he Seattle Seahawks could have as many as four new starters when the NFL season opens. Here’s a starting lineup projection:
Quarterback (Russell Wilson): The Seahawks struggled to protect him last year, and Wilson battled through three different injuries. He deserves credit for his toughness, but he wasn’t the same guy, rushing for a career-low 259 yards. The focus for Wilson will be on staying healthy and regaining his form from the second half of 2015, when he dissected defenses from the pocket and threw 25 touchdowns against two interceptions during an eight-game stretch.
Running back (Eddie Lacy): The Seahawks aggressively pursued him in free agency, and given that Lacy signed a one-year deal, he has a lot riding on this season. Assuming he keeps his weight down, Lacy is the favorite to start over Thomas Rawls, who will still have a role. At a minimum, C.J. Prosise will be the third-down back and a big factor in the passing game.
Wide receiver (Doug Baldwin): He set career highs with 94 catches and 1,128 yards a year ago. Only Odell Beckham Jr. and Antonio Brown have more touchdowns than Baldwin (21) over the past two seasons.
Wide receiver (Jermaine Kearse): Last year was a struggle. Kearse caught just 51.3 percent of his targets, had one touchdown and was called for a league-high six offensive pass interference penalties. He’ll need to bounce back to hold on to the starting job. Paul Richardson, who played well down the stretch last season, could make some noise here.
Wide receiver (Tyler Lockett): He suffered fractures to his tibia and fibula (right leg) in December but should be ready for the start of the season. If healthy, Lockett has the skill set to be the Seahawks’ top vertical threat.
Tight end (Jimmy Graham): He finished third among tight ends with 923 receiving yards last season and led all players at his position with a yards-per-catch average of 14.2. But the Seahawks need to do a better job of finding Graham in the red zone, where he had just six receptions last season.
Left tackle (George Fant): He was put in a tough spot last year, starting 10 games after having barely played any football since the eighth grade. Fant bulked up to 320 pounds (from 296) in the offseason and is the favorite to protect Wilson’s blind side.
Left guard (Luke Joeckel): He’ll compete at either left guard or left tackle. Joeckel played four games at guard with the Jacksonville Jaguars last season and is coming off of a knee injury. Like Lacy, he’s on a one-year deal.
Center (Justin Britt): He was easily the Seahawks’ best offensive lineman last year. Entering the final year of his contract, Britt will look to earn an extension.
Right guard (Mark Glowinski): He’ll make the switch from left guard and will look to improve on an inconsistent 2016 campaign.
Right tackle (Germain Ifedi): The 2016 first-round pick will switch from guard to tackle and has to make the second-year leap. Rookie Ethan Pocic could push both Ifedi and Glowinski for playing time.
Defensive end (Michael Bennett): He missed five games last season but has been consistently one of the most disruptive defensive linemen in the NFL. Bennett plays DE in the Seahawks’ base defense and slides inside to tackle when Seattle is in nickel.
Defensive tackle (Ahtyba Rubin): He doesn’t get a lot of attention, but Rubin’s play on the interior has been key to the Seahawks’ strong run defense.
Defensive tackle (Jarran Reed): He started five games at nose tackle as a rookie and will look to develop into a consistent contributor in his second season.
Defensive end (Cliff Avril): He has 20.5 sacks over the past two seasons and has started every game since 2014. Avril, Bennett and Frank Clark give the Seahawks one of the NFL’s best pass-rushing units.
Weakside linebacker (K.J. Wright): He made his first Pro Bowl last season. Teammates and coaches consistently point to Wright as one of the Seahawks’ smartest and most underrated defensive players.
Middle linebacker (Bobby Wagner): He led the NFL with 167 tackles last season and plays a key role in getting the Seahawks lined up properly pre-snap.
Strongside linebacker (Michael Wilhoite): This is a part-time position in the Seahawks’ defense that is replaced by a cornerback when the team moves to nickel. Wilhoite and Terence Garvin will compete for the job.
Cornerback (Richard Sherman): After a tumultuous offseason that saw the Seahawks shop Sherman around the league, he’s still with the team. Sherman will undoubtedly be in the spotlight this season, but he is still one of the NFL’s top corners.
Cornerback (Jeremy Lane): Most likely, he’ll start on the outside and slide inside when Seattle is in nickel. But Lane will have to hold off rookie Shaquill Griffin and others for the starting right cornerback job.
Strong safety (Kam Chancellor): He’s entering the final year of his contract and it’ll be interesting to see if Chancellor receives an extension before the start of the season. Chancellor is the leader of the defense and played at a high level in 2016.
Free safety (Earl Thomas): He broke his leg on Dec. 4 and the defense fell apart without him, allowing 12 touchdown passes with one interception. He’s ahead of schedule in his recovery and will be ready to go for the start of the season, barring any setbacks.
Kicker (Blair Walsh): The Seahawks let Steven Hauschka walk in free agency and are counting on Walsh to replace him. He’ll have to prove this summer that he’s up for the challenge.
Punter (Jon Ryan): He’s back for his 10th season with the Seahawks and is in the second year of the four-year deal he signed last offseason.
Long-snapper (Nolan Frese): He’ll have to hold off Tyler Ott for the job.