We’ll continue the Countdown with a look at a question that could prove critical to the Seahawks’ future — which member, or members, of the Class of 2013 will begin to take big steps forward this season?
Recall that the 2013 draft class was assembled largely looking at the long-term, and not for immediate help.
As Seattle coaches have become fond of saying, it was put together much like a college football recruiting class, with the idea that most of the players would “redshirt” their first season and then begin making their place in the NFL.
Only two players really ended up playing much in 2013 — tight end Luke Willson and offensive lineman Michael Bowie — and injuries were a factor in each situation.
Willson moved up the depth chart quickly when Anthony McCoy was lost for the season in May with an Achilles injury, and ended up being the backup to Zach Miller, a role he will serve again this season (though likely beginning to play even more).
Bowie ended up starting eight games at tackle when injuries shelved both Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini.
Otherwise, few really played much. Defensive tackle Jordan Hill likely would have, but he suffered two separate biceps injuries that limited his season to just four games. RB Spencer Ware also was in line to see some regular time, at least on special teams, but suffered a season-ending injury in week two against the 49ers.
This year, though, will be different. The Seahawks will need the likes of RB Christine Michael, DLs Hill and Jesse Williams and cornerback Tharold Simon to take on larger roles. Only once we see how up to the task those guys are will we really be able to begin assessing this class.
As camp approaches, then, a look at the Class of 2013 and their possible role in 2014:
RB Christine Michael (second round): We all know the story with Michael. Limited to just 79 yards on 18 carries, fourth on the team, while working behind Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin a year ago, but entering camp with a chance to earn a much larger role this season. His play in the spring did nothing to quell the idea he will get regular carries this season. The only question is how many.
DT Jordan Hill (third round):Hill is now healthy and projects as a possible starter at tackle in the nickel package — something the Seahawks may play more this season due to some of their non-conference foes — and a regular in the rotation. Hill is one of the guys the Seahawks were counting on when they made the decisions to let go of Red Bryant and Clinton McDonald and his development will be crucial in allowing Seattle to again have a deep rotation up front.
WR Chris Harper (fourth round): Waived in the cutdown to 53, he was then signed by the 49ers and then released by them and signed by the Packers. He remains with the Packers.
DT Jesse Williams (fifth round): Williams was bothered by an existing knee injury throughout camp and was placed on the injured reserve list on Aug. 26 and sat out the season. But like Hill, he has a chance now at regular playing time up front at both tackle spots and even the five-technique end position, primarily in early down/run defense. Williams said at the end of mini-camp he was healthy, so he should be able to hit the ground running in training camp. Like Hill, his development will be pretty crucial in allowing Seattle to remain deep up front though the Seahawks added some big insurance with the addition of veteran free agent Kevin Williams in June.
CB Tharold Simon (fifth round): Simon missed almost all off-season workouts and then training camp while bothered by a foot injury. But he was healthy for the spring and emerged as one of the fastest-rising players. With the departures of the likes of Walter Thurmond and Brandon Browner, the door is wide open for Simon — and recall that the team drafted him knowing it would have decisions to make on Browner and Thurmond following the 2013 season. He will compete to be the third cornerback after Richard Sherman and Byron Maxwell, with Jeremy Lane slated to be the nickel.
TE Luke Willson (fifth round): The only question with Willson is how much more involved he gets in the offense this season.
FB Spencer Ware (sixth round): Ware spent the first two games as a backup fullback before suffering a high ankle sprain against the 49ers and being placed on injured reserve, sidelining him for the rest of the season. He had 10 yards on three carries before his injury. He’ll again compete for the fullback job with Derrick Coleman and 2014 draftee Kiero Small. But like Coleman, he can also double as a tailback.
G Ryan Seymour (seventh round): Seymour was on Seattle’s practice squad until being signed to the 49ers’ active roster late in the season. He remains with the 49ers.
LB Ty Powell (seventh round): Powell began the year on the practice squad, then was released off of it on Sept, 12 and signed to the Giants practice squad before being signed to Buffalo’s active roster. He remains with the Bills, for whom he made nine tackles last season.
G Jared Smith (seventh round): Smith began the year on Seattle’s practice squad before being placed on injured reserve. He was healthy in the spring and will compete for a backup spot on the line, though there’s some pretty stiff competition there with the Seahawks signing vets such as Stephen Schilling and Greg Van Roten who project to have similar roles.
OT Michael Bowie (seventh round): Bowie was one of the surprises of this draft, instantly emerging as one of the team’s better, young offensive linemen. But he had an uneven spring, with coaches saying he could have been in better shape. He’ll compete with 2014 draft pick Justin Britt for the right tackle spot vacated by the loss of Giacomini in free agency.