and his experience on special teams makes him someone to watch as a darkhorse for the roster. Obum Gwacham seems like a practice squad candidate.

Moving on to the interior...

INTERIOR DL

3T1b Tony McDaniel 6'7, 310
NT1b Brandon Mebane 6'1, 305
NT1n Ahtyba Rubin 6'2, 325
3T1n Jordan Hill 6'1, 305

The absolute locks here are Ahtyba Rubin and Jordan Hill, I think. Brandon Mebane has continued to be linked as a possible cap casualty if/once Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner sign their big-time contract extensions, but it feels like he's still a near-lock for this next season. Mebane has reportedly shown up in the best shape of his career (cliche but several people have mentioned it), and he's apparently motivated to make an impact after missing the stretch run of the season last year.

Tony McDaniel is in the same boat as Mebane in that he's often cited as a potential cap casualty if/when certain deals get done. For now though, if I had to make a guess at the interior defensive line group for 2015, I'd include McDaniel, and he'd be joined by Mebane, Rubin, and Hill, at least. Remember that Michael Bennett plays on the inside most nickel downs, and they've groomed some of their edge guys like Cassius Marsh to play inside on nickel downs as well.

The Seahawks could roll with five on the interior if they so choose, and I think the next man up in this case would be D'Anthony Smith, who can play the nose or the three-technique and adds a little bit of upside as a pass-rusher.

3T D'Anthony Smith 6'2, 300
3T2b Jimmy Staten 6'3, 311
NT T.Y. McGill 6'0, 300
3T/NT Jesse Williams 6'3, 320

Past Smith, I'd say that Jimmy Staten is a guy worth watching this preseason, and if he can stay healthy he has a shot to sneak onto the roster. T.Y. McGill seems like a longer-term Mebane replacement project, and Jesse Williams still has to make it back from cancer surgery, so while he's been cleared to practice, his status with the team is up in the air.