Before training camp begins on Friday, here's my continuing look (by position) at how the Seattle Seahawks stack up going in and whether the team is improved or not as good as it was a year ago.
The offense was last week. Now let's look at the defensive line.
Defensive ends -- Some growing pains at the start.
The Seahawks released veteran defensive ends Chris Clemons and Red Bryant, players with a total of 16 years experience, for salary-cap reasons. But it wasn't just salary-cap implications. The production of both players went down significantly last season.
The 2014 starters -- Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril – are rock solid, including the fact that Bennett also lines up sometimes at defensive tackle. But both men will need to play more snaps this season than last season.
Avril says this is what he wants, but be careful what you wish for. The reason Avril and Bennett were so productive at the end of last season was that fact that both men were fresh and healthy, having to play fewer snaps because of the depth the Seahawks had at the position.
Seattle wants to keep a rotation of at least four players at the end spots, but the Seahawks will have to do it with much younger players who don't have a lot of experience. Rookie Cassius Marsh of UCLA is the man the coaches are counting on to step up immediately and become a quality edge rusher.
Second-year player Benson Mayowa, who comes to camp with about 10 pounds of added bulk, will get a chance to show what he can do after basically redshirting last season.
Greg Scruggs is returning after undergoing ACL surgery and missing the 2013 season. The Seahawks also signed University of Texas defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat (son of former Cowboys defensive end Jim Jeffcoat) as a rookie free agent, hoping he can make the roster as a pass rushing specialist.
Potentially, this bunch, which is younger and faster, could be better than last year's group. But it may take some patience before the knowledge and learning process catches up with their ability.
Defensive tackles -- Some production needed to make up for what they lost.
Clinton McDonald may have been the most underrated player on the team last season. He had a break-out campaign with 35 tackles, 5½ sacks and 13 quarterback hurries as a backup at defensive tackle.
McDonald signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a free agent, and it's a bigger loss than most people realize. However, the Seahawks signed Kevin Williams, one of the NFL's best defensive tackles over the past decade.
Williams turns 34 in August, so the question is how much does he have left? He showed up for minicamp in great shape and looks strong. One reason he agreed to sign with the Seahawks is he knew he would get fewer snaps, which would give him a chance to stay fresh.
If he can give the Seahawks anywhere close to what McDonald gave them last year, then everything looks promising. Starters Brandon Mebane and Tony McDaniel are back and should be as good, or better, as last season.
The unknown is what the Seahawks can get from 2013 rookies Jesse Williams and Jordan Hill. Williams missed his rookie season with knee problems, but the big Aussie says he's healthy now. Hill also played sparingly as rookie. This is their chance to step up. The Seahawks also have high hopes for Jimmy Staten, a fifth-round draft choice from Middle Tennessee.
If Kevin Williams still can play at a high level and the Seahawks get the production they expect from the young guys, especially Jesse Williams, this group will cause big problems for opposing offenses and what those teams try to do inside.