A look at the progressive steps taken by the Seahawks

A look at the progressive steps taken by the Seattle Seahawks during the preseason, and those that remain works in progress, as they prepare for Sunday’s regular-season opener against the 49ers.

Ready or not, here it comes: The Seahawks’ regular-season opener against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday afternoon at Qwest Field.

With the preseason – and a weekend of roster moves – behind them, here’s a look at three things to build on and three things that still need work.

Three steps forward

One. The rookie class. From top to almost bottom, the players selected in April’s NFL draft have lived up to or exceeded expectations. The downer, of course, is top pick Russell Okung being sidelined since spraining an ankle on the first series of the second preseason game. But the left tackle position awaits him when he’s ready to return. Safety Earl Thomas, also a first-round pick, turned in the defensive play of the preseason with his interception return for a touchdown against the Vikings. Cornerback Walter Thurmond (fourth round) has replaced Josh Wilson (traded to the Ravens) as the nickel back. Dexter Davis (seventh) has shown he can pressure the opposing quarterback, help on special teams and also play outside linebacker if needed. Golden Tate (second) did not make the plays in the preseason games that he did on the practice field, but the potential is there to contribute as a returner and receiver. Defensive end E.J. Wilson (fourth), safety Kam Chancellor (fifth) and tight end Anthony McCoy (sixth) showed they can be role players and help on special teams.

Two. A couple of forgotten receivers who made plays to remember. That, of course, would be Deon Butler, who led the team with 15 preseason receptions; and Mike Williams, who was second with 10. Butler caught 15 passes all of last year, when he was a third-round draft choice. Williams? He caught zero passes the past two seasons because the former Top 10 draft choice by the Detroit Lions wasn’t even in the league. Williams emerged as the big (6-5) target the coaches want at the split end position and also displayed his run-after-the-catch ability by turning a 6-yard pass into a 51-yard touchdown in the opener. Butler showed that he can make plays from the slot in the three- and four-receiver sets.

Three. The foot soldiers. Last season, kicker Olindo Mare and punter Jon Ryan were the most consistent players on the team. Despite all the change this offseason, some things never change. Mare was seven of eight on his field goal attempts. Ryan averaged 50.2 yards on 20 punts, with a net of 41.8. Nine of his kicks were downed inside the 20-yard line and he had a long of 67 yards.

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Three areas that still need work

One. The offensive line. Continuity is the key to this unit, but that has eluded the Seahawks this summer. Line coach Alex Gibbs abruptly retired Saturday. Okung remains iffy for the opener. The club has added three linemen in the past week (Tyler Polumbus, Stacy Andrews and Evan Dietrich-Smith). It remains to be seen who will start at the tackle positions and left guard against the 49ers.

Two. The running game. No back gained more than Quinton Ganther’s total of 36 yards in the opener. It’s understandable with the way the coaches were rotating the backs. But only two backs averaged more than 3.3 yards a carry in any game (5.2 for Justin Forsett against the Raiders and 4.8 for Leon Washingtonagainst the Packers). As a team, the Seahawks averaged 71.0 rushing yards per game and 3.6 per carry. The biggest reason? See Step One. But the situation should improve as Carroll goes with the back who has the hot hand – or feet – once the regular season begins.

Three. Penalties. Coach Pete Carroll wants his team to play smart, and this important phase of the total-team game started so well with four penalties for 36 yards in the opener. But in the finale, the Seahawks were flagged nine times for 111 against the Raiders. But 43 percent of their 30 penalties during the preseason were against players no longer on the roster or players who won’t play as much during the regular season. So this situation should be easier to improve.