The Seattle Seahawks opened training camp on Thursday in Renton, Wash., and for the first time since 2012 did so after having missed the playoffs the previous year (9-7). With the Los Angeles Rams potentially on the verge of becoming elite and San Francisco showing signs of improvement, the Seahawks could be on the brink of sinking further down in the NFC West Division. To avoid such a fate, we present five mysteries the Seahawks must unravel during training camp:
Mystery No. 1: Can QB Russell Wilson carry this team?
Mystery No. 2: Will safety Earl Thomas report?
Mystery No. 3: Can wide receiver Brandon Marshall still ball?
Mystery No. 5: Will the run game become respectable?
Mystery No. 4: Can Seattle's defense be revived?
This is going to take some doing.
Seattle fell to 11th in total defense (323.2 yards per game) and tied with Dallas for 13th in scoring defense (20.8 points per) last season. In reality, those are not hideous numbers, but they represent a far drop from the glory years a short time ago. From 2012 through 2016, Seattle ranked in the top five in both categories and it led the league in both in 2013 and 2014, reaching the Super Bowl both seasons and winning one.
Complicating matters is that safety Earl Thomas is holding out over a contract dispute. Plus, defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, who spent just one season in Seattle, left to Minnesota as a free agent.
Fun times ahead for new defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr.
Although linebackers Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright, and cornerback Byron Maxwell, who left following the 2014 season only to return last season, remain, there is a huge void of proven stars on this defense.
But all hope is not lost. It's not as if the defense fell into the abyss last season. Seattle's brass hopes that it has done a good enough job of drafting and signing free agents to plug in impactful replacements, and see the further development of already emerging talent.
Defensive end Frank Clark had 19 sacks over the previous two seasons while mostly backing up Bennett and Avril. Defensive end Dion Jordan, a former top five pick by Miami who is out for a couple of weeks with an injury, came to Seattle last season and had four sacks in five games. If he can stay healthy, Seattle will have two disruptive pass rushing defensive ends to work with. Then the Seahawks have to hope that 2018 third-round pick Rasheem Green out of USC pans out.
Losing Richardson inside hurt, but Seattle countered by adding defensive tackles Tom Johnson and Shamar Stephen, who both happened to play for Minnesota's top-ranked defense last season. Johnson started 15 games for the Vikings.
What we know is that Pete Carroll can coach and develop championship talent. We also know that he and general manager John Schneider can identify diamonds in the rough that eventually become stars.
What we don't know is if they will work that combined magic again.