SUPER BOWL: Profiles of key players
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) Projected starters and key players for the Super Bowl:
Russell Wilson, QB (3), 5-11, 206, 2nd season, Wisconsin
Holds NFL record for wins at start of career with 24 … Third-round draftee who immediately seized starting job and led Seattle to 2012 playoffs … Dynamic runner who excels throwing on the run … Poised in the pocket, very dangerous outside of it … Played at North Carolina State, then one year at Wisconsin as grad student.
Marshawn Lynch, RB, (24) 5-11, 215, 7th season, California
”Beast Mode” with a penchant for Skittles … Powerful back with a burst, broke 40-yard TD run in NFC title game … Rushed for 1,257 yards and 12 TDs this season … Also a threat as receiver out of backfield.
Michael Robinson, FB (26), 6-1, 240, 8th season, Penn State
Former college QB who made transition to RB and now fullback … Cut in preseason after three years with Seahawks, then re-signed in October … Also has excelled on special teams.
Doug Baldwin, WR (89), 5-10, 189, 3rd season, Stanford
Undrafted out of college, plays with an attitude about it … Can get deep but is not a speed demon … Versatile, made a 69-yard kickoff return in NFC title game … Wilson looks for him in key situations.
Golden Tate, WR (81), 5-10, 202, 4th season, Notre Dame
Makes some spectacular catches and is a deep threat … Second-round pick in 2010 who also plays doesn’t back down … Led team with 64 catches, 898 yards and had five TDs this season … Made infamous TD catch vs. Green Bay in 2013 that was last call by replacement officials.
Jermaine Kearse, WR (15), 6-1, 209, 2nd season, Washington
Caught winning TD pass in NFC title game for 35 yards on fourth down in final quarter … Undrafted in 2012, played in seven games as rookie with only three receptions. Took over third receiving spot with injuries to Percy Harvin and Sidney Rice, had 15.7-yard average on 22 catches four TDs.
Zach Miller, TE (86), 6-5, 255, 7th season, Arizona State
Signed away from Oakland as free agent in 2011, has not been as productive with Seahawks … Had 33 receptions for 387 yards and five TDs in 2013 … Good target in red zone and over the middle.
Russell Okung, LT (76), 6-5, 310, 4th season, Oklahoma State
First-round pick 2010 (sixth overall) who has developed into Pro Bowl-level blocker … Injuries have set him back at times, but a road-grader when healthy … Missed half of this season with toe injury, was placed on IR designated to return and came back on Nov. 17.
James Carpenter, LG (67), 6-5, 321, 3rd season, Alabama
A surprise first-round selection in 2011 who has been inconsistent … Has been in and out of lineup in throughout career, was inactive for Saints playoff game, then started in NFC championship.
Max Unger, C (60), 6-5, 205, 5th season, Oregon
Among the best centers in the game … Intelligent, strong, really gets off the ball after he snaps it … A 2012 All-Pro who missed three games this season with arm injury … His matchups with NT Terrance Knighton will be a key component in Super Bowl.
J.R. Sweezy, RG (64), 6-5, 298, 2nd season, North Carolina State
A backup as a rookie who blossomed in his second year and started 15 times … Missed Seahawks’ only home loss of season, to Arizona, with concussion, and Wilson was often overwhelmed by pass rush.
Breno Giacomini, RT (68), 6-7, 318, 6th season, Louisville
Yet another O-lineman who missed time in 2013 … Knee problems cost him four games in midseason … Highly competitive, huge and more maneuverable than might be expected … Lynch often runs behind him.
Red Bryant, DE (79), 6-4, 323, 6th season, Texas A&M
Versatile player who can go inside, has the bulk and the movement to be an end or a tackle … Leader of the defensive line … Not a big sacks guy, but takes up blockers to free up teammates.
Tony McDaniel, DT (99), 6-7, 305, 8th season, Tennessee
One of many members of rotation in the trenches, also has played for Jacksonville and Miami … Joined Seattle this season as free agent, had 52 tackles and two sacks.
Brandon Mebane, DT (92), 6-1, 311, 7th season, California
Strongest player up front for Seahawks, clogs running lanes effectively … Was in on 45 tackles this season, high for the role he plays … Has started every game he appeared in since 2008.
Chris Clemons, DE (91), 6-3, 254, 10th season, Georgia
Accomplished pass rusher with 58 career sacks … Had huge 2012 season, then tore knee ligament in playoff win over Washington, missing loss to Atlanta … Acquired in trade with Eagles in 2010, also played for Redskins … Sacked Ben Roethlisberger in Clemons’ first career start in 2004.
Cliff Avril, DE (56), 6-3, 260, 6th season, Purdue
Signed as free agent away from Detroit, added burst off the edge in pass rush … Had sack of Colin Kaepernick and forced fumble in fourth quarter last week … Had eight sacks among his 34 tackles as rotation player … Has 47 1-2 career sacks.
Michael Bennett, DE (72), 6-4, 274, 5th season, Texas A&M
Signed away from Tampa Bay as free agent and has been major contributor on league’s top defense … Recovered fumble in NFC championship game … Led team with 8 1-2 sacks among his 31 tackles.
Bruce Irvin, OLB (51), 6-3, 248, 2nd season, West Virginia
First-round pick who had decent rookie year, then was suspended for first four games of 2013 for using banned substance … Still raw, but can rush the passer … At some point needs to show he can handle pass coverages, too, and this would be good time to do so.
Bobby Wagner, MLB (54), 6-0, 241, 2nd season, Utah State
One of the league’s most unnoticed stars … A do-everything LB who stays on the field … Had 119 tackles this season and 140 as a rookie … Also had five sacks in 2013 … Coach Pete Carroll never misses chance to praise Wagner’s toughness and versatility.
Malcolm Smith, OLB (53), 6-0, 226, 3rd season, Southern California
Caught Richard Sherman’s deflection for interception to clinch NFC championship and trip to Super Bowl … Was recruited by Carroll to USC … Seventh-rounder who has improved each season … Became more of a regular on defense in second half of 2013 schedule. Also plays special teams.
Richard Sherman, CB (25), 6-3, 195, 3rd season, Stanford
Forget the post-game diatribe against Michael Crabtree after NFC title game, this is best cornerback in football … Will play press coverage or lay back and is equally adept … Hits hard, too … Led NFL in interceptions with eight, even though man he is covering isn’t target as much as other receivers.
Byron Maxwell, CB (41), 6-1, 207, 3rd season, Clemson
Stepped in when Brandon Browner was suspended and has been just as good … Finds the football and has good hands … A sixth-round pick who has flourished … Mostly played special teams before this season.
Earl Thomas, S (29), 5-10, 202, 4th season, Texas
Despite lack of size, Thomas is one of league’s most rugged safeties … Versatile, active and smart, gets to the right place nearly all the time … Sherman calls him leader of the league’s top defense … Two-time All-Pro who was first-round pick in 2010.
Kam Chancellor, S (31), 6-3, 232, 4th season, Virginia Tech
Monster hits mark his game … Tall and rangy … Has 278 tackles in past three seasons, and seven interceptions … Could face off with Julius Thomas in one of the juicier Super Bowl matchups … Yet another low draft choice (fifth-round in 2010).
Steven Hauschka, PK (4), 6-4, 210, 6th season, North Carolina State
Also has kicked for Baltimore and, yes, Denver … Caught on with Seattle in 2011 and has been very strong … Has made 82 of 92 field goal tries for Seahawks and is particularly solid from distance … Made six FGs against Jacksonville and five vs. Minnesota this season.
Jon Ryan, P (9), 6-0, 217, 8th season, Regina (Canada)
A rare exploit from Canadian college ball, Ryan has been a defensive weapon for the Seahawks … Began career with Green Bay, has been with Seahawks since 2008 … Put 28 punts inside the 20 and excels at getting them inside the 10, too.
Golden Tate, PR (81), 5-10, 202, 4th season, Notre Dame
Will gamble a bit too much on punt runbacks, but also has skills to break them … Averaged 11.5 yards a return, ninth in league.
Percy Harvin, KR (11), 5-11, 184, 5th season, Florida
Has been injured for most of the season after being signed as free agent away from Vikings … Comes off concussion sustained in playoff game vs. Saints, when he had three receptions … Had 58-yard kick return against former team in only regular-season game in 2013.
Peyton Manning, QB (18), 6-5, 230, 16th season, Tennessee
One of the all-time greats, will play in third Super Bowl … Won 2006 NFL title with Indianapolis, lost in 2009 season … Ironman streak of starting every game (227) from 1998-2010 ended in `11 after neck surgeries sidelined him for year … Joined Broncos as free agent and has gone 28-7 with them … Shattered NFL marks with 55 TD passes and 5,477 yards … First overall draft choice in 1998.
Knowshon Moreno, RB (27), 5-11, 220, 5th season, Georgia
First-rounder in 2009 whose career seemed to be waning until Manning arrived … Rushed for 1,038 yards and 10 TDs this season … Can gain yardage inside or out, and picks up blitzers well … Also caught 60 balls and scored three times … Has become a producer in the clutch.
Montee Ball, RB (28), 5-10, 215, 1st season, Wisconsin
Second-round choice after record-setting NCAA career … If he protects the ball, he can be dynamic … Had 559 yards rushing, 20 receptions, scored four times … Broncos like to avoid overworking Moreno and Ball is the ace reliever.
Demaryius Thomas, WR (88), 6-3, 229, 4th season, Georgia Tech
Big target with smooth running style who can make some spectacular catches … Manning’s main guy among many receivers, Thomas has 92 catches, 1,430 yards and 14 TDs … Will be interesting confrontation for him with Seahawks DBs who believe they can handle anyone in man coverage.
Eric Decker, WR (87), 6-3, 214, 4th season, Minnesota
Another versatile, smart route-runner who has meshed well with Manning … Made 87 catches for 1,288 yards and 11 scores … Deceptively quick, though won’t win foot races with DBs … Decker combined with Demaryius Thomas for the most prolific receiving tandem (2,718 yards) in the league.
Wes Welker, WR (83), 5-9, 185, 10th season, Texas Tech
Was just slightly less productive with Manning as he was in New England with Tom Brady … Signed before season as free agent, worked mostly out of slot to gain 778 yards on 73 catches and score 10 times … Undrafted out of college, played for San Diego and Miami before joining Patriots.
Julius Thomas, TE (80), 6-5, 250, 3rd season, Portland State
A breakout player, thanks greatly to Manning … Went from obscure to star with 65 catches for 788 yards and 12 TDs … Excellent target in red zone, also can break tackles for long gains … Former college basketball player.
Chris Clark, LT (75), 6-5, 305, 5th season, Southern Mississippi
First season as full-time starter … Not drafted, spend time on several practice squads … Replaced star tackle Ryan Clady (foot), made 14 starts.
Zane Beadles, LG (68), 6-4, 305, 4th season, Utah
Second-rounder in 2010 who has started all but two of 64 games … Very solid, Moreno gains lots of yards behind his blocks.
Manny Ramirez, C (66), 6-3, 320, 7th season, Texas Tech
Stepped in when injuries depleted position, first time snapping for full season since high school … Helped Broncos yield league-low 17 sacks … Manning calls him ”awesome.”
Louis Vasquez, RG (65), 6-5, 335, 5th season, Texas Tech
All-Pro this season after joining Broncos as free agent … Equally skilled at run blocking and pass protection … Best blocker on a terrific line.
Orlando Franklin, RT (74), 6-7, 320, 3rd season, Miami, Fla.
Massive second-round pick in 2011 who has held down job since being drafted … Tough to see around, let alone get around into backfield … Allowed only 3 1-2 sacks in 2012, fewest for position.
Malik Jackson, DE (97), 6-5, 293, 2nd season, Tennessee
Fifth-rounder in 2012, had 42 tackles in five starts and impressive six sacks … Has nice burst off the snap, but is not consistent yet … Also played at Southern Cal before going to Tennessee.
Sylvester Williams, DT (92), 6-2, 313, 1st season, North Carolina
First-round choice last April who earned more playing time late in regular season … Benefits from Terrance Knighton being so active next to him … Must show he can penetrate Seattle’s solid inside blockers.
Terrance Knighton, DT (94), 6-3, 335, 5th season, Temple
An under-the-radar force who has had a terrific postseason … A rare NFL regular from Temple, Knighton was signed away from Jacksonville as free agent … Has 31 tackles and three sacks.
Shaun Phillips, DE (90), 6-3, 255, 10th season, Purdue
Signed away from division rival San Diego as free agent … Uses moves and smarts to get into backfield, made 10 sacks this season … Has 79 1-2 sacks for career … Should be Seattle’s primary concern in protection.
Robert Ayers, DE (91), 6-3, 274, 5th season, Tennessee
Spotty player who has come on recently … First-round pick in 2009 who never has lived up to billing … Had 5 1-2 sacks, but only one in final 11 regular-season games.
Nate Irving, OLB (56), 6-1, 245, 3rd season, North Carolina State
Third-rounder in 2011 has been in and out of lineup … With star LB Von Miller suspended or hurt, Irving got more playing time … Seattle will go after him.
Wesley Woodyard, MLB (52), 6-0, 233, 6th season, Kentucky
Truly broke out in 2012 with 117 tackles, 5 1-2 sacks … Had another solid season in 2013, but missed two games (neck) … Made his mark with excellent special teams work.
Danny Trevathan, OLB (59), 6-1, 240, 2nd season, Kentucky
By far the best defender in Denver this season … Active, aggressive, versatile … Sixth-rounder who went from no starts to 16, made 129 tackles, had three picks, and was inspiration to teammates.
Champ Bailey, CB (24), 6-0, 192, 15th season, Georgia
Getting Bailey to Super Bowl for first time was a rallying cry for defense … Not nearly the All-Pro defender he once was, but has had solid playoffs … Has 52 career interceptions, tops among active players.
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB (45), 6-2, 193, 6th season, Tennessee State
Signed away from Philadelphia as free agent … Wound up as team’s top cornerback after injuries or so-so play by others … Broke up team-high 15 passes this season … Also played for Arizona.
Tony Carter, CB (32), 5-9, 175, 5th season, Florida State
Journeyman who had minor role this season, but has played important minutes in playoffs … Has only started three games in career … Seattle will try to get him matched up with Baldwin or Tate.
Duke Ihenacho, S (33), 6-1, 207, 2nd season, San Jose State
Undrafted free agent who has made his mark after being on practice squad for part of 2012 … Hits hard, not so great in coverage, but not a real liability … Had 73 tackles in 2013.
Mike Adams, S (20), 5-11, 200, 10th season, Delaware
Another journeyman who has plugged a hole in secondary … Also has played for San Francisco and Cleveland … Has nine career fumble recoveries.
Matt Prater, PK (5), 5-10, 195, 7th season, Central Florida
Set NFL record with 64-yard field goal this season … Won’t be bothered by playing outdoors in Super Bowl in cold weather … Very strong leg, had 81 touchbacks on 114 kickoffs … Missed only one FG, from 52 yards.
Britton Colquitt, P (4), 6-3, 205, 5th season, Tennessee
With Denver’s offense clicking, Colquitt has punted just once in playoffs … Member of kicking family, brother Dustin is with Chiefs, father Craig Colquitt and uncle Jimmy also were NFL punters.
Trindon Holliday, PR-KR (11), 5-5, 170, 4th season, LSU
Had all kinds of breakaway potential, and also can drop the ball … Had 81-yard punt return and 105-yard kickoff runback for TDs this season … NFL’s shortest player.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org