Not much can be known about an NFL team in June after only a handful of non-contact OTAs and minicamp practices.
But I’m comfortable in saying this: Barring unforeseen events, the 2016 Seahawks will be one of the best teams in franchise history.
The core talent on the roster and the skills of the staff make that a fairly risk-free prediction, even this far from the start of the season.
Every team since coach Pete Carroll and GM John Schneider got this really rolling in 2012 has been among the franchise’s all-time best teams.
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And this, again, looks like a team that can have one of those extraordinary seasons.
But don’t get spoiled by this welcomed redundancy.
Having watched nearly 30 years of Seahawks practices and camps, I can testify that so many teams would defile workouts with false starts, encroachments, botched assignments, fist fights, corpulent linemen barely dragging themselves around the field and coaches blowing gaskets with strings of such colorful profanity it could make linebackers blush.
Here’s what you see now: A team that practices so fast and efficiently that there’s almost never a play that gets called back or has to be rerun for failed assignments or positioning.
Nobody dares dog it. They can’t afford to. They race each other from session to session. And even without contact, every matchup seems a personal challenge.
The young players see the way veterans like Richard Sherman and Doug Baldwin go at each other at all times, and nobody has any questions about the level of intensity that is expected from all 90 players.
Carroll wrapped up last week’s minicamp with an assessment of where the best competitions will be when training camp arrives. He ended up naming nearly every position group.
“I think it’s going to be one of our most competitive camps.” Carroll said. “This is a chance for us to have a roster that reminds us of a couple years back, and hopefully it’ll play out that way."
The “couple years back” reference is obviously to the 2013 group that rolled through the season and the playoffs to the team’s first Super Bowl.
Here’s my interpretation of what he’s getting at.
Quarterback Russell Wilson looked like the Russell Wilson of the last seven regular-season games of 2015, when he threw 24 touchdowns and only one interception while roaring to the top of the league’s passer ratings.
This guy was absolutely firing the ball — in all the right places. Carroll insightfully used the word “command” to describe his mastery of the offense. It surely looked like he is well on the way to taking the next step in his development.
Wilson had the relaxed and confident look of a quarterback who knows all, sees all and understands the manipulation of defenses and matchups.
That situation alone gives the Seahawks the most valuable commodity in the league: a franchise quarterback healthy and in his prime.
After playing 19 games in each of 2013 and 2014, the Seahawks limped into last season.
By contrast, the health of the team is so good now that even the most important surgical rehabbers, Jimmy Graham and Thomas Rawls, are moving well and expected to be back when the season opens.
The offensive line continues to be a potential weak link, but seven recent draft choices contribute to a pile of candidates who are large, strong and intelligent. They’re young and raw, and that makes them a liability until they prove themselves, though.
But the youth elsewhere gives Carroll that sense of depth on the rise that helped that 2013 team stay so fresh all season.
The 2016 draft should turn into the team’s best since 2012, with Jarran Reed and Quinton Jefferson already looking strong on the defensive line. A couple of offensive linemen, a tight end and a couple of backs out of this draft class should make the team and likely contribute.
And second-year guys Tyler Lockett (already a Pro Bowl returner) and Frank Clark will be NFL stars. Lockett this season will get to add variety to his game, and Clark has trimmed down to linebacker size and speed to add another pass-rushing threat alongside Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril.
Finally, this is a sense I came away with that’s a little more vague and difficult to express: These guys seem remarkably clearheaded.
The past two seasons, they’d either won the Super Bowl and carried around a sense of competitive entitlement, or they’d lost the Super Bowl dramatically and carried that sense of vulnerability.
There were questions of Marshawn Lynch’s health and temperament and Kam Chancellor’s contract, and the disruptive loss of successive defensive coordinators.
Now, everybody just seems healthy, stable and ready to get after it and prove themselves again.
I know this is too early to speculate this way, and it’s certainly absent the typical columnist’s cynicism.
I’m just telling you what I’ve seen: The Seahawks are loaded and once again on the threshold of something very special.