Offensive Depth — Who Gets Cut?

Change is inevitable.  There once was a man named Heraclitus (and no, he wasn’t from Nantucket) who theorized that change is the only constant in life, so the only way to know whether or not something was real was to see if it changed over time1.  In that sense, I think the 12th Man can agree that the Seahawks are definitely real.  In the last four years the Hawks have had four offensive coordinators, three head coaches, and two general managers (no word yet on the partridge in a pear tree).  Heck, just in the last year Qwest Field has become C-Link Field, Hasselbeck signed with the Titans, and Tatupu became (and remains) a free agent.  Don’t even get me started on the lime green uniforms we tried out in 2009.

And then there’s the roster.  As of right now, Marcus Trufant and Leroy Hill are the only two players remaining from the 2005 Super Bowl run.  Instead of trying to learn about our current players, I find myself scouring the internet just to keep up with who is and isn’t a Seahawk.  I used to look up biographical articles about current Hawks so that I could tell my wife a little back story about various players.  Thanks to those bios, Hasselbeck became her favorite player — not because he was the best QB in Seahawks history, but because his family’s dog was a Great Dane (our family has one too, you see).  Knowing the players made her more interested in the games, and it’s made her a committed Seahawks fan.  But now it’s everything I can do just to remember for myself who’s currently on the team.

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It’s hard to believe, but roster cuts are coming up fast.  Danny O’Neil recently did an analysis of the team’s depth chart, and it’s a good read even if I don’t agree with him completely.  Eric Williams also wrote an article examining Seattle’s roster.  After reading both, I decided to take a shot at writing one myself.  I figured I’d start with the offense, since that side of the ball has seen the most change this offseason.

Current Offensive Depth Chart

QB: Tarvaris Jackson, Charlie Whitehurst, Josh Portis
RT: James Carpenter, Breno Giacomini
RG: John Moffit, Paul Fanaika, Zach Hurd
C: Max Unger, Mike Gibson, Brent Osborne
LG: Robert Gallery, Paul McQuistan, Lemuel Jeanpierre
LT: Russell Okung, Tyler Polumbus, William Robinson
TE: Zach Miller, John Carlson, Cameron Morrah, Anthony McCoy, Dominique Byrd
RB: Marshawn Lynch, Leon Washington, Justin Forsett, Thomas Clayton, Vai Taua
FB: Michael Robinson, Ryan Travis, Dorson Boyce
WR: Sidney Rice, Mike Williams, Ben Obomanu, Golden Tate, Kris Durham, Doug Baldwin, Deon Butler, Ricardo Lockette, Isaiah Stanback, Dominique Edison, Patrick Williams, Chris Carter (no, not that Chris Carter)

Let’s take this a position at a time, starting at the top.

Quarterback

I really don’t expect to see any change to this section of the depth chart.  Tarvaris has been tagged as the starter, and Carroll doesn’t seem to want to budge from that decision.  I think that if Charlie continues to play the way he has in the last few preseason games that he could become the starter by mid-season.  He’s just looked awesome.  I mean, what’s not to love about a 70% completion rate, plus the chains have kept moving whenever Clipboard Jesus was on the field.

Josh Portis is starting to become a cult hero for the 12th Man, as he’s shown great promise in the snaps he’s been given this preseason.  Yes, he went undrafted back in April, but not because of a lack of talent.  Rather, he went unpicked because he changed schools like I change shirts, and most of the game tape on him is from Division II games, which isn’t a great barometer of talent.  He could be the real deal, but let’s not get too jacked up just yet.

I don’t think the Seahawks will be adding any more QBs unless an amazing talent gets waived during final roster cuts, which isn’t likely to happen.  I know we’ve all lamented the lack of attention the Hawks have paid to this position, but all in all I think they’ve done a pretty good job with what they’ve had to work with.  Signing a cheap alternative like Jackson was a better move than, say, overpaying for Kolb (Cardinals suckers!) or drafting an early round QB without being totally sold on him (49ers suckers!).  Besides, we’ve improved nearly every other aspect of our offense, so that when a QB of the future does finally arrive he’ll be surrounded by good quality talent.

My prediction? Jackson, Whitehurst, and Portis all stay, for a total of 3 QBs.

Offensive Line

The starters on the o-line are set, provided Okung and his glass ankles can get healthy and remain that way.  As for depth, I think the chart posted on Seahawks.com is misleading, as Polumbus is really the main backup at both left and right tackle.  He’s shown decent ability, not great mind you, but decent.  I expect William Robinson to be among the first group of cuts.

Speaking of tackles, I’d like to take a moment here to beg the front office to consider signing ex-Saint Jon Stinchcomb, a former pro bowl tackle who is now a free agent.  With Okung missing as many games as he has, it might be smart to sign a guy like Stinchomb as an insurance policy.  I’d feel a lot better with both Stinchcomb and Polumbus as tackle depth, especially after last year.

As for the interior line depth, Mike Gibson is able to play center and both guard positions, and I have a hunch that will be the plan going forward.  Polumbus can also slide over and play guard if need be.  As for all the other names on the depth chart, to be honest I haven’t seen any write-ups about them, but their play hasn’t caught my attention in either preseason game, which is a compliment for an offensive lineman.

The team has okay depth here, but it could be improved.  This is the most promising group of o-line starters we’ve had in years, even if their play has been painful to watch at times.  Let’s just hope they get better real quick.

My prediction?  Carpenter, Moffitt, Unger, Gallery, and Okung are locks, with Polumbus, Gibson, McQuistan, and Giacomini as depth for 9 total.  (Possibly ten if Stinchcomb is signed?)

Running Back and Fullback

We all know that Marshawn Lynch is the starter at running back, followed by Forsett and Washington.  But after those three, everyone’s knowledge seems to stop — with good reason.  I just can’t see Thomas Clayton or Vai Taua sticking on the roster when cuts are announced.   I think both are good candidates for the practice squad, but there’s just too much talent at the wide receiver and tight end positions to justify keeping more than three RBs.

As for fullback, I don’t think we’ll see any change here either since the front office re-signed Michael Robinson.  Robinson played QB in college, so he’s got a nice variety of skills to draw on, plus he’s a special teams ace and he gained 20+ pouns this offseason to aid in his run blocking.  There’s a lot to like about having a FB who’s this flexible.

My prediction?  Lynch, Forsett, and Washington at RB, and Robinson at FB for a total of four players.

Wide Receiver

We got Rice!  We got Rice!  I can’t even begin to tell you how pumped I am about adding him to the receiving corps.  He’s a great vertical threat, and as long as he stays healthy he should complement Mike Williams nicely.  We’re really starting to see some great depth at all of our offensive skill positions . . . on paper, at least.  They still have to go out and produce.

After Rice and Big Mike Williams, Ben Obomanu seems to be a lock to make the roster, as does Golden Tate and Kris Durham.  But after that, I’m not sure if anyone is guaranteed a spot.  Deon Butler will most likely start the season on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list, which means he’ll be unavailable until at least week six.  That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it gives him more time to recover and leaves a roster spot free to evaluate any players at whom the front office might want to take a closer look.

Doug Baldwin is making some serious noise this preseason, and he should stick around unless the coaches know something I don’t (and yes, I know that’s very likely).  I’m in love with the thought of him playing in the slot.  If we hold on to the players I’ve predicted, then the Seahawks are going to have some serious height advantages.  Including the tight ends, we could very easily field five receivers at the same time who are 6’3” and taller.  Talk about a nightmare for any secondary! (Somewhere, Kelly Jennings just woke up screaming.)  Can you imagine what a safety net that would be for any QB?  I’m starting to feel like a fat man with an all you can eat pass to a Krispy Kreme.

My prediction?  Rice, Mike Williams, Obomanu, Tate, Durham, and Baldwin for a total of six WRs, with Butler on PUP.

Tight End

Talk about depth!  Zach Miller comes to us after being a pro bowler and the Raiders’ most consistent receiving threat the last few years, and he should help us get more consistent production in the passing game.  He’s also a very good in-line blocker, which will allow the team put John Carlson in positions that play more to his strengths as a pass catcher.  We were also able to spend time developing Anthony McCoy and Cameron Morrah last year, which means that we’ve got excellent backups.  I would even be willing to say that we have the most talented and deep TE group in the NFL.

Also buried on the depth chart is Dominique Byrd.  His NFL has been sub-par, but he was an absolute stud for Carroll at USC so he’s been given a chance to prove himself in training camp.  I doubt we’ll keep five tight ends on the roster, but given the depth and quality talent if there was ever a year to keep five TEs this would be it.  Remember last season when we were told over and over again about how much OC Jeremy Bates was going to inject a heavy dose of 2 TE sets into our offense?  (Wherever he is right now, I bet he’s drooling over the firepower the Seahawks have at the position.)  The good news is, this should still be the case.  Tom Cable used a lot of multiple TE formations with the Raiders, and with him coordinating the run game I have to believe that they’ll be using them in Seattle, too. 

We could see Carlson and Miller both releasing from the line on various route combinations this season.  Of course, Carlson is dealing with a labrum injury that’s going to keep him out of action for the time being, but since he was active at the beginning of training camp he can’t be placed on the PUP list to start the season.  Keeping an additional tight end like Byrd on the roster, at least temporarily, could help make up for his absence.

My prediction?  Miller, Carlson, Morrah, and McCoy for a total of four TEs, but Byrd could make it five.

That makes for a total of 26 players on offense (27 counting Byrd), with one player on PUP (Deon Butler).  Do you guys think I’m off base here?  Let me know in the comments!  I’d love to read your analyses, too.  Just remember to tell us who is on your depth chart and what your line of thinking was.  The more eyes we have looking at this roster, the more we can all learn from each other.

1 [In fragments 12 and 91, mainly.  I’m going to get my money’s worth out of this education I paid for yet. -Ed.]

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