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Analysis: Pre-Training Camp Seahawks 53-Man Roster Projection

With a labor agreement in place and training camps officially set to open around the NFL next week in the midst of a pandemic, which 53 Seahawks will earn a coveted roster spot for the season opener in Atlanta on September 13?

Following several days of contentious discussions, the NFL and NFLPA have agreed to terms on a return to play plan, setting the stage for training camps to kick off as scheduled next week.

Attempting to play football during amid a pandemic, this will be a season unlike any other in league history. The preseason has been scrapped entirely, some players may choose to opt-out for health reasons, training camp rosters have been trimmed to 80 players, and revenue hits could negatively impact the salary cap in future seasons.

But at least for now, after reaching an agreement on several key issues, there's a sense of hope the league can find a way to make things work in unprecedented times. The Seahawks, along with 29 other teams, will officially open up camp on July 28.

To celebrate the return of football, here's my latest attempt to project which 53 players will be on the Seahawks roster when they travel to Atlanta to face the Falcons in their season opener on September 13.

Quarterbacks (2): Russell Wilson, Geno Smith

Practice Squad Candidate: Anthony Gordon

Coming off another impressive 30-plus touchdown campaign and a Second-Team All-Pro selection, Wilson will once again be in the mix for MVP contention orchestrating Seattle's offense. In a normal offseason, Gordon may have had a chance to push Smith for the backup role, but without OTAs or minicamps along with a truncated training camp and no preseason games, the undrafted rookie out of Washington State will be hard pressed to do much more than land a spot on the practice squad.

Running Backs (4): Chris Carson, Carlos Hyde, Travis Homer, DeeJay Dallas

PUP List: Rashaad Penny (knee)

Practice Squad Candidates: Anthony Jones, Patrick Carr

Fully recovered from a cracked hip, Carson will resume his role as the Seahawks' workhorse, but Hyde will cut into his carries early in the season to form one of the NFL's best one-two tandems. Homer and Dallas, who were previously teammates at Miami, will compete against one another for the third down back role and should be in the mix to return kicks on special teams as well. The wild card here will be Penny, who has recently posted promising workout videos showcasing his progress returning from a torn ACL. Still, he likely will open the year on the PUP list and miss at least the first six games of the season.

Receivers (6): Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf, Phillip Dorsett, Josh Gordon*, John Ursua, Stephen Sullivan

Practice Squad Candidates: Freddie Swain, Will Fuller

There's no real surprises at the top with Lockett and Metcalf returning as one of the NFC's most dynamic receiving duos and both being viable threats to surpass 1,000 yards this year. Behind them, the speedy Dorsett may have to compete against Gordon for the No. 3 receiver role, as the embattled receiver could be reinstated by the NFL in the near future and the Seahawks have great interest in bringing him back. If that happens, Moore could be expendable heading into a contract year, especially considering Ursua may be a better option working out of the slot. Boasting rare athletic gifts for his size, Sullivan may not be ready to play just yet, but Seattle can't afford to risk losing him on waivers and he provides another insurance policy at tight end.

Tight Ends (4): Greg Olsen, Will Dissly, Jacob Hollister, Luke Willson

PUP List: Colby Parkinson (foot)

Practice Squad Candidate: Dominick Wood-Anderson

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Thanks to the addition of Olsen, the return of Dissly following surgery to repair a torn Achilles tendon, and the decision to re-sign Hollister and Willson, the Seahawks should have a versatile tight end group featuring a unique blend of experience, athleticism, and upside. Still plenty spry at 35 years old, Olsen should be an immediate starter, while Dissly's presence could give Seattle one of the best duos at the position in the entire league assuming he can stay healthy. Hollister will provide a change of pace as a move tight end who can line up in the slot and with rookie Colby Parkinson potentially opening the year on the PUP list, the ever-reliable Willson could see snaps as an inline blocker or as a fullback in the backfield.

Offensive Line (9): Duane Brown, Mike Iupati, B.J. Finney, Damien Lewis, Brandon Shell, Phil Haynes, Jamarco Jones, Joey Hunt, Cedric Ogbuehi

Practice Squad Candidates: Tommy Champion, Khalil McKenzie

With the exception of Brown, the Seahawks could have up to four new starters in the trenches, including Lewis stepping into the lineup right away as a replacement for D.J. Fluker. He will have to beat out Jordan Simmons, Jordan Roos, and Chance Warmack, a former first-round pick for the Titans who may be the biggest X-factor to watch after not playing at all in 2019. Finney will be the favorite to edge out Hunt, though either player could be starting in Week 1, which puts former starter Ethan Pocic in a precarious spot trying to make the team. With Iupati, Haynes, and Jones all competing at left guard and a trifecta of players battling on the right side, this could be the end of the line for the 2017 second-round pick. At the tackle spots, Shell should slide in as the new starter at right tackle, while Ogbuehi will be the replacement for George Fant as the team's "swing" tackle and sixth lineman in heavy packages.

Defensive Ends (6): Rasheem Green, Benson Mayowa, L.J. Collier, Darrell Taylor, Alton Robinson, Branden Jackson

Practice Squad Candidates: Eli Mencer, Marcus Webb

Fans continue to hope Jadeveon Clowney somehow still returns, but considering he would have to accept less than he already turned down from Seattle earlier in the offseason, such a move seems unlikely. As the group currently stands, Green will likely step into the starting 5-tech role as a replacement for Quinton Jefferson with Collier as his primary backup and Mayowa will compete against Taylor, a second-round pick out of Tennessee, as well as Robinson to start at the LEO spot. As the one of the final players making the roster, Jackson hangs onto his spot thanks to his experience and versatility, as he can reduce inside to play defensive tackle in a pinch.

Defensive Tackles (4): Jarran Reed, Poona Ford, Damon Harrison, Demarcus Christmas

Practice Squad Candidates: Bryan Mone, Cedric Lattimore

Seattle has been actively in the market for a veteran defensive tackle to team up with Reed and Ford for several weeks, but without the ability to bring players in for physicals, no signings have been made yet. Now that camps will officially open, expect a player such as the 350-pound Harrison to join the team and provide much-needed experience and size in the middle of the Seahawks' defensive front. With his addition, the organization will hope to sneak Mone back onto to the practice squad, while Christmas faces a crucial training camp after missing all of his rookie season with a back injury and has much to prove. For now, he wins the final reserve spot.

Linebackers (6): Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, Jordyn Brooks, Bruce Irvin, Cody Barton, Shaquem Griffin

Practice Squad Candidates: Ben Burr-Kirven, Sutton Smith

Returning for their eight seasons playing alongside one another, Wagner and Wright will remain centerpieces of Seattle's defense. However, it's unclear what position Wright will play in 2020, as general manager John Schneider indicated earlier this offseason he could transition to strongside linebacker. If that happens, Brooks and Barton would be vying for the starting weakside linebacker role, with the incoming first-round pick holding the upper hand given his athleticism and tackling ability. Irvin may also see some snaps at strongside linebacker, though his best asset to Seattle at this stage of his career will likely be rushing off the edge. Griffin could also factor in as a situational pass rusher and beats out Ben Burr-Kirven for the final spot on the depth chart as a result.

Cornerbacks (5): Shaquill Griffin, Quinton Dunbar, Tre Flowers, Ugo Amadi, Neiko Thorpe

Practice Squad Candidates: Debione Renfro, Gavin Heslop

Assuming Dunbar doesn't land on the commissioner's exempt list due to an ongoing armed robbery case, the veteran corner has been given clearance to travel to training camp. As long as he's available, expect him to slide into the starting lineup opposite of Griffin, providing the Seahawks with a substantial upgrade in the secondary. Flowers, who played safety at Oklahoma State, could still see the field in nickel and dime looks and remains a viable starting option if Dunbar isn't available. Without a veteran brought in to compete against him during free agency, Amadi should be the heavy favorite to start in the slot over the likes of Linden Stephens and Thorpe will hang onto his roster spot as one of the team's best special teams standouts.

Safeties (4): Quandre Diggs, Jamal Adams, Marquise Blair, Lano Hill

Practice Squad Candidates: Chris Miller, Josh Norwood

After making a stunning trade with the Jets for Adams, the Seahawks may have arguably the best starting safety duo in the NFL. The former first-round pick out of LSU earned First-Team All-Pro honors in 2019 and still isn't 25 years old, while Quandre Diggs intercepted three passes in just five games after being acquired from the Lions last October. The versatile pair should give Seattle incredible flexibility formation-wise on defense, including three safety sets featuring Blair on the field. Hill struggled throughout the 2019 campaign, but he's a rock-solid special teams player who has shown flashes of ability as a box safety and thus will keep a spot on the roster.

Specialists (3): Jason Myers, Michael Dickson, Tyler Ott

Seattle hasn't made any additions on special teams, so there's little drama here. Myers will be aiming for a more consistent second season with the Seahawks, while Dickson hopes to return to his All-Pro form catching snaps from Ott.