NFL camp preview: Seahawks ready to compete for Super Bowl

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

RENTON, Wash. -- After building the roster for three years, it appears coach Pete Carroll and the Seattle Seahawks may be ready to cash in as they open training camp Wednesday and begin practicing on the field Thursday.
While the overarching theme remains competition in a Carroll training camp, this season will be more about refinement and staying healthy as Carroll and general manager John Schneider believe the Seahawks are ready to compete for a Super Bowl.
The Seahawks found their franchise quarterback in Russell Wilson, shrewdly snapping him up in the third round of last year's draft.
The addition of multi-talented receiver/returner Percy Harvin in an offseason trade with Minnesota gives Wilson yet another playmaker on an already loaded offense that features running back Marshawn Lynch brutalizing defenses (1,590 rushing yards in 2012).
But the key for the Seahawks will be how much the team has improved pressuring opposing quarterbacks. Seattle had trouble generating a consistent pass rush last season, finishing tied for 18th in the league with 36 sacks.
The additions of defensive end Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett in free agency should help bolster Seattle's pass rush. New defensive coordinator Dan Quinn hints the Seahawks will play more man coverage, allowing the front seven to blitz more.
How Seattle handles being a front-runner also will be a main storyline in 2013, particularly with the recent rash of player suspensions the team received, with six players being suspended during Carroll's tenure for violating the NFL's policy on performance enhancing drugs.
One thing is sure, as one of this year's favorites, the Seahawks will not sneak up on anyone.
An interesting battle is expected at defensive tackle, where rookie fifth-round draft choice Jesse Williams and veteran free agent Tony McDaniel will compete for the starting job next to Brandon Mebane, who replaced the departed Alan Branch.
With veteran outside linebacker Leroy Hill not returning to Seattle in free agency, third-year pro Malcolm Smith is fighting Bruce Irvin for the starting outside linebacker job opposite K.J. Wright. Irvin, a first-round pick in 2012 who played primarily as a situational pass rusher as a rookie, is facing a four-game suspension to open the season. But Carroll believes Irvin is a "carbon copy" of Denver's Von Miller and the former West Virginia product is expected to win the job when he's available.
Wide receiver Golden Tate -- best remembered for the final-play touchdown catch in the so-called "Fail Mary" game against Green Bay -- is coming off a breakthrough season in 2012. He finished with a career-high 45 receptions for 688 yards and seven touchdowns.
The Notre Dame product is in a contract year, and might not receive as many targets with the addition of Harvin. However, if Tate has another good year, the Seahawks could have a tough decision to make in free agency next season, with Sidney Rice due to make $8.5 million in non-guaranteed base salary in 2014.
Although they have two Pro Bowlers in tackle Russell Okung and center Max Unger, Seattle's offensive line still has question marks at both guard positions.
Former first-round draft choice James Carpenter has yet to come back from offseason knee surgery, and is expected to compete for the left guard job with Paul McQuistan during training camp. And on the other side, second-year pro J.R. Sweezy is competing with third-year pro John Moffitt for the starting right guard job. The Seahawks need to solidify both of those spots to create some cohesiveness along the offensive line.
Seahawks owner Paul Allen signed Schneider to a contract extension through 2016 after his initial, three-year deal expired at the end of 2012.
Schneider, 42, has done a masterful job pairing with Carroll in revamping Seattle's roster and turning the franchise into a winner. There was speculation that Schneider received interest from other teams, prompting Seattle to get a deal done.
Next in line will be Carroll, who is heading into the fourth year of a five-year deal that pays him $7 million annually. If Seattle continues on an upward trend and reaches the playoffs for a second straight season, Carroll will probably be next to get a new deal.

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