Last season, the Seahawks marched to their first Super Bowl title on the legs of the No. 1 defense in the league and skill players who came up big in the clutch.
They overcame a below-average offensive line that was without its starting tackles for half the season, was using a rotation at left guard and was starting a second-year player at right guard.
The prevailing thought is that quarterback Russell Wilson will continue his progression in his third season and the defense will be at least as good as it was in 2013. On top of that, the Hawks' skill players -- running back, receivers, tight ends -- all seem to be better as a whole than they were last season.
The only unit that is still in question is the same one that was the weakness in 2013: the offensive line. And it sure was in the first preseason game as the Hawks played with a bunch of backups and had trouble sustaining any offense without the help of penalties.
Granted, it was the first preseason game, so there's no reason to get too concerned yet. But the Hawks really need to nail down their starting five as soon as possible so they can put together some meaningful series in the preseason.
Left tackle Russell Okung, recovering from offseason foot surgery, is expected to be ready for the season opener, but will he get any action before then?
Left guard James Carpenter had the best offseason of his short career, but he sat out the Denver game Thursday with a calf injury. He's back at practice this week, but injuries will always be a concern with him.
Meanwhile, the Hawks have a different veteran-rookie combination at right tackle in the wake of Michael Bowie's injury and departure to Cleveland via waivers. Justin Britt, the rookie, is battling Eric Winston, the veteran. Britt started against Denver and performed well for his first game, coach Pete Carroll said.
"He made the plays he had to make," Carroll told reporters. "For his first time out, he looked comfortable. He got more aggressive as the game went on. We’re real pleased at this point. First game, really couldn’t have done a whole lot more for us."
The Hawks likely learned from last season, when they were very inexperienced behind the starters, because they have a bunch of veterans in camp: Winston, 11-year vet Wade Smith, and fourth-year guards Stephen Schilling and C.J. Davis.
Carroll is stressing versatility.
When Smith and Cory Brandon were brought in Aug. 4, he told reporters, "These guys – Wade in particular – bring a lot of experience and tremendous flexibility. He has started at five spots, so that kind of flexibility might fit with us. They’re real good guys, and smart guys, so that helps us as we try to mold this thing together. We have flexibility in how we’re going to do it. We’re going to take our time figuring it out."
On Sunday, he said, "It’s extremely valuable to have guys that have flexibility. You know, when nine or 10 guys make the roster, guys have got to move around."
Guys also have to be healthy -- something that has not been the case so far.
If the Hawks weren't so used to this unit being a mess, it would be a concern -- even this early. But the fact is the Hawks won the Super Bowl with a bad line last year and figure to be at least marginally better up front this season -- once their guys return.
Here's a look at the roster entering the second preseason game:
Locks: Russell Wilson, Tarvaris Jackson
Contender: Terrelle Pryor, B.J. Daniels
Situation: It's hard to judge the backups fairly considering they were playing behind pretty poor line combos. Jackson did nothing to lose his grip on the No. 2 spot, hitting 5 of 7 passes. Pryor (pictured) showed his amazing athleticism, as advertised, but he had problems delivering the ball on time. Both of his completions to Ricardo Lockette were behind the receiver, and he made a poor choice on his final pass, which was picked off in the end zone. He will have to show much better over the next three games to merit consideration for the roster. He's no threat to Jackson right now.
Roster prediction: Wilson, Jackson
Locks: Marshawn Lynch, Robert Turbin, Christine Michael
Situation: Michael (pictured) did not have a very good game. The line didn’t help him at all (16 yards on seven carries), but he made several errors on his own -- the most significant being a fumble and a low-block penalty. He still does not seem like a very smart player, and he still sits firmly behind Turbin in the rotation. Bronson has almost no chance of making the team, and his drop of a sure go-ahead touchdown pass late in the game did not help his cause. Lynch sat out, and he might as well continue to sit until the third game -- and only if the starting OL is in there for him.
Roster prediction: Lynch, Turbin, Michael, Coleman, Ware
Locks: Zach Miller, Luke Willson
Contenders: Cooper Helfet, RaShaun Allen, Morrell Presley
Injured reserve: Anthony McCoy (Achilles)
Situation: McCoy suffered a real tough blow when he tore his other Achilles, lost before the season for a second straight year. But that has opened the door for Helfet (pictured), a third-year player who knows the system by now. He came up with a big 20-yard catch on third-and-20 in Denver, validating Carroll's opinion that he could be ready to claim a roster spot: "He’s making a really strong bid. I’m really fired up for him."
Top contenders: Paul Richardson, Kevin Norwood, Ricardo Lockette, Bryan Walters, Phil Bates
Other contenders: Arceto Clark, Chris Matthews, Kevin Smith, David Gilreath
Injured reserve: Taylor Price (knee)
Situation: The big news leading up to the first game was word that Norwood had surgery to remove bone spurs from his foot. That shelves him possibly for the rest of camp and potentially opens the door for someone such as Walters or Bates, who has been touted as much improved in this camp. Richardson (pictured) had a nice debut, catching four passes and looking pretty smooth doing so (he did double-clutch one). Lockette was Pryor's go-to guy in the fourth quarter, and OC Darrell Bevell loves his speed. Basically, guys such as Lockette, Walters and Bates are competing not just against other receivers but against Pryor and backup O-linemen.
Locks: LT Russell Okung, LG James Carpenter, C Max Unger, RG J.R. Sweezy, OT Justin Britt, OL Alvin Bailey, C Lemuel Jeanpierre
Contenders: OT Eric Winston, OT Wade Smith, OL Caylin Hauptmann, OL Greg Van Roten, OG Stephen Schilling, OT Garry Gilliam, OT Cory Brandon, OG Nate Isles, OG C.J. Davis
Situation: The Seahawks started basically a second-team line in Denver, with Bailey, Hauptmann, Jeanpierre and Britt. Schilling (pictured), who replaced Sweezy at right guard after the first series and also played center, has pleased the coaches with his versatility. Van Roten saw a lot of action as well. It was a typical first game for a line that hasn't played together -- a few good plays and a lot of bad ones. It will be interesting to see whether Britt can hold off Winston at right tackle. The Hawks value versatility in their linemen, so they might end up keeping just nine. They have a lot of veteran depth -- Winston, Smith, Van Roten, Schilling, et al. -- and will surely be a more experienced group than the 2013 line.
Locks: Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, Brandon Mebane, Tony McDaniel, Kevin Williams
Top contenders: Greg Scruggs, Jordan Hill, Benson Mayowa, Cassius Marsh, O'Brien Schofield
Other contenders: Jackson Jeffcoat, Michael Brooks, D'Anthony Smith, Jimmy Staten, Andru Pulu
Injured reserve: Jesse Williams (knee)
Situation: It looks like the fifth-round gamble on Jesse Williams won't pay off as he will miss a second straight season with knee problems. With that, this group seems pretty well set already. Playing with the second group Thursday, Marsh (pictured) flashed the ability that the Hawks have talked about -- he had a sack and nearly had another. Schofield is playing with his hand on the ground and figures to be in the LEO mix with Mayowa, although Schofield also can play linebacker.
Roster prediction: Bennett, Avril, Mebane, McDaniel, K. Williams, Scruggs, Hill, Mayowa, Marsh, Schofield
Locks: K.J. Wright, Bobby Wagner, Malcolm Smith, Bruce Irvin
Top contenders: Mike Morgan, Brock Coyle, Kevin Pierre-Louis, Korey Toomer, Heath Farwell
Other contenders: Horace Miller, Marcus Dowtin
PUP: Bruce Irvin (hip), Korey Toomer (hamstring)
Situation: With Wagner and several other LBs out, Coyle (pictured) started at middle linebacker against Denver and had a mixed debut, as to be expected. But Carroll called it "encouraging" and said "we're thrilled he's holding his own right now." It looks like the rookie has a shot to unseat the 32-year-old Farwell. Meanwhile, Morgan is having his best camp in his four years, Carroll said, and his versatility could keep him on the team. Smith (ankle) is close to returning, but Wagner (hamstring) might not be back until the final preseason game. Toomer could be back for the third preseason game.
Locks: Richard Sherman, Byron Maxwell, Jeremy Lane
Contenders: Tharold Simon, A.J. Jefferson, Akeem Auguste, Phillip Adams, Michael Dobson, Thomas Wolfe
Situation: Simon showed his LSU roots when he stupidly struck a Denver player in the head and was ejected. He had been in the lead for the fourth corner spot until then, but he is going to have to overcome his undisciplined LSU background if he wants to see the field. Based on the first game, Jefferson (pictured), who pulled in an interception, moved into the fourth spot. But an ankle injury will sideline him for "a couple weeks," Carroll said. That gives Simon a reprieve, but it also gives others a chance to overtake him.
Roster prediction: Sherman, Maxwell, Lane, Simon, Jefferson
Locks: Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor
Contenders: Jeron Johnson, DeShawn Shead, Terrance Parks, Eric Pinkins, Steve Terrell
Non-football injury list: Eric Pinkins (foot)
Situation: Thomas was all over the place early in the Denver game, and Johnson (pictured) showed up as well. Dion Bailey (ankle) was waived/injured, leaving this group a little lighter.