Crunching the numbers: 53-man roster competition

Over the past eight years, The Seattle Seahawks has kept an average of 25.375 offensive players on its 53-man roster. Now, some of the positions had the consistency of a metronome:

• Tight end: Seattle has kept three tight ends to start the season for every one of the past eight seasons.

• Offensive line: The Seahawks have kept nine offensive linemen in seven of the previous eight seasons.

• Quarterbacks: The Seahawks have began the season with three quarterbacks in all but one of the previous eight seasons, and that was 2007 when Seattle waited until the second week to add Charlie Frye after cutting David Greene.

Other positions have exhibited more fluctuation:

• Running backs: Seattle has kept as many as six running backs to start the season twice in the past eight seasons and as few as four running backs just once.

• Wide receivers: The most volatile positions in terms of numbers. Seattle has started with as many as seven (2005) and as few as four (2003).

This year, Seattle will have a number of complications to handle with two of the top three tackles on the team currently injured. Ray Willis has a knee injury that required surgery and coach Pete Carroll has already conceded he won’t be ready for the season-opener. Now, Russell Okung has a sprained ankle that makes his status uncertain.

And then there’s Chester Pitts who was signed just before the season started. He is recovering from microfracture surgery on his knee, and he is on the physically unable to perform list. He wore his helmet during rehabilitation work last week, but he’s not practicing. It’s possible he could begin the regular season on the physically unable to perform list. If that happens, he would not count against the team’s 53-man limit, but he also would not be eligible to play until after the sixth regular-season game.

The other question regards the tight ends. Seattle has never kept more than three tight ends on the 53-man roster, but Seattle has never used two tight-end formations as often as they will this season, either. Anthony McCoy is someone the coaches have high hopes for, but he has not caught the ball as consistently asCameron Morrah. Could Seattle afford to keep four tight ends?

That might require Seattle to carry only four running backs. That is possible, but might require the team to forego a true fullback on the roster. Quinton Ganther started at fullback Saturday night ahead of Owen Schmitt, showing that Seattle is testing Ganther’s versatility. He has been a running back in the past, and he’s also a special-teams mainstay.

Note: Two updates have been added. First, I forgot to include Jeff Byers, center, who is certainly competing for a spot though may end up a practice-squad candidate. Second is that Mike Hass was removed after he was released to make room for Brandon Jones.

Quarterbacks Average kept 2002-’09: 2.875
Locks: Matt Hasselbeck, Charlie Whitehurst
Looks safe: J.P. Losman
Running backs Average kept 2002-’09: 5.125
Locks: Justin Forsett, Leon Washington
Looks safe: Julius Jones
On the bubble: Quinton Ganther, Owen Schmitt
Uphill climb: Louis Rankin
Tight ends Average kept 2002-’09: 3
Locks: John Carlson, Chris Baker
On the bubble: Cameron Morrah, Anthony McCoy
Uphill climb: Nick Tow-Arnett
Wide receivers Average kept 2002-’09: 5.5
Locks: Golden Tate, T.J. Houshmandzadeh
Looks safe: Deon Butler, Mike Williams, Deion Branch
On the bubble: Ben Obomanu, Ruvell Martin
Uphill climb: Kole Heckendorf
Wildcard: Brandon Jones
Offensive line Average kept 2002-’09: 8.875
Locks: Russell Okung, Ben Hamilton, Chris Spencer, Max Unger
Looks safe: Sean Locklear, Ray Willis, Mansfield Wrotto
On the bubble: Mike Gibson, Joe Toledo, Steve Vallos, Jeff Byers
Uphill climb: Jacob Phillips, Mitch Erickson, Gregg Peat
Wildcard: Chester Pitts (PUP)